Many volunteers are excited at the prospect of embarking on an international volunteer project – however, they simply can’t afford the costs. All is not lost – there are many organisations, companies and individuals who are prepared to support and sponsor volunteers – those who are willing to give up their time to work on worthwhile projects in the developing world.
Fundraising and seeking financial support can often seem a daunting prospect. Interestingly, for many, the process of raising the necessary funds can to be extremely satisfying and often great fun. People are very generous if it is for a good cause! Be positive, enthusiastic and aware of just how far a smile can go – remember that people often give to people, not to causes.
There are so many fundraising opportunities. The important thing is to convey your passion and knowledge about your cause and clearly communicate the value of the work you will be doing in the country you are visiting.
- The first step is to highlight your goals and reasons for volunteering, explaining how your contribution to your volunteer placement will make a positive impact.
- Calculate the amount needed including fees, flights and insurance
- Make a plan and create targets – how much can you raise or earn per month? Give yourself small targets to reach, say for example “£350 by September.” Once you have managed to reach that, you will feel more confident to succeed in the final amount.
- Ask for a specific amount of money. When you say “contribution”, some people are thinking £5, while others are thinking £500. Tell people how much you need, and let them know the total amount that you are hoping to fundraise. You may even want to outline the cost per day of your project (divide your total project fee by the number of days you will be overseas) and ask to be sponsored for at least one day.
- Make a list of everyone you know, including friends and family – and send a personalized email or hand-written letter requesting a donation. Make it easy for them to pay you.
- Make a list of all the local organizations and companies who might be able to donate. Many local organizations or companies are eager to donate to causes like yours, so think outside the box! See if the company you are currently working with is willing to match-fund the donations you raise. It is often easier to ask for gifts in kind – a venue, food, raffle prizes, employee time. One volunteer working as a bartender got permission to have a tip jar out specifically to help with the project fee. Another volunteer organised it so that on one waiter shift, £1 of every meal went to their project fee.
- Reach out to local schools, universities, or religious organisations. Ask if you can hold a fundraiser such as a cake sale, car boot sale or non-uniform day. Remember, you are not asking for money for a vacation—you are asking for a contribution to do volunteer work overseas and make a difference in the world. Let them know that you are willing to come back and do a presentation or a video of the project when you return. After meeting with them, write a follow-up letter thanking them for letting you speak and reiterating your request for contributions. Be realistic about the amount you are requesting and how it will be used.
Consider what risks are involved in different fund-raising activities? If you are putting on an event, what happens if not as many people show up as expected, or if it is raining? What is the payback compared to the effort? One small event could take the same amount of organising as one big event, so always look at the potential you could earn over the time you put in.
- Convey a sense of urgency to potential sponsors. This limits their time to forget about giving you a contribution. Give your sponsors a specific date by which to get back to you. and send them friendly reminders, with a note of how much closer you are to getting toward your goal.
- Keep people informed. Throughout the course of your fundraising, send out a couple of friendly email updates about how much closer you are getting to your goal – which also serves as a reminder to people who wanted to give but haven’t yet.
- Show your appreciation. Always thank those who have donated to you, as they will appreciate the recognition and praise. Write a personalised thank you note to everyone who contributes, and highlight the progress that you have made and the difference the project has made.
- Write an on-line blog of your trip, starting as soon as you book it. Set it up before leaving, and give the address to everyone who has donated (and even others who haven’t). This way they can read about your trip, and see where their money is going.
- Host a get-together when you return and invite everyone who has donated. Highlight what you learned abroad and the impact you had, which really helps people understand how their contributions made a difference. Photos of you working overseas can speak volumes.
There are so many opportunities, so don’t just stick to one option and don’t be shy. Sometimes donations come from the least suspected areas. 14.5. My biggest tip for anyone is NOT to stress about fundraising. If the first thing you try doesn’t work, there are so many options. Think creatively. And so the fun begins!
- Gaining sponsorship from friends and relatives for an event undertaken such as a half marathon, fun run, sponsored walk or swim or dance-a-thon
- Organise a themed dinner party – as you will be visiting a specific country on your project, themed dinners/nights are a good area to tap into.
- Waive Christmas and birthday presents for donations to your trip instead. Or throw a birthday party for yourself and ask people to donate.
- Organising a raffle, or prize draw at school, university or place of work. Approach companies to ask for the prizes. Ask your boss or manager to donate a paid day off to the winner of the raffle, with employees buying tickets to the raffle.
- Organise a coffee morning or a coffee evening with a beauty therapist giving tips, face painting, Christmas carolers, car wash……
- Collect used books, CDs, clothes etc and have a car boot sale or sell on Ebay
- Organise a ticketed event such as a champagne party, fashion show, karaoke night, concert, cheese and wine evening, movie marathon, pizza night, wine tasting evening, summer barbecue
- Approach a local newspaper or radio station to publicise the adventure indicating the desire for sponsorship. It may be possible to write an article for them on the experience abroad.
- Make a personal approach to local companies, inviting sponsorship – as part of the agreement Company branded equipment or clothing could be used.
- Research and approach charitable organisations that support deserving causes or approach organisations offering grants.
- Think about what your particular skills are? Give dance lessons / teach French / give cookery lessons / photo scanning / social media classes / taxi service / nail art / lawn mowing / baby sitting / gift wrapping service
If you have any fundraising ideas that have worked for you, I’d love to hear about them.
Good luck, smile, enjoy yourself and have fun volunteering abroad. And always remember, “if you don’t ask, you won’t receive.” By highlighting how your contribution to your volunteer placement will make a positive impact, you will succeed 🙂