Is the lack of funds a barrier to you attending law school? Have you considered crowdfunding your studies?

What is crowdsourcing?

Crowdsourcing is where you source the funds needed for a project or venture from a group of individuals. We have been crowdsourcing for generations under the term “fundraising”. Crowdsourcing got its fancy name simply because the funds are raised online.

Using an online platform makes it easier for most donors as many use online banking. Most importantly, it enables your friends, former colleagues, family members and other individuals all over the globe to support you with just a click.

Are there any benefits to crowdsourcing my tuition?

Starting an online fundraiser causes you to ask why.

Firstly, you are asking others to give their precious pounds. Secondly, you may have some fear or trepidation about starting an online fundraiser. Therefore, it is likely to bring about some serious introspection and cause you to assess your motive for practicing law. If you have to pitch your cause to others, you must intimately know why, and believe it. Why do you want to be a lawyer? Why does it matter so much to you? Dig deep.

Moreover, placing yourself open to public scrutiny can also place you outside of your comfort zone. This is where we recognise our courage and our power to get things done, no matter what.

Crowdsourcing also prepares any law student for the art of persuasion. And, given the investment of others, you may now have an even bigger reason to work hard!

How do I get started?

1. Write a brief and authentic summary about yourself that seamlessly incorporates your ‘why’. For example, you studied Environment Policy as an undergrad and were the mind behind artistic reusable shopping bags made from recycled plastic. This story makes it easier for a donor to understand why you want to pursue practice in environmental law. It also gives the donor confidence that you will do what you say you will pursue post-graduation, because you have demonstrated passion and commitment.

Do remember to include the name of the institution, the cost, and a link to the course. Have fun with your write-up and feel free to be humorous.

2. Select a photo of yourself that represents you well. Ask a friend to take a clean and simple photo for you, unless you can take a really high quality selfie.

Video also helps! You don’t need a fancy camera – just a smile and a short minute on why donors should support your academic pursuit. A video is a big sell; it creates more trust by removing a layer of ‘mystery’.

3. So, now you have a powerful bite size write up, a photo and a video. Now it’s time to select a platform! You can easily make the choice based on administrative fees, transaction and withdrawal charges, user reviews and market reputation. There are sites such as Generosity that exist exclusively for charitable causes and hence no fees. Ask around. Do the research like a lawyer.

4. Show Gratitude! Offer your donors something in return – a book, mug, homemade craft or snack (candle, soap, ‘granola bar call’J or small e-gift card etc.). The gift offer is an opportunity for you to invite small businesses to support your fundraiser by donating samples of their products.

Donors understand that a lack of finances lead you to raise funds, so there is no expectation for anything in return. However, your donor would appreciate your token of thanks.

5. Create a ‘Shout it on the mountaintop’ strategy. AKA, promote your fundraiser! Who are the people that need to know about your fundraiser? Your message should get to those who will and can support you. Go beyond your personal network but do start there.

E-mail and share the link on all of your social media platforms (use a screenshot for platforms that do not permit link sharing). The message will get to your family, friends, current or former classmates and colleagues.

Get on the radio, local TV shows, newsletters, magazines and be sure to visit clubs and organisations. Just call and ask any media outlet to be featured and explain the value to their audience. Write to corporate entities and charities. However, be strategic in this selection. Find sponsors that may have an interest in either (a) your studies, (b) your ‘whys’ or (c) your unique demographic (native/aboriginal, differently abled etc.).

6. Engage! Engage! Engage! Share your fundraiser link often and remind those who promised to donate but haven’t done so as yet. It is safe to say that you can end the reminders after the third ask. No one should feel obligated to support your fundraiser, they should be happy to do so. It is wise to use your energy to speak with more potential donors. This is a good time to remind you that engagement can happen offline.

Periodically update your supporters. This is a relationship that should be maintained during studies but to a lesser degree. Upon graduating, show donors how far their investment has reached. However, a final update and a different medium to stay in touch may be sufficient. Surely, if you win a notable landmark case or become QC or a judge, your former donors may welcome such an update!

Be encouraged

Don’t be afraid to consider an online fundraiser if money is the only hindrance to you starting law school. Preparing your pitch will give you time for thoughtful reflection on your motive behind wanting to become a lawyer. What excites and interests you about the career? It may even refuel you if you’re pursing your LLB. Sometimes we forget our ‘whys’ along the way. Your fundraiser is not limited to the online world: get out there and speak with people in person.

Finally, life is for living, not for regrets or fear. Let these two quotes help you set sail!

“Someone once told me the definition of Hell: The last day you have on earth, the person you became will meet the person you could have become.” – Anonymous

“The greatest fear in the world is of the opinions of others. And the moment you are unafraid of the crowd you are no longer a sheep, you become a lion.” – Osho          

Shalisha will commence the BPTC at the University of Law as a recipient of the Provost Award of Excellence. Her studies were funded in part by crowdsourcing.