You can crowdfund pretty much anything these days, student loans included. At least, you can try.
You can start a campaign, but does it count as crowdfunding if no crowd forms to fund it? That seems to be the outcome for many looking to crowdfund their student loans on crowdfunding sites.
Does that mean it’s a bad idea? Not necessarily. More likely, it means many crowdfunders aren’t doing it right.
Crowdfunding student loan debt the right way
1. Rely on your family and friends for support
When you’re crowdfunding for a project or product launch, it’s easier to get strangers on board. When it comes to funding something as personal as a student loan, though, it’s going to be a tougher sell to people who do not know you.
That’s why you need to be able to rely on your family and friends for support. If you’re not comfortable asking them to support you with a donation, at the very least ask them to share your campaign with others, which will likely inspire them to give anyway.
Look at it like this.
I’m not going to ask my friends to do something that I’m not willing to do myself. So if my cousin, for example, asks me to share her crowdfunding campaign with the people in my network, I’m probably going to make a donation first. Or, if I decide I don’t feel comfortable sharing her crowdfunding campaign, I’m even more likely to make a donation so I can at least feel like I did something.
2. Choose the right crowdfunding platform
Some crowdfunding sites are more appropriate for student loan campaigns than others. Here are the most notable among them:
Generosity by Indiegogo: This platform focuses specifically on fundraising for personal and social causes. Indiegogo has been around for a long time, so it has good name recognition; Generosity is an extension of that. It’s also fee-free, with the exception of fees for credit card processing.
A search of “student loans” on Generosity turns up three dozen such campaigns, only a handful of which have raised anything toward their goals. One big exception is that of Kaila Jenkins.
Jenkins’ uncle started this campaign, speaking to the power of a third-party making an appeal on someone else’s behalf. Plus, the campaign name references “tuition debt,” as opposed to student loans. And Kaila is still in school, meaning support will enable her to continue her education, not just pay down debt from education she has already received.
YouCaring: Like Generosity, this platform focuses on personal and social causes. It too is fee-free, again with the exception of fees for credit card processing. Though it doesn’t have the name recognition of Indiegogo, YouCaring is worth checking out. You’ll find a user-friendly format and lots of great resources for making your campaign a success.
The most successful student loan campaign on YouCaring is that of Jack and Rachel Legg. Their storytelling is a little confusing, but the success of their campaign is likely tied to the sharing of their community service work (they run a church) and the nature of their monetary appeal, asking for one-time gifts of $20 from 4,000 people.
GoFundMe: This is a general crowdfunding platform, but one with a lot of student loan campaigns. Unlike Generosity and YouCaring, there is a hefty fee at GoFundMe – 7.9 percent of what you raise plus 30 cents per donation, as well as the fees for credit card processing.
GoFundMe is the platform used by Erin Fox, whose crowdfunded student loan campaign is the most successful I’ve come across. Erin tells her story well, striking a good balance between expressing the urgency of a dire situation and maintaining a friendly, positive tone.
3. Give your campaign a positive spin
Most student loan crowdfunders do just the opposite, going into lengthy explanations about what a horrible situation they’re in and how they got there. If that worked, it would be one thing, but most of these crowdfunders haven’t raised a dime.
While it’s important to share the challenges you’re facing, follow it up with a positive spin.
Something like, “If you help me with my student loan debt, you’ll be supporting the education I’m using to [insert all of the wonderful things you’ve done and plans you have for helping people through your work].
Make sure your photos and videos reflect the same positive attitude.
4. Offer to give something back
Take a cue from Zerobound and offer to do community service in exchange for help with your student loans. This is a reward you should be able to offer on any platform you use.
For instance, if your goal is $5,000, you could offer to do 50 hours of community service when the goal is reached.
You can also offer something tangible, provided it’s not something that will be costly for you. This can be especially meaningful if you’re artist, maybe offering a painting or photograph to supporters who give $100 or more.
Even a handwritten thank you card could be a lovely incentive.
5. Give some thought to your campaign name
You can do better than the standard, “Help Me With My Student Loan.” Get creative with it, again with a positive spin.
6. Create professional-looking content
People want to support people who take pride in themselves and in their work. Prove yourself to be one of those people by taking the time to create quality content. Make sure your text is well-written and free of typos. And make sure your pictures and videos are well-lit and in focus.
7. Set a realistic goal
Don’t expect your campaign to cover all of your student loan debt. It’s very unlikely you will raise $30,000 crowdfunding. Plus, potential supporters are far more likely to give to a campaign with a goal that sounds within reach (e.g., $1,000 to 5,000).
That said, be sure to mention the total amount you owe so that your supporters know what an uphill battle you’re facing and how much you’re paying on your own.
8. Allow the lowest possible giving minimum
This may sound like more counterintuitive advice, but the lower your minimum, the more likely strangers are to give. Those dollars add up, as do the number of backers that show up on your campaign page. And the more backers you have, the more appealing it is for new supporters to back you too.
9. Keep your campaign short
You want to create a sense of urgency. Give people too much time and they’ll assume they have plenty of it and then, before you know it, they forget about you and time runs out. Thirty days is a good minimum, 6 weeks at the most.
10. Give updates regularly
The more involved you are with your campaign, the more involved other people will want to be, too.
What should your updates include? Things like how much closer you are to your goal, requests that people share your campaign with others, reminders about the approaching deadline date, and appreciation for their support.
11. Use social media wisely
While you might expect a decent percentage of your Facebook friends to support your crowdfunding campaign, the same may not be said for your followers on Twitter, for example. It’s especially important there that you simply ask people to share your campaign rather than making direct requests for donations. Create your own hashtag, too, preferably tied to your creative campaign name.
12. Give back what you promised
Say thank you and follow through.
Crowdfunding student loans is certainly a creative way to get rid of that debt, but you shouldn’t bank on it. Few student loan crowdfunding campaigns actually receive donations. However, if you follow all of these tips, you will be much more likely to successfully fund your debt pay off.
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