How to Fund for Education


Educational institutions have many challenges when it comes to reaching their capital goals. The main challenge is for them to reach their goals without increasing the cost of education too high for their students. This is why they have so much to gain from crowdfunding.

Let’s take a look at what educational institutions are going through; we’ve even got some tips on how to run a successful crowdfunding campaign.

(Before we start, do you need a quick refresher on what crowdfunding is? Just check out this blog post, first: Introduction to Crowdfunding. Don’t worry. We’ll still be here when you get back.

Okay, back to that problem we mentioned earlier. How do colleges, universities and other education organizations increase their growth without making education prohibitively expensive? As it stands, the rising cost of education is a huge economic problem (Clifford, 2013). Economist Baumol stated that education is a ‘cost disease’–it has a hard time keeping up with rising cost of productivity (Clifford, 2013).

You exist to educate your students, so you want students to be able afford your programs.

The Canadian government offers some funding–for example, the Post-Secondary Institution Strategic Investment Fund (SIF) provided up to $2 billion over three years, starting from 2016 (Canada, 2017). The purpose was to provide funding for infrastructure projects in order to enhance and modernize facilities (Canada, 2017). But it can’t be expected that the government’s efforts will be enough for every school.

Let’s take a look at Calgary, in particular. Calgary is one of Canada’s fastest-growing municipalities and they need to match the growing number of students (Universities Canada, 2016). Alberta Advancement Education estimates that by 2022-23 there will be a major need for student storages (Universities Canada, 2016). This issue impacts long-term economic sustainability, since Canada relies on universities to provide highly educated and skilled workers (Universities Canada, 2016). Even though the SIF offered significant help, there’s more that’s needed to be done.

Another important method of funding is alumni giving…but in recent years, schools have noticed a major decline in this form of fundraising (Douglas, 2016). One of the problems is that many people do not view their alma maters as a charity or in need of funding (Douglas, 2016). Not only that, the most recent alumni do not respond to traditional means of donating, which they tend to find detached and impersonal. This keeps them from donating (Douglas, 2016).

Current State of Education

Universities and colleges are now using crowdfunding more than ever. They’re using it to support student fundraising efforts, education needs, research, academics, and alumni and supporter engagement (Banker Bible, 2016). Some universities use crowdfunding as means to fund innovative ideas or products that otherwise would not have a chance to be developed (Banker Bible, 2016). Crowdfunding provides them the marketing opportunity to showcase their innovation and to conduct test marketing (Banker Bible, 2016). In fact, some schools add crowdfunding within their curriculum (as we mentioned in an earlier blog post).

Crowdfunding is particularly effective with recent alumni, since they respond well to digital campaigns. Crowdfunding allows them to see exactly where their money is going and what it’s doing (Banker Bible, 2016). These alumni donations are a vital source of funding for universities or colleges to help fund their research, infrastructure and projects (Smith, 2016).

Yale is one of many that are reporting an all-time low in alumni donations (Smith, 2016). Yale stated that there has been a 33% decrease in alumni contributions, despite increased solicitations (Smith, 2016). It’s getting harder for educational organizations to rely just on traditional ways of fundraising (Jill, 2017).

Providing a specific goal-orientated campaign(s) will allow backers to relate to the campaign, either on a personal or professional level (Jill, 2017). The Pew Research Center reported that over 80% of donors prefer crowdfunding platforms because they feel connected to the projects they choose to back (Smith, 2016).

Examples of Crowdfunding for Education

The University of Essex launched it’s own crowdfunding platform, Click in 2015 (A Medium Corporation, 2017). In a year they were able to raise £40,000 across 37 projects (A Medium Corporation, 2017).  

Somerville College (University of Oxford) used crowdfunding the last two academic years (A Medium Corporation, 2017).  Their efforts increased their participation rate by 16% to 29% (A Medium Corporation, 2017).

Yet another university that used crowdfunding is Cornell University, who raised more than $900,00, since 2013 (Carter, 2017). According to Chronicle, 46% of alumni (who graduated in the last ten years)  have contributed to the university through crowdfunding sources (Carter, 2017). This has helped the university supprot more than 70 campus life initiatives (Carter, 2017).

Carleton University, one of bv02’s clients, is another university that has been very successful with their crowdfunding platform FutureFunder. For further information please review our case study on Carleton University.

How to Fund for Education

There are many tips for implementing a successful crowdfunding campaign. Here are some important factors to consider when creating crowdfunding campaigns for education:

Tell them why

It’s important to tell them how much you need, when, why and how it will be used. Donors want to see the power of their donation.

Consider marketing strategies

Putting a crowdfunding campaign on the web does not mean your job is done. You need to consider who your potential donors are and figure out how to reach them.

Use social media

This is key for any campaign, as it will allow you to stay relevant in the eyes of the donors. So ensure your campaigns can be easily shared on social media, and your donors will help spread the word. 

Student fundraising

Use your students to help develop crowdfunding campaigns. You can even add crowdfunding into their curriculum. Having them develop their own campaigns (with your capital goals in mind) will expand your students’ skills by providing them the ability to develop an entrepreneurial mindset.

Tell a story

Avoid bombarding the campaign page with lots of content. Try to engage donors with a story or emotion…despite our digital world we are still social creatures. We crave that social connection to people, even if it’s behind a brand or campaign.

Provide support

If you do choose to have students develop campaigns, provide them the support they need, including branding guidelines and campaign guidance. You want to make ensure they are still representing your brand correctly. It would also be recommended to choose a few people that students can reach out to for support.

Education institutions would benefit to look for other alternative sources of funding. Crowdfunding is not to replace grants or sponsored donations, but to provide another avenue for raising funds. (It can also expand your network, as crowdfunding is completely digital.)

If you wish to learn more about importance of social media and crowdfunding see our other blog: Importance of social media and crowdfunding. If you need more help connecting with your desired audiences, we know where they are and we can help you connect with them.

Reach out to us to find out more, We like helping passionate people meet their goals, and we can help you with the crowdfunding platform, campaign marketing and research that will help you reach your goals.

Our door is always open.

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