Crowdfunding has a lot to recommend it. Anyone can try it, at any point, during any Masters degree. And any money you raise can – usually – be combined with any other funding.
But you shouldn’t get the impression that postgraduate crowdfunding is an ‘easy option’. You won’t simply be applying for funding. You’ll be campaigning for it. That takes sustained effort.
After all, the best way to encourage people to invest in your Masters is to invest in your own campaign. The following advice should help you do that effectively.
Think about the kind of postgraduate degrees that are more likely to get crowdfunded
In principle, any Masters degree can attract crowdfunding. In practice, some will be more suitable than others.
It’s worth being realistic about your chances before you spend time, effort (and possibly money) setting up a campaign.
Ask yourself: do you, or your course, fit one of the following profiles? If so, you may be in with a chance.
- Good causes – You’re attracting Masters funding, not charitable donations, but your degree could still have a positive impact on the wider world. Will you be contributing to medical research? Does your work have the potential to help vulnerable groups or individuals? Are you studying to qualify for a career with social or humanitarian benefits?
- Local interest – Some postgraduate subjects may not have obvious humanitarian benefits, but could your work still be of value to specific groups or communities? Masters with a focus on regional heritage or history could fit the bill here.
- Innovation and entrepreneurship – Will your course lead to the creation (or improvement) of a new technology, creative product or enterprise? Is it likely to be interesting to the wider public, in and of itself? Is there a way you can make it interesting?
Of course, it’s not just about your Masters, it’s also about you, which means you should. . .
Find ways to stand out
There are plenty of other postgraduate students already looking for crowdfunding and this approach is only likely to become more popular in the future.
So, even though you won’t be competing directly for a scholarship or bursary, postgraduate crowdfunding is still competitive in a broader sense.
That’s why your project will benefit from a unique selling point (USP).
Why should people fund you? What makes your situation stand out? What’s the wider story behind your campaign?
The answers to these questions don’t have to be dramatic or detailed. It’s simply a case of finding something that people will find engaging:
- Are you the first person in your family to go on to postgraduate study?
- Are you travelling far for your Masters, or studying abroad?
- Are you ineligible for other funding such as postgraduate loans?
- Are you close to being able to pay for your Masters, but need a relatively small amount of support to get you ‘over the line’?
If you don’t think you have a particularly original USP, simply be honest. Explain why you want to take your studies to the next level and what it is you hope to achieve.
And don't forget: taking on Masters study is challenging and impressive, whatever your subject area and background. Find ways to explain this to potential backers and they may well agree.
This may seem obvious, but it’s too vital to overlook. Crowdfunding takes time: time to plan, time to set up and time to run your campaign.
You may also have other commitments to manage – such as the final year of your undergraduate degree, or perhaps even the first part of your Masters.
Whatever your situation, make sure to assess the time required for your crowdfunding campaign in advance and start early enough to see it through. You should also think about setting aside time for updates and promotion once your project is underway (see below).
Remember: it doesn’t matter how fundable you or your project are if your campaign isn’t well put together.
Put thought into updates – and rewards
Momentum is crucial to crowdfunding.
You’re looking for lots of smaller donations, not a small number of big pledges. That means you’ll need a steady stream of backers to make progress towards your goal.
It’s unlikely that anyone is going to help pay your tuition fees just to get a photo of your campus or a copy of your dissertation (that would be a very different postgraduate funding model!). But they will appreciate the recognition and gratitude this demonstrates.
And, if you can think of more dramatic or exciting rewards related to your course or subject, go for it.
Masters degrees in subjects like Creative Arts and Design have a natural advantage here, but other disciplines can still benefit from thinking outside the box.
Do some research
Not sure if your degree is 'crowdfundable', how to go about setting up a campaign for it, or what kind of updates and rewards to offer? Learn from others.
Look for examples of previous postgraduate crowdfunding campaigns on the platforms we’ve suggested. What do the successful projects do well? What do the less successful projects do poorly?
There’s also no harm in (politely) contacting other crowdfunders and asking for advice. Would they recommend the platform they used? How much time did it take them to set up their campaign? Do they have any simple tips we haven’t covered here?
Unlike some other scholarships, crowdfunding isn’t really a competition: other students will probably be happy to share their guidance.
The world of crowdfunding is broad and varied. People seek support for a wide range of projects, from commercial start-ups and creative products to charitable causes, personal appeals and, of course, educational appeals.
Always make sure it’s obvious what you’re fundraising for. And don’t risk misleading people into thinking they’re funding something they aren’t:
- Your Masters may seek to benefit the wider world, but you (probably) aren’t a charity.
- Your Masters might have a creative outcome, but you’re still studying a degree, not creating and selling a film, artwork, videogame or other media product.
- Your Masters might lead you to set up a business, but (with some exceptions) you’re seeking donations, not investment.
You should also be sure you read the terms and conditions for crowdfunding platforms carefully. They may not be very exciting, but failing to follow them could put a successful campaign at risk further down the line.
Be honest with yourself, as well as your backers: remember the limits of crowdfunding as well as its potential.
Paying for postgraduate study isn’t as simple as setting up an internet campaign and watching the donations pour in. (If it was, we wouldn’t need to have so many other guides in our funding section).
People have successfully crowdfunded a Masters before, but this solution won’t work for everyone. Even if you follow all of the advice on this page, it still might not work for you.
That’s why it’s good to see crowdfunding as one part of a wider postgraduate funding portfolio. If it works for you, great. If not, have some other options in mind.
Alternatives to crowdfunding
Crowdfunding is an innovative and exciting way to approach a Masters, but it isn't for everyone. Fortunately, our guides cover a range of more 'conventional' postgraduate funding options, including government loans.