Postgraduate Funding for University Students through Grants from Charity | GradFunding

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Crowdfunding your Postgraduate Course

An emerging – and very exciting – development in the last year is the emergence of crowdfunding as a major alternative fundraising strategy for postgraduate students. Websites such as Hubbub, Kickstarter, or Gofundme are ideal for beginning your campaign, although Hubbub seems to be the best for students at present. A number of students - you can see some below - have succeeded in raising impressive sums for fees and maintenance through crowdfunding, and a few have got attention in the national press. Our advice would be to create a profile to raise funding for a designated specific amount of money (for example, £4,000 towards fees) and try to write a persuasive pitch for a lay audience on why you and your work are interesting and important (as you would for a charity), and also include a video, before promoting on social media. While strangers can and do donate, crowdfunding campaigns are often most successful in raising money from people you already know in real life, who are encouraged to give when they see you as a campaign.

A particularly innovative strategy would be to dovetail crowdfunding campaigns with charity applications. Naturally, if a charity is made aware that you are also running a crowdfunding campaign (especially one that already has some supporters) then they are likely to be emboldened by this in exactly the same way they would be if you already had other charity backers. 

We're lucky enough to be able to feature an exclusive Crowdfunding Guide for postgraduate students written for us by Genevieve Richardson, who raised nearly £14,000 through crowdfunding to support her postgraduate course. You can also read more about Genevieve's story here, on our student story archive!

Crowdfunding Campaigns

Because we are so excited by Crowdfunding as an alternative fundraising mechanism - especially because it can be combined with charities and trusts - we are proud to feature a number of crowdfunding campaigns right here! If you are funding a crowdfunding campaign for postgraduate study get in touch with us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with a link to your campaign, and we will be happy to consider featuring you right here - for free - on our ultra high-traffic webpage.


Crowdfunding: A 'How to' Guide

Supplied by Genevieve Richardson, who successfully crowdfunded her MPhil in Development Studies at University of Oxford, raising nearly £14,000. You can read more about Genevieve's story on our Student Story Archive.

Stage One: Plan

Crowdfunding starts before your campaign officially begins, and planning is essential. A little while before you start your campaign you should do what Hubbub (a popular crowdfunding platform at https://hubbub.net/) calls a ‘soft launch’. This means that you tell your family and closest friends that you are planning to crowdfund X amount of money and ask for their support, in this way you are guaranteed to have at least a handful of pledges, which will, in turn, encourage others to pledge.

Get Social Media Savvy

 Before you begin, you may also want to set up your project on social media sites. Social media is key, not only for spreading the word, but also for updating anyone who is following your campaign. You need to think of something snappy for the project title, which you should use consistently on social media, too (Facebook page, Twitter handle and hashtag, Blog, YouTube channel etc.). Be creative. Again, you can inform your Facebook friends and Twitter followers of what you’re doing before actually launching your project as part of your ‘soft launch’.

Create the Perfect Pitch

 In your ‘pitch’, you want to be clear, concise and informative. Use bullet points rather than long paragraphs. People online are impatient: they do not want to read long textual nor do they have time to do so. Explain a bit about yourself and what you are trying to do. Speak briefly about the course itself, too, or what you are going to research and why it is interesting, exciting, or will make the world a better place!. State how much money you already have and how much you need. Include links to where the course fees are listed on the university's website, if that is what you are raising money for (it is really easy to add links on Hubbub, no knowledge of HTML is required). If you are crowdfunding for maintenance costs, include a breakdown of your outgoings, the cost of textbooks and field trips (see Section 9 in this book). Like when applying to charitable bodies for funding, explain the ways in which you have also tried other funding strategies.

 Pitch Logistics

 a) How long should I keep my campaign running for?

 You need to think carefully about how long you want to keep your campaign running. If done correctly, it should take up a lot of time because you will be sending a lot of e-mails, making a lot of phone calls and posting a lot on social media every day. For that reason, it is advisable to stick to a short period of time (between one and two weeks). Any longer, and you will inevitably run out of steam. In addition, and perhaps more importantly, a shorter period of time is better because it creates a sense of urgency. If a campaign runs over a long period of time - say a month or more - people will be less likely to pledge because they will forget or think that they can put off pledging for another day, another week, etc. Understanding the psychology of your donors is very important.

 b) Should I set a minimum amount?

