Like the majority of students who decide to pursue medicine, you’ve probably had your eyes set on going to medical school since you were still in student attending high school. You were young, motivated, and determined to let nothing get in the way of your medical school dreams. You oft en picture yourself strutting around with your white coat or scrubs. You think about the moment you’ll be able to add your letters of distinction aft er your name. Work hard, get good grades, score well on the MCAT, volunteer, intern, and shadow and you’re good to go, right? Unfortunately, in the world of medical education, the dream of becoming a doctor is expensive, and you’re going to need a whole lot of cash for that degree. That’s where crowdfunding websites – a place where family, friends, and even strangers can donate money to fund your dream – can help you fund your dreams.

Driven by our excitement to help you move one step closer to your medical school dreams, we want to introduce you to 6 crowdfunding websites that could play a huge role in paying for your education. You will see what each website has off er, which can help you decide if this option is even the right one for you.  So, if you’ve been worried about not being able to pay for medical school or even more so overwhelmed about the amount of loans you may have to take out, take your best shot at trying to sway your potential sponsors that you want it and you want it bad.

 WHAT IS CROWDFUNDING?

Crowdfunding, as the name suggests, gives individuals an opportunity to raise money for a personal or professional cause, project, or idea. While this latest trend in fundraising has become quite popular for individuals looking to raise money for business ventures, the method now has widespread appeal, even among students looking to fund their education.With hundreds crowdfunding sites, some general and others tailored for specific audiences, the overall concept is the same – you post your “message” to the website for potential donors to see, and those who are interested in supporting you will do so. Most of the crowdfunding websites will allow you to post your message at no costs so there’s nothing to lose.It could be the perfect solution: In 2012, the average debt for medical school graduate was $170,000, and 86 percent of graduates reported having education debt, according to a report released by the AAMC titled “Physician Education Debt and the Cost to Attend Medical School.” But, if a “crowd” of relatives, friends, and even strangers could come together and provide financial support for a student’s medical school dreams, medical students could feel relieve from their impending debt even as tuition rises out of pro-portion to the national inflation rate. Here are 6 websites that could help you crowdfund your medical school tuition:

Fundly.com

Currently, one of the most popular crowd-funding site for individuals raising money for medical school, Fundly is an online fundraising site where individuals can tell their story and connect with potential donors. Built a lot around the power of social promotion, Fundly allows users to turn each donation they receive for their cause into a “social donation.” According to the site, “that means whenever one of your supporters makes a donation, they can instantly spread the word to their like-minded friends on Facebook.”

This added benefit of being able to get the word out about what you’re up to may get more exposure for your campaign and ultimately help you raise more dough. While your campaign will at first be targeted more towards those in your personal network, the reach can be endless, well not really, but quite far. You’ll have the option of creating an email blast to your potential supporters to introduce them to your new campaign, sending a tweet out with a link to your campaign, or any other channel of communication you have access to including instagramming, pinning, or tumbling.

Once your campaign is live you’ll get emails to help direct you through the first few weeks of your campaign. You’ll also get emails and push notifications when something new hap-pens and an easy way to respond. Th ere is no minimum amount to raise in order to keep your funds. Payments are processed quickly and can usually be withdrawn in 24-48 hours of the donation. Automatic transfers can also be configured to further speed things up.

Piglt.com

Piglt is a crowdfunding site that is specifically geared toward individuals who are looking to fund their education. According to the website, Piglt (pronounced “piglet”) – education’s entrepreneurial piggy bank – provides students with the opportunity to fund both their higher education expenses and student loan debt. On Piglt, an individual, group, or organization that is in search of funding for their education-related cause (tuition, student loan debt, nonprofit orgs, schools, etc) is called a Dreamer. To get started Dreamers create video campaigns sharing their dreams inarticulate, creative, and fantastic ways.

These videos are ultimately for Believers, yup you guessed it, individuals, organization, or companies looking to support a Dreamer’s dream.  So, Dreamers essentially create their campaign videos with the hope that a “believer” will help contribute in exchange for unique incentives they can off er. Incentives are typically skills, abilities, or products that are unique to each “dreamer” and their back-ground/training. For individuals who may grapple with debt up to $150,000 (i.e. medical school students), Piglt encourages these individuals to raise money in smaller, more manageable amounts. Th is not only ensure that the funding goal is met, but also helps Dreamers ensure success in delivering on-time, quality incentives to their Believers.

