Volunteering abroad can be one of the most rewarding and enriching experiences in your life. At first glance, though, you might find the fees to participate in these volunteer programs a bit staggering! After all, you’re already looking to give up months, maybe even a year, of your time—how can you afford to give up hundreds or thousands of dollars, as well? But the reality is that it’s entirely possible to raise most or even all of the money that you need by fundraising for your volunteer program.
Not only can fundraising help you cover the fees for your volunteer program, it is also a great way to network with local businesses and organizations, make important contacts, get in touch with friends and family, and have some fun!
We’ve put together a list of ideas and tips to help you raise money for your volunteer adventure abroad.
1. Contact People Directly
One of the first things you will want to do is directly contact people you know. Your family, friends, teachers, neighbors, and community members can all be a great help. Don’t just ask your immediate circle of friends and family, either—going door-to-door, emailing old friends and contacting distant relatives can lead to great results.
Don’t over-look non-monetary donations. Some people may not be able to give you money directly, but they may be willing to help in other ways. For example, they may be willing to contribute some baked goods to a bake sale, or help organize and get the word out about an event that you are holding. They may also have some supplies, such as teaching materials, craft supplies, or travel gear that could be useful.
Finally, if there is a holiday or birthday coming up, let your family and friends know that, instead of presents, you’d like a cash donation for your volunteer program.
2. Contact Businesses and Organizations
Local businesses will be a good potential source of donations. The best place to start is businesses that you frequent, or where you know someone. Be persistent, and provide them with organized and detailed information about the program you will be participating in, and what you will be doing.
Find local groups that share a common interest with what you are doing. For example, college groups or clubs that focus on the region of the world where you will be volunteering may be enthusiastic about offering direct or indirect help. Church groups, civic groups, and special-interest organizations are great places to look for help, too.
3. Organize Events
Tap into your and your friends’ talents and skills. Do you have friends who are musicians? Or friends who love to bake? Organize a local event— a small open-mic night, a bake sale, a talent show, or a themed dinner or party can all be fun ways to help you raise money and get the word out about your volunteer program. You might also consider having a yard sale or auction. Ask others to bring things that they want to sell, as well.
Advertise your fundraising events with flyers, word-of-mouth, and online social networking to get the word out to as many people as possible.
4. Take Advantage of the Internet and Social Networking
Set up a blog or website that contains information about you, your plans, and your volunteer program. This can be a great, easy way to advertise and get the word out. It also makes you look professional, well-organized, and reliable. You can also get an account on one of the many websites that allows people to make direct donations to you online. Check out: www.justgiving.com, www.gofundme.com , www.givemeaning.com, or www.chipin.com.
Don’t forget about social networking. Facebook, twitter, linkedin, and other similar sites allow you to reach a huge network of people, so take advantage of it!
A Few More Tips and Ideas
- Start early. Fundraising is a big job. It requires a lot of persistence, organization, and time. Even a year in advance isn’t too early to start planning and thinking about raising money. The more time you give yourself, the less stressed out you will be, and the more success you are likely to have.
- Sell yourself and your volunteer program. Don’t be modest! You want people to have confidence that they are giving their money to a worthwhile cause. Convince them that you are motivated, dedicated, and reliable. Convince them that the program you are participating in will be giving something back to the people and community where you will be volunteering. Be ready to answer their questions about what you are doing. You might even want to have some professional-looking information packets ready to hand out. Include information on yourself, the program, what you will be doing, and why it’s a meaningful thing for them to support. The more they get to know you as a person, and what you will be doing during your volunteer time abroad, the more willing they will be to make a donation.
- Stay Organized. You will be contacting a lot of people, businesses, and organizations. Keep detailed spreadsheets of who you have contacted, what they have told you, and if they have donated any money.
- Don’t forget about matching donations. Many employers will match an employee’s charitable donation. Be sure to ask everyone to check with their employers to see if there is a program like this—it can instantly double their donation to you!
- Don’t be afraid to ask for a specific dollar amount. This amount will vary, of course, depending on whether you are contacting your neighbor or a local business. But you might be surprised at how many people are willing to meet the dollar amount that you request, provided it’s reasonable.
- Finally, don’t forget to say thanks! Make it a point to send out a thank you note, letter, or email to anyone who has given you a donation. This makes you look much more professional and organized, and will help you keep up a good relation with those organizations. After all, you never know when you might need to call on some of those contacts again!
With the support of family and friends, as well as local businesses and organizations, your fundraising goals are well within reach. Start early, stay organized, and have fun—and you’ll find ways to fund most, if not all, of the cost of your volunteer adventure.