Are you excited about volunteering abroad but struggling to raise funds? Have you done the research but don’t know where to begin?
Volunteering abroad can be an exciting adventure. It is a time to explore a new country, immerse yourself in a different culture, and support local organizations working on critical development projects.
It can also be an expensive venture: including airplane tickets, travel insurance, and a program fee that covers food, lodging, training, staff support, and other project-related expenses. Costs can add up quickly shouldn’t deter you from volunteering abroad.
Fundraising for your trip is an option everyone should consider. It can help you fill the gap in between what you have saved already and the total you require, or it can provide you with all of your needed funds.
Where do you start with fundraising efforts? What are some good fundraising ideas? How do you put those fundraising ideas into action?
It is not just about asking people close to you for money. Effective fundraising requires you to be thoughtful and strategic in how you organize your time and efforts, and in how you reach out to people in your network.
Continue reading below for fundraising ideas that will set you up for success.
Focus on your ‘why’
Before you begin asking family, friends, or businesses for the money to support your trip, you need to ask yourself why you are looking to volunteer abroad in the first place.
Following that, think about what drew you to volunteer in this specific location, and on this project? Did you read an article online that piqued your interest, or perhaps watch a documentary that spurred you into action? Or have you always been passionate about this cause?
Think about non-profit fundraising ideas and campaigns that you have supported in the past. What grabbed your attention? Why did you support it? It is not likely to have been because someone just asked you for money.
You were probably drawn in by their ‘why’: why their organization or project exists, why it is important, and why they need to raise funds.
Remember, people won’t just give away money because you asked (except, perhaps your grandparents). They want to have a reason to do so and need to feel an emotional connection to you and the cause you’re promoting.
Set a SMART goal
Before thinking of ways to raise money, set your fundraising goal first. If you’ve heard of SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based), you know that they’re meant to help you specify your ideas, target your efforts, and use your time and resources productively in order to increase your chances of achieving your goals.
Set up a website
Once you have your ‘why’ and have established clearly defined goals, you need to tell people about them. Setting up a website is one way to do so, and it is incredibly easy.
You can use your website to keep your donors updated on your progress, and to share information on your fundraising events.
There are a variety of existing web platforms available for you to integrate into your site: Volunteer Forever, GoFundMe, Fund and Seek, Rally.org, Fundly, CrowdRise, and Causes, to name a few.
Having a website is also a great tool for keeping your donors informed once you’re on your project. Why not create a blog to detail the whole experience?
Use your networks
You now have your ‘why’, clear goals, and a website. Now you need to share them far and wide within your network.
But don’t just limit yourself to your immediate friends or family. Reach out to any like-minded people in your life who want to support similar causes: co-workers, people you volunteer with, or those in your religious or community groups.
You should also reach out to your network for ways to fundraise and event ideas. There might be someone with fundraising experience that you’ll want to tap into.
Consider reaching out to local businesses too. They might also want to be involved in your fundraising event.
It’s a bonus if you can offer them a sponsorship opportunity, such as putting their logo on event advertisements, on your website, or in your blog.
Employee donor matching programs
Some companies will match their employees’ donations to service-oriented projects, so check to see if your employer has an employee donor matching program to help you raise money.
Even if your company doesn’t, check with your spouse’s or parents’ employer. For example, if your parent writes you a check for $500 as a donation, their company might match it, quickly bringing your total to $1,000.
Scholarships and grants
Many organizations give out scholarships for service work. Check out school and university grants, or scholarships from international charities or trusts such as Lions Clubs International and Rotary International.
Ask to speak to someone about your trip and your goals and be prepared to give a presentation if asked. They might also connect you to others in the community who can help you raise funds or offer up other fundraising ideas.
How to make the ask
The best fundraisers are personal – and connect the donor to the cause they’re being asked to support. Asking people for money can be daunting, but there are a few things you can do to make it easier.
1) Write thoughtful letters
While you can reach your network quickly through a website and social media, there is nothing more special and personal than a well-written letter, especially if it is written by hand.
Target it to each person individually and make it personal. Nobody wants to read a generic letter that sounds like went to everybody on your list.
Don’t forget to tell them your story and why you thought of them as a donor. Perhaps this person has been to the country you’re going to. Did they perhaps inspire your interest in service work?
2) Be specific
Asking for money in the general sense will make it difficult for donors to know how to help you effectively.
Ask for a specific amount of money, or even a certain amount of frequent flier miles. Again, think back to when you have responded to nonprofit fundraising campaigns: their letters always have specific asks associated with them. This makes it easier for donors to know where to start.
Don’t forget to tell them how their donations will help, so that they feel a tangible connection to you and your fundraising journey. For example, tell them that $100 will help you cover your visa costs, or that their frequent flier miles will cover the first leg of your flight.
3) Offer incentives
Go the extra mile and offer something to your donors. It could be something as simple as sending them postcards from your trip or bringing them back a local craft item from your host community.
However you decide to incentivize your donors, remember that you are not only giving them an opportunity to support you on your project, but you are including them in the experience as well.
Create a fundraising event
Fundraising events can be a lot of fun and are a good way to connect with potential donors, especially if you don’t know them personally. Here are four easy fundraising event ideas to get you started.
1) Host a dinner
Hosting a dinner is such a fun fundraising idea, especially if you create a theme based off your destination. This will give you a chance to wow your friends and families.
If the idea of charging your guests for a home-cooked meal makes you squirm, don’t worry. Suggest a donation amount instead. You might be surprised to find that some will go above and beyond.
If you are fundraising for a volunteer trip to Thailand, you could cook up some classics like green curry, cashew chicken, pad thai, or green papaya salad to serve your guests.
But don’t stop at the food – print out pictures of the country, its people, and of the project you’re going on.
You can also give a quick speech or presentation detailing your ‘why’ and outlining how their funds will help both you and the project.
2) Give a presentation
Ask local community groups if you can give a presentation to a larger group. This is a great way to expand your network and connect with other like-minded individuals who would be happy to support members of their community, especially those fundraising for a cause they care about.
3) Do a charity run
Are you athletic, or looking to challenge yourself with a sports fundraising idea? Challenge yourself and your donors by running a race and having them sponsor each mile that you run. Encourage them to pay $2 per mile so that if you run a half-marathon, you’ll raise $26 per person. Get ten people to support you and that’s $2,600. It’s an easy fundraising idea that is both engaging for your donors and fun for you.
4) The 52-week challenge
If you have at least a year to raise funds, spread it out and get friends and family involved. If you put $1 away in week one, $2 in week two, $4 in week three etc., you’ll have $2,500 at the end of the 52 weeks.
The possibilities are endless with this one. You can even combine a few different fundraising events throughout the year. If you’re going on a trip with a friend or a group, this is a great team fundraising idea too.
There are so many unique fundraising ideas out there. Do some research, talk to friends and family, and get creative. This really is about you and your trip, so have fun with it and do what works for you. Remember, the best fundraising ideas are the ones that are personal to you and your experience.
If you’re not into asking people for money and want to go at it alone, you can ask people to give you cash instead of buying you a birthday or holiday gift, or even use your skills or hobbies to make some extra money.
When you return, be sure to thank your donors. Even if you didn’t offer incentives, send them a thank you note. Or better yet, have your donors over for dinner. What better way to show your appreciation than by cooking a meal and showing them pictures and videos of your time abroad?