Pave.com
For individuals looking to raise money online, Pave is a unique online community where people invest in each other, support work that matters, and share in what’s achieved. Like tomorrow’s doctors, prospects on Pave are hard-working and driven individuals looking to take their careers to the next level. They begin by creating a profile that states their career goals, experience, and the amount they hope to raise. To be funded, prospects are expected to raise $2000 minimum from backers, and current prospects have raised $20,000 on average. As medical school graduates would be interested in gathering up more than 20K, the maximum amount you can raise depends on your specific situation (i.e. how much you’re expected to earn and the percentage of income you would be willing to part with in the future).

The funds raised on Pave can be used for one of three things:

  1. to pay off  burdensome debt and focus on making optimal decision for the long term,
  2. to invest in education, or
  3. pursue an opportunity, whether it is launching a new biomedical gadget, supporting yourself as you work on your medical venture, or purchasing equipment that allows you to take your career to the next level.

The Pave team then independently verifies everything that a prospect has claimed to be true (identity, education, and credit history) before they even appear on the site.

After everything an individual has shared in their profile and campaign is checked out, Pave works with prospects to set a funding rate. They do this by predicting the prospect’s future in-come using a proprietary income model and pro-pose a funding rate that is fair to both prospect’s and backers and all prospects have an estimated return of 6-8%, according to Pave’s website. Specifically, the funding rate is what can be raised by the prospect for each 1% of income shared for 5 or 10 years. So, who are these backers? Well, backers are individuals who invest directly in prospects they have interest in and “care about,” and therefore in return for helping these individuals accomplish their goals, earn substantial returns. Finally, once the campaign is over, prospects keep their backers in the loop about their career. Furthermore, backers can even choose to engage in a more active relationship by providing advice and support along the way.

Upstart.com

It sounds like a cool idea – borrowing money from your future self. And for medical students who plan to pursue high-paying specialties, the idea may be even more intriguing. Well, that’s what Upstart may be able to offer you. Founded by former Google employers, Upstart is “a funding marketplace designed to provide people early in their careers with a slice of economic freedom so they can start a business, learn a new skills or just pay off  their student loans.” Similar to Pave, Upstart is a platform that enables anyone to literally invest in a person and their future earning potential.To start, potential upstarts create a profile. For medical students or graduates, the site can be used to help invest in your education or relieve student debt. Upstarts’ identity, academic credentials, and credit status are verified before they appear on the site. To predict each upstart’s income of the next 10 years, a funding rate is then calculated based on a statistical model. Upstarts can then choose how much money to raise, but can share no more than 7% of their income. Although actual terms will vary on a case by case basis, Upstart’s specific model is designed to target a 8% average annual return to backers. To invest in an individual, backers can search by school, area of study, or career interest, and then read one’s profile to learn about an individual’s background and/or unique goals. They can make offers in increments of $100, but upstarts always have the right to choose whether to accept any particular backer.

Rally.org

Built on the premise that visually appealing stories have the greatest impact and create a lasting impression with potential supports, Rally.org lets individuals create “beautiful and inspiring” online-fundraising pages.  Ac-cording to the site, Rally.org’s 4.5 million users vary in size and scope and address a wide range of topics. Unlike many other sites that only off er user one-time campaigns, Rally can be used for ongoing fundraisers, as well as one-time initiatives with a set end date. What’s more, a feature called Covers lets users embed a link for donation into video and images that they can then share via social media. As of February 2013, the site had approximately 4.6 million total users. On Rally.org it’s pretty simple

  1. individuals can upload a photo or video with their fundraising story,
  2. using the sites robust social-sharing features, users can then invite supports by email, Facebook, Twitter, or other social-networking sites,
  3. collect online donations by credit card, debit card, and even eCheck.

YouCaring.com

YouCaring.com is an online fundraising platform but also one of the few sites that doesn’t charge a funding fee. Th e site is supported 100% by donations from a major contributor and the public. Th e site allows user to create customizable webpages to help spread the word about your story and raise money for towards your goal. Once a page is created, you can spread the news about your page through email, social networks, or any other way to engage potential donors. Th e site is open to individuals who need to raise fund in one of seven categories, including tuition help. YouCaring.com is also open to individuals outside the United States. The site sends the funds as they are donated so you always receive all the funds that have been donated in real time, minus the fee PayPal or WePay charges for processing credit cards. In addition, even after your goal has been reach, your campaign can continue raising money and can still accept donations even.

This article was published in the January/February 2014 issue of PreMedLife Magazine.