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Meet Alma - a single Filipino mom with three kids. Her mother lives with the family so they can make ends meet. If it wasn’t for her mom, Alma couldn’t make it financially, and she certainly wouldn’t have opened 529 accounts when the kids were younger.

Alma’s oldest son is a mechanic and her two teenage daughters want to go to college after they graduate. “A college degree opens doors and sets you up to make more money, to live more comfortably, and hopefully avoid the financial struggles I encountered,” she tells the girls. But Alma wonders how she’ll afford college when she can barely pay rent.

Overwhelmed, Alma vents to Tia, her sister-in-law, over the phone. Tia listens until Alma is spent and silent.

“Crowdfunding,” Tia says after a long pause.

“What’s that?”

“Well, everyone says start saving early because college is expensive. But let’s get real, you can’t rely on one means to pay for college. And you can’t do it alone.”

“That’s for sure,” Alma huffs.

“Your brother and I got family and friends to contribute small amounts for the kids through a crowdfunding site. Rather than give big gifts for birthdays, holidays and graduation, they were invited to donate to the kids’ college savings.”

Alma spent the next two weeks learning about crowdfunding and eventually decided to use ScholarShare 529’s service called Ugift. It was a free and easy and secure.

By the end of the month Alma used Ugift to email personalized invitations to family and friends, inviting them to contribute. Most of the donations were small, but a few of her closest relatives got excited about being involved in Alma’s kids’ education and contributed unexpected amounts.

Alma’s family wanted to be involved—they just never knew how. Even Alma’s daughters participated, posting the Ugift code on their Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Of course, saving for the girls’ college education is stressful, but Alma is breathing a bit easier now. She can see a way forward.

The End.

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Eric Bennett has over three decades experience in higher education managing recruitment and marketing, financial aid, and student development at three universities from Georgia to California to New York City. Eric recently put his experience to use launching Bennett Collaborative, a small business that creates content for brands with purpose. With his reputation for being an effective communicator, Eric writes for all kinds of industries from finance and college savings to education and disability services. Visit BennettCollaborative.com for more information.