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How One Grad Student is Crowdfunding His Tuition with GiveWP

If the only thing standing between you and your dream was the price tag of tuition, what would you do?
Sarel standing in front of Said School of Business.

If the only thing standing between you and your dream was the price tag of tuition, what would you do?

Making a difference in the world requires big dreams and a lot of persistence. Most importantly, anyone who wants to make an impact needs the skills and tools to get them there. For many, those skills and tools come in the form of higher education. But higher education also comes with a large price tag: tuition.

We were recently contacted by another Give customer who achieved a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: admission to an Oxford University Graduate Program. His dream is to use his education to help make a positive difference in African infrastructure with a three step plan.  Now the only thing left standing in his way is the tuition payment.

Start with a Dream, Don’t Stop with Tuition

Sarel van Baalen has been working in the South African Infrastructure Industry for five and a half years now. His work in the field combined with his experiences growing up in South Africa inspired him to launch a three-stage plan to help solve a growing infrastructure problem in the region. The first step in his long-term plan is to pursue an MBA at the University of Oxford.

“The cause of the MyOxfordMBAFund campaign is covering part of the tuition cost of the MBA degree at the University of Oxford. Admission to Oxford is one of my greatest achievements and it’s a key step in my career to achieve my long-term vision. It’s no secret that MBA degrees are expensive, but coming from South Africa, the Rand-Pound exchange rate makes it even more difficult to cover the tuition costs.

Once Sarel completes his MBA at Oxford, he plans to move onto stage two where he will generate the capital needed to implement the next stage. The final stage, and overall goal, is to deliver scalable infrastructure for African Communities.

In this first stage, Sarel is hoping to appeal to others who acknowledge how the MBA at Oxford will help him achieve his long-term vision. He’s looking for social media supporters and donors who are willing to help him get a world-class education he wouldn’t be able to afford on his own. Listen to the plan in his own words.

Promoting the Dream to Others with Storytelling

In order to gather worldwide support, Sarel embarked on a mission to crowdfund his tuition while also incorporating a way to engage with his supporters. With the help of his wife’s professional graphic design skills, he branded his vision and launched a website using WordPress. The branding allows him to display his vision in a few different ways with a consistent look and feel.

Stage 1: Pursue a world-class business education at The University of Oxford. Stage 2: Activate sustainable investment models for infrastructure delivery. Stage 2: Deliver scalable infrastructure solutions for the African Continent.

By creating a brand for his vision, Sarel is also able to easily generate shareable content and tell his story more robustly on social media. It’s also easy to encourage others to share his mission because the materials are already there and the vision is well spelled out.

Overall, the website doesn’t just ask for tuition assistance, it tells people what they’re investing in: a future infrastructure solution for Africa. It tells the story of Sarel’s past and where he’s headed in the future.

Implementing On-site Donations for Crowdfunding

The main goal of the MyOxfordMBAFund website is to generate tuition money. Sarel chose to use his own domain and Give instead of a third party platform to have more control over his fundraiser and communication with his supporters.

“Overall Give has given me more than the functionality I could get from a conventional crowdfunding website, such as GoFundMe or similar.”

Sarel needs to raise his tuition by the end of August 2019 and felt more comfortable using a platform he had more control over. We recently came across another Give Story where an organization switched from GoFundMe to Give and their results were astounding. The main difference, in that case, was the trust and control over the message behind the campaign. In this case, Sarel not only wants to generate donor trust but also build a long-term relationship with his supporters. To do this, he purchased a Plus Bundle and he’s using Give in a variety of strategic ways.

MailChimp Opt-In

In order to stay connected with his supporters, Sarel included a MailChimp opt-in so he can more effectively communicate with them later. He plans on sending updates on his fundraising progress to his email list throughout the fundraiser. This will also keep his campaign at the forefront of previous donors minds and they may feel compelled to share his fundraiser or even give again.

Custom Goal Progress Bar

Not all of the money Sarel needs for tuition will come from crowdfunding. He also has funds from his own personal savings and a scholarship. To display this information to his website visitors and donors, Sarel created a custom Give Totals progress goal bar.

