CrowdFunding helps disadvantaged students


By Kim Arlington, It has been used to finance start-up companies, political campaigns and art projects. Now online crowdfunding is helping disadvantaged students, raising $20,000 in 24 hours for a scholarship program at the University of NSW.

The Open Doors campaign was launched this week, with the goal of raising $30,000 in 28 days. More than $22,000 has already been pledged.  We thought it would be a more exciting and creative way of raising funds for the scholarship.

Crowdfunding is gaining momentum, with research showing $US2.7 billion ($2.6 billion) was invested in 2012, mainly in the US and Europe. Donation- and reward-based crowdfunding grew 85 per cent to $US1.4 billion last year, a study from industry analyst Massolution found.

The UNSW law faculty has been raising money for an endowment fund to help a disadvantaged student from a non-selective public school in south-west Sydney to study law. The scholarship is worth $5000 a year for the duration of their undergraduate degree.

But when traditional fundraising methods came up short, Angela Kintominas and Leslie Phung, past co-presidents of the university’s law society, suggested making up the difference through crowdfunding, which lets the public make donations.

With other law school alumni, they launched the campaign at 11am on Thursday. More than $7000 was raised in the first hour.

Photo: Louise Kennerley

Photo: Louise Kennerley

“We thought it would be a more exciting and creative way of raising funds for the scholarship,” Mr Phung said.

Ms Kintominas said studying law had been an enriching experience for her, and the campaign was a way of giving back.

“We’ve been really blown away and overwhelmed by the support we’ve got for the project,” she said. “It really demonstrates the depth of the community spirit and how much this initiative means to people, and that there’s a real need to encourage and support people to … get into university.”

The scholarship is named in honour of Ngoc Tram Nguyen, a Vietnamese refugee who met UNSW professors Lisa Maher and David Dixon – now Dean of Law – when they were researching the impact of policing in Cabramatta. She worked with them as a research assistant but died in an accident before she could realise her dream of studying law.

Professor Dixon said he hoped the crowdfunding campaign would not just raise money, but awareness of the opportunities open to students in Sydney’s south-west. “It’s about raising aspirations,” he said.

Nick Abrahams, the national leader of the Australian Communications, Media & Technology Group at law firm Norton Rose Fulbright, said crowdfunding was well suited to philanthropic fundraising.

“Traditionally, raising money for events or philanthropic purposes has been about the size of an individual’s personal network – who you can send an email to – whereas on a crowdfunding platform … you are able to access a much bigger audience,” he said.

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