KUALA LUMPUR, June 15 — Online scholarship crowdfunding platform Skolafund is banking on Hari Raya festivities to further spark Malaysians’ generosity in giving to its Big Community Scholarship Fundraiser campaign.
Co-founder Tengku Syamil, 27, said the team started a public poll on Twitter asking their backers if they would like to embark on a large-scale campaign during the holy month of Ramadan.
“The support we received was superb and being able to provide for less privileged students in the month of Ramadan is most suitable as it is also the time when Muslims all over the world are encouraged to give to the needy,” he said in an interview with Malay Mail.
The platform has raised RM128,612 of its RM1 million target in 29 days via contributions from 3,896 backers.
However, Skolafund is hoping that Aidilfitri’s arrival today will give the campaign an added boost ahead of its end tomorrow.
“This is our biggest amount to date and that itself is pretty impressive considering the number of followers that we have in order to raise such a substantial amount in a month that was started by a social enterprise not known to many.
“This is the first time we have surpassed RM20,000 in any campaign that we have hosted since our inception in 2015,” he added.
Syamil, who has been featured in Forbes Asia’s 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs, said although the target will be missed, the funds collected will still go towards helping students in need of scholarships.
He explained that by default, each selected student (both local and international) will receive a scholarship of RM5,000, but additional funding may be available on a case-by-case basis.
Those in need of further assistance may receive aid of up to RM10,000 to cover fees and allowances over two semesters.
On eligibility, he said candidates must meet criteria such as being enrolled in a tertiary institution, come from a household with less than the RM5,228 national median monthly income, a passing CGPA and the ability to convey their need for financial assistance.
Explaining the origin of fund, Syamil said when he was in the International Islamic University of Malaysia, an underprivileged student had reached out to peers and teachers on social media for part-time job suggestions.
“It was her third job, having sick parents and she needed more funds to finish her semester, which prompted everyone came to her aid to fund her studies.
“It was surreal. People were actually supportive of promising students who fell short financially,” he added.
He subsequently proposed the idea of crowdfunding to his co-founder.
Faced with credibility challenges in the beginning, the seven-man team persevered and found influencers to help win public trust.
“A lot of my friends could not understand the concept of crowdfunding and people were hesitant to helping a total stranger with zero credibility, thinking we were organised scammers.
He said the concept of crowdfunding was still relatively new to Malaysians and many thought that Skolafund was an entity that gave out money.
“When we started in 2015, out of 100 students surveyed, none had heard of the term crowdfunding and we have been doing a lot of academic work to teach students how to run a campaign themselves using our platform.
“However, our main goal is to increase awareness of crowdfunding among higher learning institutions to prevent abuse by opportunists who piggyback on the kindness of strangers,” he said.
Initially called Crowdscholarship, the team was told the name was too long, leading to brainstorming that gave birth to Skolafund.
Syamil, who has a bachelor’s degree in business, said the word Skola means “school” in Icelandic and was phonetically similar to the word “scholar” — and coincidentally “sekolah” too, which is Malay for “school”.
“Fund” refers to the latter portion of “crowdfunding”, he said.
“The name embodies our wish and aspiration to make education as accessible as possible,” he said.
On Skolafunds’ future endeavours, Syamil said the platform planned to launch crowdfunding campaigns for student projects and research, as it also aims to secure partnerships with tertiary institutions. Cyberjaya University College of Medical Sciences is the platform’s sole partner now.
“On top of the stress of running the platform, it gives us a sense of accomplishment as we will be helping underprivileged students and their families this festive season through this particular campaign,” he said.