The Challenge // Funding the Oxford MBA. Personal Savings: Over the past five years, I have been able to save a total amount of £7200. Said Business School Foundation Scholarship: I am extremely fortunate to have been awarded the Saïd Foundation Scholarship of £15 000. I continue to pursue all relevant scholarship opportunities. MyOxfordMBA Crowdfunding: In order to cover the remainder of the tuition fees, I hope to raise £35 000 through the MyOxfordMBA crowdfunding campaign. Both he circle graph and goal bar reflect each of these contributions and the £561.37 raised at the time this article was published.

It’s a custom implementation that impressed us quite a bit. Prior to setting up this website, Sarel had only taken one computer programming course as part of his university studies.  He said,

“Give’s progress bar is another key element on my website, as it builds trust with donors when donations are immediately reflected. I was able to customize my progress bar to incorporate other sources of funding, such as a partial scholarship and personal savings. Making these customisations took some time as I did not have any prior web-development and coding experience… The Give Support team has been very helpful in sorting out minor issues.”

Overall, the goal bar helps Sarel be extremely transparent with his supporters, which is important when asking people to give to any campaign.

Easy International Payments

Sarel’s plan has international implications and the main goal of stage two is to find foreign capital to invest in African infrastructure. So Sarel also provides a variety of payment gateways and the ability for donors to switch between currencies.

“Give provides the core function to my website – to make payments quickly and securely, and conveniently through 4 different payment portals – card, PayPal, PayFast, and offline donations. PayFast is a great South African portal people are familiar and comfortable with. Initially, I had some trouble setting up the PayPal and Stripe accounts, as I needed a UK bank account. I used a Monzo bank account to get around this.”

For each gateway, Sarel created a separate form to make it easier on his donors to select their payment methods. There are four forms available in the donation section, each explicitly stating what their payment method options are. Each form also has the ability to switch between currencies so donors can see the amount they give in the currency they’re most comfortable with. Once a donor gives to any form, their donation will be added to the total progress bar.

Donation Form Options: 1) PayPal 2) Card 3) EFT 4) Deposit

Social Proof on a Donor Wall

Once a person gets to the bottom of the page, if they’re still not convinced to donate, there is a wall of donor comments and donation amounts.

“The ‘comments’ section allows them to leave me words of encouragement and I think this function plays a key role in convincing website visitors to also donate.”

Social proof is crucial to convince others to give, especially for personal causes. People want to know that they aren’t the only ones and they aren’t being fooled.

Taking Tips from Emrah

Not only is Sarel promising to use his MBA for the greater good, but he’s also offering individual incentives for donating.

My pledge // A long-term commitment to donors. Each donation is an investment in THE VENTURE and puts me one step closer to not only achieving the Oxford MBA dream but helping overcome Africa’s major infrastructure gap. So, I make a long-term commitment to donors to deliver on this vision. In the meantime, I will work with donors as follows: • £5+ A monthly newsletter from Oxford. • £50+ A monthly postcard from Oxford. • £100+ I will host you for one night in Oxford. • £500+ I will help build your crowdfunding campaign. • £1000+ I will help build your personal or company website.

This approach is similar to the one that Emrah took last year when he funded his tuition to Oxford. Sarel even reached out to Emrah after finding his story on the Give website to get some pointers.

“I came across his story after I started with my campaign, but I’ve drawn a lot of inspiration from his approach. Seeing how successful he was gave me a lot of confidence that I can also raise a large amount.”

It’s encouraging to see a successful Give Story encourage and assist another. We’re excited to see them both excel at Oxford together.

Help Sarel Get to Oxford

Sarel officially launched his campaign on April 1st. At the time of this publication, he’s raised £561.37 toward his £35,000 goal for crowdfunding. We’re excited to see his campaign grow and happy to be a part of Sarel’s dream/

“Many people have let me know that they believe in my ‘mission’ and will be donating soon. I am confident that I can at least raise £20 000, but hopefully, with a strong social media campaign and some further publicity, I can reach the £35 000 mark.”

Learn more about Sarel’s plan for his MyOxfordMBAFund and how you can support him, here.

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