 On Hubbub, like on other crowdfunding platforms, you can set a minimum amount. If you set a minimum amount, you must raise that amount in order to actually receive any of the money at all. This method has its benefits because, like having a short running time, it creates a sense of urgency and might well encourage people to pledge sooner rather than later. However, you should be wary of setting too high a minimum amount because if you don’t raise that much, you could end up being very disappointed. Thank potential pledgers in advance for their support.

 Reward your Pledgers

 It is nice (and strategically sensible) to give something back to those who support you, and with Hubbub you can offer 'rewards' in exchange for pledges. The larger the amount pledged, the bigger the reward should be. Common rewards include a ‘thank you’ on social media or even a handwritten, posted ‘thank you’ for larger pledges (in a letter or on a postcard). You can also promise dedications on your thesis.

For larger pledges, play to your strengths. That is to say, if you have a skill or talent that people might pay to see/hear/use, offer it as a reward, e.g. singing, dancing, painting, photography. In addition, as you are crowdfunding for postgraduate education, use your study skillset. For example, you could offer your services as a proofreader or tutor. Similarly, it is a good idea to try to get people involved who are interested in what you are studying, so you could offer them a copy of your undergraduate dissertation, for example, or you could set up a blog where you promise to write articles on the subjects about which you will be learning and offer exclusive access to the blog to people who have pledged. Some students have got very creative with rewards. This does require a certain confidence and creativity, but that's what crowdfunding is all about!

Stage Two: How to Get People to Donate

Talk to People

Talk to as many people as you can about your campaign in order to spread the word (both in person and using the internet); this will trigger a chain reaction whereby they tell their friends and family, and so on. Tell your friends, your family, your university, your old school: anyone with whom you have ever had a relationship (within reason). Hubbub have a handy 'mind-map' of all of the people you could contact on their website. You never know who is going to pledge; it may well surprise you. Some people will be people you know, or have known, in real life. Others will be friends of friends, and some will be complete strangers.

Social Media is your Friend

Some people find that they get a better response with promoting their campaign through Twitter, others with Facebook. With Twitter, it is easier to go viral, which is ideal. However, it is hard to gain lots of followers in a short space of time and you are also restricted to 140 characters, of course! On the other hand, people do not like reading a lot of text, so short, snappy tweets are helpful. It is advisable to use both platforms. Create a Facebook page and post updates, photos and videos. You do not want to annoy people by constantly posting on your personal Facebook page, so by creating a campaign page, people will expect the traffic! Post regularly, updating your ‘likers’ on progress you’ve made, thanking people for pledging, and so on. You can also pay to ‘boost posts’ on Facebook; this means that your post will become an advertisement that you can make available not only on the newsfeeds of those who 'like' your page but also on the news feeds of their Facebook friends. It is inexpensive; you can spend $5 (about £3) on a few of your most important posts, and this will encourage friends of friends to like your page and pledge.

Other Publicity

If you can, try to get your ‘story’ in the local newspaper or radio station in order to increase your chances of going viral. Send e-mails to them, and if you do not get a response, call them! Newspapers and radio stations receive lots of e-mails every day and are more likely to respond if you follow up your e-mail with a phone call. However, if you do manage to get publicity from external sources, be prepared for potentially unsupportive (and in some cases) hateful comments. Crowdfunding for education is a controversial topic. As a general piece of advice when crowdfunding, it can be quite an overwhelming experience and if you go for it you have to be determined and thick-skinned enough not to let the setbacks get you down. Think about how many people are supporting you, not the minority who try to question what you are doing. You really have to believe in yourself (or at least, give the strong impression of self-belief) in order to get people to support you!

Genevieve's Top 5 Tips

1. Be enthusiastic: your enthusiasm will rub off on others.

2. Pester people: you need to remind people, even if you feel like you are annoying them!

3. Use social media to your advantage: it is the best way to spread the word.

4. Explain where the money is going and why you need it: people like to know what their money will be spent on.

5. Say thank you: not only is it polite to thank people for being so kind as to donate to your project, but also, it may well encourage people who have already pledged to spread the word, or indeed to donate more!