Christopher Thompson isn't ashamed to admit that he hesitated before making the last click to publish his profile on a crowd-sourcing site. Now, he laughs because that site helped him raise more than $6,000 for seminary school.
Christopher Thompson isn’t ashamed to admit that he hesitated before making the last click to publish his profile on a crowd-sourcing site. Now, he laughs because that site helped him raise more than $6,000 for seminary school.
“I almost didn’t do it because of not knowing what’s going to come out of it,” the 30-year-old Columbus resident said. “It’s the best decision I’ve made.”
Thompson enrolled in United Theological Seminary in Dayton in January. That same day, he created a profile on GoFundMe.com, one of a number of online sites that help people raise money for everything from school tuition to medical expenses and charities.
Thompson attributes his success with the site to the ease at which backers could donate to him, and to the incentives he offered.
“I think incentives really help people, it’s almost like they’re buying something,” he said. Thompson, a minister at Ephesus Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Columbus, offered books he had written and a documentary he made in exchange for donations, which ranged from $10 to $2,000.
Ashley Sandlin’s friends, relatives and co-workers donated $1,200 to help her study abroad. Now, the Ohio State University student is in Morocco, and the money she raised from using GoFundMe.com helped her get there.
“(It) allowed me todirect someone to my website that gave a quick overview of myself and explained why I wanted to study abroad,” Sandlin said in an email. “It had all the tools I needed to set up my fundraising goal and promote it to an audience.”
There are many crowd-funding sites online, some of which are tailored only to education expenses.
“I think they’re trying to offer an easy product for people ... people like simple,” said Betty Lochner, vice chairwoman of the College Savings Plans Network, an association of state college-savings plans. “There’s a lot of money in savings plans ... but buyer beware.”Commercial crowd-funding sites aren’t always going to be the safest and most-effective, Lochner said. They also can have hidden fees and unknown costs.
“I advise people to make sure you know how it works,” she said.For example, GoFundMe deducts a 5 percent fee from each contribution.Another site, GradSave.com, is designed to help parents use crowd-funding to raise money for college costs when their children are still young.
“When the baby comes, that’s really when you need to start putting away money for college,” said Joseph Hurley, founder of savingforcollege.com and an affiliate of GradSave.
Upstart.com is targeted to recent graduates. It doesn’t help undergraduates raise money. Instead, users can seek investors in exchange for a share of future income. The users must be college graduates, but they can use the money to go to graduate school or further their careers. “ You’re raising money from a group of people who believe in you,” said Anna Mongayt, a co-founder of Upstart.
Sandlin said that although GoFundMe was the least-expensive version she found, some of her benefactors were turned off by having any of their money diverted. Still, it helped her get the word out.
While her site profile says she raised only $275, Sandlin said personal checks sent directly provided the bulk of her haul.
Sandlin’s contributors were friends and family, and GoFundMe CEO Brad Damphousse said that’s how the site is intended to be used.
“It’s important to understand that GoFundMe users are raising money from people they already know,” he said in an email. “So the level of trust between users and donors is already very high."
Some crowd-funding endeavors end with money raised, but some might not be so lucky.
“If you can do it, great,” said Brad Huffman, a certified financial planner with Future Finances Inc. in Columbus. “I think the hard part would be finding someone interested in the other end of the deal.”