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Standard Bank drives access to education with key support for major new crowdfunding initiative



Johannesburg, 20 June 2017 – Standard Bank is proud to announce its key support of a powerful new crowdfunding initiative aimed at significantly enhancing access to education for students countrywide.

In a call to action for everyone in society concerned about the state of education and willing to do something about it, the bank has undertaken to be the financier, enablement and go-to-market partner of the Feenix Trust, a Public Benefit Organisation (PBO), which has been established to retain and manage funds from donors. Standard Bank has committed to the project for 36 months, or until the project is self-sustaining.

The Feenix.org crowdfunding initiative, launched today in South Africa, is an innovative solution which allows individuals and enterprises to donate money to universities on behalf of selected students to help them complete their studies.

According to Jayshree Naidoo, Interim CEO of Feenix Trust, Feenix.org is part of a multifaceted strategy by Standard Bank to develop meaningful, practical and sustainable ways to help the youth access quality education by removing some of their financial burden and ultimately contributing to South Africa’s economic growth.

“Access to education remains a major challenge for so many people with ability, but who lack funds. As a proudly digital bank with a history of making a difference, we want to ensure our expertise is also harnessed here. The power of crowdsourcing as a viable solution to boosting educational funding channels is taking off worldwide and we are excited to now be able to take part in this exciting journey in SA,” says Ms Naidoo.

“In Feenix’s case there was a recognition that the support available to students in need was insufficient, and a parallel recognition that ordinary South Africans and business owners want to play a part but do not have an avenue to do so. Feenix distributes the responsibility of funding as widely as possible, and makes the process as direct and easy as possible”.

Feenix is intended to support the poor and “missing middle” students, those who should be assisted by government and other interventions, but who have fallen through the cracks in those systems.

The bank has covered the set-up costs for Feenix and has committed to whatever shortfall there is between the total operating costs and the income received from the admin fee charged to funders.

“The bank is committed to supporting Feenix until it is able to sustain itself. The projections drawn up by the team are that the operating costs of Feenix will be covered by the admin fees charged in about three years, we see this as a long term commitment, one which we are proud to be associated with,” says Ms Naidoo.

All degree types for accredited courses at any of the 26 public universities across South Africa will be accepted at the moment, with plans to extend the service in the near future to students studying at other tertiary and higher learning institutions.

Feenix.org’s simple signup process allows students to register their financial needs for the current year. The platform exposes that students profile to a variety of funding sources. Ordinary South Africans wishing to fund student’s fees can search for individual students on the platform and pay the whole, or a portion of their fees. Corporates wishing to contribute can donate to the pool which is allocated to students in accordance with the Socio-Economic Development bracket of the B-BBEE charter.

“Feenix’s powerful database tracks all user behaviour and enables all financial activity through the site. The log of payments received and disbursed is stored securely, and allows for a full financial audit to be performed at any time or if any irregularity is suspected,” says Ms Naidoo.

The idea is to provide all the benefits of donating funds to education, without the administrative burden of administering a bursary programme. The Fundular platform, on which Feenix.org is built, keeps track of students over time and provides detailed analytics in annual reports.

“Steps have been taken to ensure that all users of the system (students and funders) are checked and verified against relevant databases made available to Feenix by Standard Bank’s fraud protection and sanctions departments.”

“Further, all funds are managed by Standard Trust Limited, the corporate trustee, and a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Standard Bank Group with over 130 years of experience in fiduciary services. All funds raised and managed are paid directly to the universities, so there is no opportunity for students or funders to withdraw funds to use them for anything other than their intended purpose.”

Using a written profile, video and images, a student can motivate for funding from the public by showcasing what makes them unique and sharing that with the world. Importantly, Feenix.org does not compete with merit-based scholarships or industry-based bursaries.

“The aim is to bring in new and underexploited sources of funding from individuals and the private sector and we challenge everyone across the country to get more involved and join us as we embark on this exciting journey to uplifting education. No cause could be more important right now. As a bank that cares about our youth and improving access to education, we support solutions that innovate and take South Africa forward” says Ms Naidoo.
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For details, visit: www.feenix.org

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