Fundraise for the cost of university

Can you really fundraise your university costs? Wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to take out a student loan and you could get your degree for free? With the right mind set and bit of hard work and determination it could be possible, but even if you don’t achieve the total amount, whatever you do raise along the way, will go towards reducing your overall debt, so we think it’s got to be worth giving it a go.

Here are some tips and suggestions on how you could achieve it.

Don’t leave it too late

If you have made up your mind you want to go to university, it’s never to early to start fundraising towards the costs. It doesn’t matter if it’s still two years away, fundraising takes effort and time, so the sooner you start the more chance you have of succeeding.

Set yourself some clear goals

If you don’t know what you are fundraising for, how will you inspire potential donors? Sit down and write a page about yourself. A bit like a personal statement this can be adapted for different circumstances, but if you get it all down in the first instance, you can cut and paste accordingly.

  • Are you looking to cover your tuition fees and/or living costs?
  • Do you want to raise all the money up front?
  • Show passion for your subject and your belief in the importance of education
  • Break down what you consider your costs will be, so donors can see you have really planned and thought it through. These should include accommodation, travel, course materials, living expenses, but be realistic about it. Only include the basic essentials, not luxuries. There is a handy Student budget calculator at Which? University which will help you.
  • What makes you different? Why should they support you? Try not to make this a sob story, but instead show how your determination to overcome challenges (including setting yourself the challenge of fundraising) making you more likely to succeed. People don’t usually respond well to sob stories and are much more likely to support you if they see a positive can do attitude.

Different ways of raising the money

1. Get yourself sponsored
Sponsored degrees are becoming a thing of the past, with the introduction of degree apprenticeships. Having said that, there is no reason why you should not try it. With a bit of research about the companies you approach, you might just strike it lucky.

Why would a company sponsor you? – maybe you have been working for them in the summer holidays, or even full time before you decide to go back to university. If they feel that by helping you get your degree, it will make you more skilled to fulfil your job, they might pay for it, on the basis that once you graduate you will return to work for them.

Alternatively many companies have corporate social responsibility programmes (CSR) which means they have a budget for supporting their local community. If they want to position their company as valuing education and the development of young people from that community, they might consider sponsoring you. Perhaps, for example, you have been involved in the local community in some way and by getting your degree it will enhance the skills you can offer. This would mean that the company sponsoring you can show how they are helping.

Be specific in what you ask for. If there are companies that could sponsor a section of your costs, give them your budget and suggest they sponsor something relevant such as travel costs, or kitchen equipment or books depending on the nature of the company.

How do you find companies to approach?
Do some research. Think about companies that work in the industry sector you would like to work in, or otherwise companies in your local area and do some research about them. Find out if they do have a CSR programme or recruit graduates and tailor your letter of approach accordingly. Be specific about what you are looking for from them and treat it as a job application rather than an appeal. Show how sponsoring you will bring them some benefits. You can even offer to work for them in the summer holidays.

Ask for gifts in kind
Don’t just focus on asking for cold hard cash. Maybe there are some companies who would be willing to give a donation of one of their products or services that you could use during your time at university, which would save you money.

PR opportunities
Show you are willing to support them with photo opportunities and press releases to the local media, so they can gain some PR benefit from sponsoring you.

2. Grants from charities and trusts
There are literally thousands of smaller charities and trusts in the UK which give out grants every year. Many of these are for educational purposes, but each organisation will have its own, often very specific guidelines governing who they give grants to.

Your challenge is to identify those you could be eligible to apply for. There can be lots of different things about you that make you eligible for different grants.

Identify potential sources of grant funding
First you need to research relevant charities which you could be eligible to apply for. You will find a book called the Guide to Educational Grants in most main libraries, but you can not usually borrow it, so you will need to go to the library and make notes.

Alternatively, by purchasing our membership package, you can access the same database online. We will simply provide you with a log in when you want to do your research and you can do it from home.

Tailor your approaches

  • Don’t be tempted to send out the same letter to every organisation. Make sure you understand their rationale for making grants and show how you meet that criteria.
  • Charities like to know that their money is going to have an impact and make a difference, so talk about the impact it would have on you and how it would enable you.
  • Make sure you check what size grants they usually give and don’t ask for too much. Ask for something specific that meets their criteria and fits within their budget.
  • Don’t go for the sob story. There are literally thousands of students who don’t want to get in to debt, or come from a low income household. What makes you different and how will their money reinforce this? Be positive.

3. Organise fundraising events

Fundraising events can be fun and raise significant amounts of money at the same time. Just because you are not a charity, doesn’t mean you can’t organise events to raise money, but sometimes it is a good idea to split the proceeds with a local charity, just in case there are some people who prefer to support a registered charity. However, realistically, most people are prepared to go to an event for their own entertainment, so as long as whatever you organise is entertaining or fun, you should be OK.

Do it together with your other friends who are going to university and you can split the proceeds. This will enable you to reach a much wider number of people and organise more complicated events with the help of others.

Here are some ideas for events you could organise.

• Quiz night
• Jumble sale
• Sponsored activity
• Charity auction
• Summer ball
• Car washing
• Themed parties

Some event take a lot more time and effort to organise but if you are one of those people that enjoys it, then it will not seem like a chore and you can potentially earn a few thousand pounds from one event.

4. Funds4Uni
Funds4uni is an easy way to fundraise for university, without too much effort. The sooner you start, the more money you will raise. All you have to do is encourage your friends and family to sign up to Funds4uni. When they do their usual online shopping through the scheme, the retailers will make a donation to your university fund. The more supporters you can get signed up the more money you will earn and with things like holidays an insurance the donations can be quite significant.

5. Crowdfunding
Crowdfunding is basically a way of fundraising online by setting up a fundraising page and asking people to donate. You can use crowdfunding to try and raise money for anything from business ventures, to charitable projects, medical expenses, education, or anything else you need to raise money for.

You can share your page with family and friends and ask them to donate, or you can promote it more widely to the media, online and the wider public and see if any strangers might be willing to donate.

Nobody would say that crowdfunding is easy, but if you have a gift for marketing yourself, you may be successful. Have a look at some other crowdfunding campaigns that have been successful and some that haven’t, and you will soon start to realise what makes a good campaign and what doesn’t.

Good luck!

If you are successful in your fundraising efforts, we would love you hear your stories and share your tips with other students.

For a step by step guide to some of the ideas outlined above, take a look at Lyndi Smith’s book “Free Degrees” which explains how she funded her education.

Find additional funding

Filter, find and apply for scholarships, grants or bursaries 
via the Funding Hub on Blackbullion.

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