By tamaraLast week, I posted an article about several crowdfunding websites that are available to help you find the money you need to pay for college. Although these websites are easy to use and offer a plethora of tools to help you set up a donation page, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have any success. In fact, most students who use these websites rarely reach their goal amount. Why? Well, for one thing, you’re not alone. There are thousands of students trying to get people to donate to them, so it’s easy for your page to get lost in the crowd. Secondly, like most things in life, you’ll get out of it what you put into it. In other words, if you throw up a page and never do anything else, you’re not going to see any reward. So, how can you increase your odds of hitting your fundraising goal? Here are five steps you’ll need to take to ensure you have a successful crowdfunding campaign. 1. Set a Clear Goal It’s important to create a budget. Outline all necessary educational expenses, including tuition, books and other fees. You should also show any money you have coming in from federal aid, institutional or private scholarships, and money you expect to receive from other sources. The difference between what you need and what you expect to receive should be your goal amount. Don’t bump up your amount to include extra money for arbitrary expenses, such as partying or grabbing some fast food, as donors will be less likely to contribute. It doesn’t hurt to include a screenshot or link to a PDF of your budget, either; donors will feel more at ease when they know where their money is going. 2. Create a Theme If you want to generate some traffic to your page, you need a hook. Come up with a catchy title, a tagline and even some content ideas that can be used for emails and other communications. For example, you could have a page called ‘10 Reasons Why I Don’t Want to be a Ramen Noodles Expert’ and highlight a different reason each week during your campaign. In your email communications, you could link back to your Pinterest page and include a different recipe for Ramen. Just have some fun and make it interesting! 3. Showcase Your Talents I’m not suggesting you should add racy pictures or vulgar language to your page (please keep it clean), but you should include photos of yourself that will give donors an idea of who you are and what you want from life. If you’re an artist, consider adding photos of your work or a video showing you actually going through the process of creating a piece of art. If you’re a blogger, include a link to your website or recent posts. The more people get to know you, the more likely they are to donate to your campaign. 4. Recruit Others Don’t expect great results if you are the only one sharing your story. This is why social media outreach is a crucial component to any crowdfunding campaign. Get family and friends to share your page, and look for other avenues to get some exposure. It never hurts to contact your local newspaper or television station, either. Invite them out to an event, share your page, or drop them an email. It makes for a great human-interest story and it could even get picked up by outlets outside of your local area. The more people who know about your page, the more your funds will grow. 5. Stay Engaged This is not a one and done process. Once you have your page up and running, you’ll need to keep people interested; send out an email introducing yourself, make a short video, host a fun event – do whatever it takes to keep the momentum going. Canvas your local area and connect with small business owners, as many may be willing to sponsor an event or allow you to put out a collection jar. Some ideas that are easy to organize include: Mom’s Night Out: Offer your services for a few hours on a Friday or Saturday night (6 p.m. to 10 p.m.), placing fliers at area grocery stores and kid’s clothing stores. Bowl-4-Tuition: Participants pay a set fee for a certain number of hours of bowling. Give out small prizes (coupons from local restaurants) for certain things, such as highest score or getting a turkey (three strikes in a row). Car Wash and Bake Sale: People get hungry and thirsty waiting for their vehicles! Online Art Auction: Take a few of your best pieces and host an auction from your crowdfunding page; set a time limit, put up pictures, and ask people to post their bids. Be sure to include an estimate for shipping, unless you plan to pay for that yourself. Crowdfunding should be one facet of your college savings plan; it’s important that you also consider other resources when looking for money to pay for your education. Spend time searching and applying for scholarships, look into tuition reimbursement programs, and, if needed, consider getting a part-time job. You may also need to take out a student loan, but do your homework and only borrow the minimum amount needed. If you take the time to create a multi-faceted plan and put in the effort to keep it going, you’re much more likely to find success.