With registrations underway at most universities across the country, there has been an increase in the numbers of students turning to crowdfunding campaigns to finance their studies.

The online crowdfunding platform, BackaBuddy, says since December 2018 over 50 new campaigns have been registered as students seek donations for tuition fees, text books and associated costs of tertiary study.

More and more students like Michelle Nel are appealing for financial help though crowdfunding initiatives. Nell wants to do a PhD in psychology, aimed at challenging the status quo in special needs schools.

“According to recent statistics, it was determined that the unemployment rate in South Africa amongst the visually impaired is a shocking 98%. So with my research, I aim to develop a pilot programme where visually impaired school leavers have access to appropriate and adequate career testing and assessment and then, hopefully also to create opportunities to create skills development and also other opportunities for job shadowing and learnerships and so on,” says Nell.

While Michelle’s campaign is fairly new and still has a way to go before reaching its goal. Her fellow student, Courage Chiringa, has achieved his.

According to his profile on the platform, the aspiring entrepreneur is the first in his family to access tertiary education. The recent graduate of a non-profit business school, Chiringa turned to the online platform to help him realise his dream of further studies at the University of Cape Town (UCT).

“In the last 4 weeks, he raised over R36 000 from a whole community of people to support him to now go to the University of Cape Town and study entrepreneurship is because of the incredible work that he had given to people around him through his life. In many ways we talk about crowdfunding as activating your social insurance policy, where if you have lived and supported people around you, they come forward and support you in return,” says Patrick Schofield, CEO of BackaBuddy.

The online platform has been in operation for the past three years and has in last year alone raised R36 million for various beneficiaries.

However, it’s not just students who are enlisting the help of crowdfunding donations.

Africa’s largest bird haven, The World of Birds Wildlife Sanctuary, recently faced dire straits when it was robbed of over R50 000. Its campaign for crowdfunding drew much-needed support.

“The World of Birds is a phenomenal place and they are constantly looking to raise funds, there was a negative, a robbery, funds were stolen. A huge negative on the world of birds but what it turned into through the crowdfunding campaign was an outpouring of support and bringing into the consciousness of people that they need to support the world of birds not just for funds but in terms of actually going to visit them so t became a very positive outcome,” says Schofield.

Schofield says crowdfunding does not replace the role of traditional NGOS, but rather complements the work it does to improve the lives of those who need financial help.