“Hey check out my GoFundMe page.”
“Have you donated to my Kickstarter?”
“My IndieGogo is live.”
Chances are you have recently heard something like that from your friend who is trying to raise money for her soccer team, or your uncle who is trying to raise money for a funeral, or a street musician who is trying to raise money to record his first CD.
That is because crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter, GoFundMe and IndieGogo make raising money easier than ever before. You just go online and set up a profile, tell people what you are raising money for and how much you need, and people can find your profile and donate. It is that easy.
Carlos Galindo has run two crowd funding campaigns, and he says it is night and day from a pre-Internet age.
“When the internet didn’t exist, that’s where it was a lot tougher, because you had to put something on a newspaper or something …I’m not quite sure how it was back then … But nowadays you can get your story out there and expose it to thousands of people within five minutes if you get it shared,” Galindo said.
Pull up any crowdfunding site and you will see the internet can be a very creative place. People have used crowdfunding to reboot cult TV shows like “Veronica Mars,” others use it to raise money for medical expenses. One now infamous Kickstarter user even raised over $55,000 to make a potato salad, proving that crowd funding is not a perfect system, but it is one that works.
More and more college students are turning to crowdfunding because they need help, and it is with a problem a lot more important than potato salad. They are trying to afford an education.
“Education is expensive,” said Leonard Lee, a spokesman for popular crowdfunding platform YouCaring.com. “Many people face challenges in reaching their personal funding goals that can enable them to attend higher education.”
Sites like YouCaring fall under the umbrella of “compassionate crowdfunding.”
Every day students are turning to these sites to help with college, including Galindo’s sister Lucy Eudave.
“When I graduated from high school I was in the top 5 percent, because of my GPA,” said Eudave, a student at the Southern California Institute of Architecture.
“I graduated in a really good position. But because of not qualifying for financial aid I had to go through community college so I worked and went to school at the same time. There was times when I just had to completely stop school so I could save money to continue affording books and my materials.”
It has taken Eudave eight years to get through a five-year program at SCI-Arc, and depleted funds have led her to YouCaring to help pay for her last semester in the program. The only thing that stands between her and her degree is tuition.
“It’s not that much, but however we do live out here in the projects,” Galindo said. “She’s having a tough time trying to get loans, trying to get any type of scholarship to finish paying off the final months of school, or she won’t get her degree.”
Elsewhere, students have used the new medium to great success. Jasmine Roy is a student at La Verne’s College of Law in Ontario. She used GoFundMe to scope out law schools before making her decision.
“I didn’t have any money to go and visit the schools that I got accepted into, and it was very important to me to visit those schools,” Roy said.
“So I started a campaign and surprisingly I was able to raise very close to my goal of $2,000 and I was able to visit multiple law schools.”
Roy admitted getting started can be a bit nerve-wracking.
“I was definitely nervous about what people might think of me exposing myself in that way,” she said. “It takes a lot of, I guess, courage to step out and say ‘hey I need help’ to the world.”
Hands down the most important thing to remember is a good campaign needs a story. Without that, it is hard for people to relate, which means they will be less likely to donate.
“I tried to be as honest as possible, but also letting people know that I’m confident,” Roy said. “I’ve overcome a lot of obstacles, I’m not trying to give this sob story and have everyone feel bad for me. I’ve overcome a lot and I just need a little help.”
But what about Lucy Eudave, who is still trying to raise enough money to get through her last semester of architect school?
Her campaign is still in progress, but the donations she has received have given her a deeper appreciation for the community around her.
“She saw the type of support she was gaining and she said ‘you know what Carlos?’ She told me ‘I’m going to go ahead and once I get my degree I want to just help out the community because I see how much they’re trying to help me out,’” Galindo said.
And that, in a nutshell, is the beauty behind crowdfunding. That something so sophisticated and large in scope can always come back to being about the community.
For Eudave and other crowdfunding hopefuls, Roy had some parting advice.
“I had an aunt that told me that everybody needs help at some point, and I would just like to put that out there to remind people that everyone needs help at some point. So stay encouraged and don’t let what other people might say about crowd funding discourage you from doing what you have to do,” she said.
Des Delgadillo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.