Five clever fundraising ideas for volunteering abroad

    Article by Zaytoen Domingo

    Zaytoen Domingo

    Posted: March 19, 2021

    If you’re passionate about travelling overseas to make an impact, but don’t have the funds to make it happen, these fundraising ideas for volunteering abroad might be just what you need. 

    While the volunteer work you do is priceless, volunteer trips abroad do come with a price tag. Between program fees, flights, travel insurance, visa costs, and spending money, the total expenses of your trip might be out of your budget. 

    If you don’t have the funds, what you need is an action plan instead. If you plan ahead and think creatively, you can fundraise to make your trip happen. 


    How to fundraise for volunteer abroad programs

    The first thing you need to do is lay out a budget and set fundraising goals.

    Tally up how much you’ll need to cover fees, flights and other expenses. Set yourself a clear goal. This will make it easier to track your progress. 

    You’ll also need to consider your payment schedule. Your fundraising timeline should fit in with your payment deadlines, rather than the date you’re actually planning to leave for your trip. 

    For GVI programs under 12 weeks, you’ll need to pay a deposit and the first installment 16 weeks before your start date. For programs longer than 12 weeks, the first payment installment is due 12 weeks before your start date. 

    So, that could mean you’ll need to start fundraising 10–12 months before your program start date. 

    The next step is to plan your fundraising activities. Every fundraising strategy requires time, effort and a lot of outreach. 

    So, with a plan in mind, you can start reaching out to your social, school, or professional networks. Find any opportunity to share your fundraising story with an audience. 

    Make sure you clearly share your purpose. People will be more willing to support you if you show a passionate desire to make a positive impact in the world. Explain how donations will help you work towards a larger cause, such as a specific United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (UN SDG). 



    Finally, show appreciation to you donors through shout-outs on social media, follow up emails, or even postcards sent from your destination. 

    Start planning with these five ways to fundraise for volunteering abroad. 

    1) Create a profile on a crowdfunding website 

    If you’re not sure how to start a fundraiser, a crowdfunding website can take all of the hard work out of it for you.

    All you need to do is create a profile on a crowdfunding website such as GoFundMe or FundMy Travel. Tell a compelling story and clearly explain what impact your volunteer work will have.



    Then, you just need to share your crowdfunding effort with your networks. 

    The earlier you start collecting funds through crowdfunding, the better your chances of reaching your goal will be. So it pays to be organised. Ideally, you should allow at least six months for the duration of your fundraiser. 

    2) Ask for alternative gifts 

    One simple way to raise funds is to ask your friends and family to swap gifts for financial contributions on your birthday or at Christmas. 

    They will be donating the money they would have spent anyway, and this way they don’t need to come up with original gift ideas, so it’s a win-win. 

    As well as helping you to reach your savings goal, the people who contribute will have the satisfaction of knowing that their monetary gift to you will be adding to a positive impact in the world, through your actions. 

    3) Host an event

    Use your own talents, or reach out to your friends and family for their support with holding a small event (virtually, or in person, depending on COVID-19 safety regulations). 

    For example, you could host a gig where your musical friends play for a small audience in an intimate setting. You can ask all attendees for a donation, which you can split between paying the artists and contributing to your fundraiser. 

    With fairy lights and cushions on the floor, you can easily create an intimate and welcoming environment. 



    If you don’t know any musicians, you can create the same event with other talents. For example spoken word poetry, stand up comedy, or a small theatre production can all be played out in small spaces. 

    The planning, set up and execution for an event takes time and effort. But, as well as meeting fundraising goals, you’ll support local artists. 

    4) Host a potluck dinner

    A potluck can be a great fundraising alternative to a dinner party. Instead of taking care of all the food preparation yourself, everyone brings a different dish, making for a diverse meal.

    If COVID-19 regulations allow, invite a group of people, and ask each guest to bring either an entrée, main course or dessert. 

    You can ask each person to contribute a small amount, for example $5, to join the feast. For this small amount, plus one dish, they’ll be able to enjoy a meal of epic proportions. 

    As the host, all you’ll need to do is ensure there are enough plates, utensils, serving dishes and glasses available. 

    You can also decorate the space where you’ll be hosting in line with the country you plan on volunteering in. For example, in Nepal meals are traditionally eaten seated on the floor. This creates a cosy atmosphere for your dinner party, and is a great way to start conversations around your intentions for your trip and why the funds you’re asking for matter



    If you’re looking for a socially distanced alternative to, you could host a virtual cooking lesson where you teach participants how to prepare a local dish from the community you’ll be volunteering in.

    5) Hold a book sale

    Many of your friends and family might be keen to support your volunteering endeavours, but not be in a position to give you a monetary donation. 

    But, almost everyone has a few books that they no longer need, but haven’t found time to drop off at the charity store yet.

    Reach out to people you know to ask for donations in the form of second-hand books. Explain that you’ll use the proceeds from the sale of these items to do volunteer work. You can describe the UN SDG your chosen project is working towards, and talk about how your actions will contribute to this. 

    With the books you collect, you can then host a garage sale. You can set this up on your front lawn, or sell the items online. 

    Inform the people buying the books about your reasons for fundraising. This can help you drive success. People are always more motivated to make a purchase when they know they are supporting a worthwhile cause. 

    This fundraising idea takes some planning. Allow one to two months to collect the books, and set at least two dates for the sale. 



    This idea can also work for other types of second-hand goods, such as good quality clothing. For an extra fundraising boost, you can also sell home-made cupcakes and cookies on the side!

    Now you know how to fundraise for volunteering abroad, you can choose your program with confidence. Browse GVI’s range of ethical volunteer opportunities abroad today.

    By Zaytoen Domingo

    Zaytoen Domingo is a content writer and editor based in Cape Town, South Africa. She is currently enrolled in the Masters program in English at the University of the Western Cape. After graduating with an Honours Degree in English and Creative Writing, Zaytoen completed a skills-development program for writers and became an alum of the GVI Writing Academy.