Northern College is employing a unique method for re-establishing its bursary campaign: crowdfunding.
In May, the Timmins post-secondary school set up a crowdfunding campaign with GoFundMe, a website that allows people to donate online to a common goal, in this case a fund that supports local high school students as they embark on their college education.
The initiative is part of the school’s Leaders of Tomorrow campaign, which was launched just over a year ago to replenish its bursary program, after the initial fund had been exhausted.
“What we should have done at the time, and what we are now doing, is setting up an endowment,” Gibbons explained. “With an endowment, the capital remains intact, preserved in perpetuity, and all you’re paying out is the interest on the capital.”
The goal of the campaign, being rolled out in phases, is to raise $250,000. Phase one was targeted at business and industry, but after raising close to $2 million five years ago to help construct the school’s trades centre, Gibbons said the school didn’t want to wear out its welcome.
So in phase two it looked to other avenues of raising capital: students and staff have been very generous, and the general public have made donations at the checkout of the local Your Independent Grocer supermarket.
But that still left a roughly $60,000 gap. That’s when Nicole Gingras, a development officer with Northern College, came up with the idea of crowdfunding, a strategy she said targets a specific audience that the other fundraising methods might not reach.
“I think that through the crowdfunding, the GoFundMe, as we continue to share that on our social media and in our communication, we'll see a lot more buying into it,” Gingras said.
“It's a way for us to reach out to audiences like alumni that we don't have registered at the moment, friends of the college, and maybe like-minded individuals who believe in education and the power of bursaries for students.”
The school set a GoFundMe sub-goal of $15,000, which Gingras and Gibbons describe as a manageable goal that will help spread the word about what the school is trying to achieve.
While the GoFundMe initiative didn’t have a huge uptake in its first month, Gingras said even if the crowdfunding campaign increases awareness about the school and its fundraising goal, it will have been a success.
“This is a community initiative as well, so what we want is people to take ownership of the cause,” she said. “We’re doing our part as an educational institution, but it’s a way for the average citizen to be able to contribute to the same cause.”
Supplementing the social media campaign are more traditional methods of raising awareness and capital, and those still have a place for certain audiences, Gibbons said.
“You have a segment of the public that almost exists in social media and that's the best way to reach them, and that's a tool that we're increasingly using for marketing for recruitment purposes as well,” he said.
“But then you also have a segment of the community that's still plugged into traditional forms of media — newspaper, radio and TV — so you have to take a multi-pronged approach to reach people where they exist.”