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New Way to Fund a Postgraduate Course: Crowdsourcing

In the bid to avoid crippling student fees and a lifetime of debt, some students are turning to alternative funding methods. Thanks to the power of the web, some postgraduate students are reaching out to friends and friends of friends to chip in a small amount of money. Welcome to the age of crowdsourcing/crowdfunding a postgrad degree.


What is Crowdsourcing?

Also known as crowdfunding, it’s a way of raising investment by asking a lot of people to put in a small amount of money. You can do this through well-known websites such as Crowdfunder, GoFundMe, IndieGoGo, Kickstarter and many others. If you know 200 people and asked them to put in on average £10 each, that’s £2,000. But these sites are not just for asking family and friends, but strangers too. The greater your outreach, the greater chance you have of reaching your target.


Crowdsourcing Tips

Naturally, there are ways of going about crowdsourcing or crowdfunding.


The Pitch

How much do you need and why? This is your bread and butter – your reason for asking acquaintances and even strangers for money needs justification. There are several methods of approaching this.

  • The “sob story” may work in some cases, especially if you’ve overcome a great difficulty. Unless you’ve been through harrowing life barriers, it’s best to avoid it
  • The “Dragon’s Den” approach where you appeal to the business angle and opportunity – this is best coupled with the incentive method (see below)
  • The “I want to help people” approach usually works best. Are you looking to use your PG degree to help others through research or specific career choices?


What Are You Asking For, and Why?

Don’t pluck a figure out of the air. If you are asking for £10,000 to fund a postgraduate degree, then justify it – explain what this will cover. It’s best to keep it to a minimum, for example, the tuition costs and books, materials etc. Asking people to fund a lifestyle of hard partying and posting images of yourself at the nightclub three nights a week is never going to go down well. Also, if you set the figure too high, the project won’t be funded at all on sites like GoFundMe and Kickstarter.


Offer an Incentive?

It may seem cheeky to ask for money from acquaintances and strangers, which is why some crowdsourcing projects offer incentives. When amateurs are trying to make a film, for example, they might offer a cut of the profits or exclusive attendance at the premiere. A book a signed edition and an exclusive talk with the author (this is how self-publishing site Unbound works). Incentives do exactly that – offer potential gains for the “risk” of investment. If people think they are going to get something out of your project they may be more willing to fund it.