15 Ways to Raise Funds for Your Exchange Program
Ideas that really work - learn from other exchange participants how to fundraise for study or volunteering abroad
In this Tipsheet:
One of the most effective ways to do grassroots fundraising is by a letter campaign sent to as many relatives, friends, former teachers and professors, former co-workers, etc. as possible. Send a detailed letter explaining the program and what you hope to accomplish while you are on it.
Instead of or in addition to a letter, set up a website, blog or social media page that explains what you are trying to do and how others can help you reach your goal. Create a donation page on a crowdfunding website such as GoFundMe.com, IndieGoGo.com and FundMyTravel.com so it's easy for people to make secure online donations toward your trip. When Reid Davenport, a university student with cerebral palsy, wanted to make a documentary about accessibility in Europe, he launched a campaign to raise money on the micro-fundraising website Kickstarter.com. On Kickstarter, a creative project must reach its funding goal before time runs out or no money changes hands.2) Form a support group
One of your best support structures is to have the people closest to you act as your fundraising committee. Have them write letters on your behalf and distribute pledge forms to their co-workers, immediate family and good friends. The best fundraisers have even gone as far as to officially organize something like "The Committee to Send Julie to Japan" - which is personal, catchy, and shows you have organized support. It also shows that you are serious about participating in the volunteer program.
3) The Chain letter
A variation on numbers 1) and 2) is to write special letters to close friends and relatives asking them to help you garner support. You should call them about this first, then send them a letter with a number of sponsorship forms, and ask them to recruit five to ten other sponsors for you.
4) Have a yard or garage sale
A sale is a good way to sell your possessions and gather support for your cause. You may want to combine a raffle at the site of the sale, or an auction, especially if there is a natural group that would support you in this endeavor (fraternity, workplace, church, club, etc)
5) Grants from your school
College career, disability services, or international study abroad centers and academic departments frequently have fellowship programs that grant money to students participating in innovative research projects or programs abroad, particularly if you are earning academic credit for the research.
6) Local businesses
Local businesses are far more likely to support you than are large corporations. Check first with your town hall for any local scholarships. Visit the Chamber of Commerce for a list of local businesses and to see if they know of any opportunities. The key is to make a linkage between the owner of the business and you or someone close to you. You may want to approach businesses with a letter first, enclosing all relevant material and a pledge form, then follow up with phone call. Asking for $50 or more is not unusual. Be sure to follow up with a thank you note acknowledging their support.
7) Special Collection
Take up a special collection at a religious service or a general meeting of other community groups, coordinated with the proper ministers/organization officers, It is important to educate the community about what you are doing before the collection is announced via written material in the bulletin and preferably featuring a personal appeal by you during the service/meeting.
8) Approach your local place of worship
Go to your local church, synagogue or mosque councils directly and ask for a specific amount ($50-$1000) in exchange for an informative presentation about your experience when you return.
9) Community groups
Civic groups such as Rotary, Lions, Elks, certain Unions, special interest groups (like the Sierra Club or Returned Peace Corps Volunteers) might be interested in sponsoring you, especially if you can give them a special presentation when you return from overseas.
10) Support from employer and coworkers
Approaching your own employer is an often over-looked source of possible support. Even better is getting support from your co-workers. Another option to to ask parents or other family members to check at work and see if their company offers financial aid to relatives of workers.
11) Loans from relatives
Certain relatives many be able to lend you more than they would be willing to just give you, as long as you agree to pay them back shortly after the exchange program is over.
12) Letters to alumni associations
An announcement in a high-school or college alumni newsletter about what you are about to do, with a pitch for contributions, can be a good way to gain more support and touch base with long lost friends.
13) Sell something door to door
The traditional candy sale can work if you mark everything up enough. Volunteers with artistic abilities can produce their own items (t-shirts, mugs, pins, etc.) to sell, but should try to calculate appropriately the sale price in relation to the coast of the materials and the time spent making and selling their productions. Such items could also be sold at a fair or similar event.
14) Have a fundraising party
There are hundreds of ways to throw a fundraising party; just make sure you end up earning money, not losing. You may want to combine a raffle with the party to earn extra money. Sell raffle tickets ahead of time, and insist that people show up in order to win. Have people RSVP so that you have a good idea how much you will make before the party starts.
15) Have a bake sale or a car wash
This is a great way to get the neighbors and community involved in your cause. Ask local business if you can use their parking lots or store fronts to hold your event. Be sure to remind them of the extra business you will attract. Ask several friends or family members to help you on the actual day. Really advertise your event with posters, balloons, signs or anything that gets people's attention. Ask local radio stations or newspapers if they would be willing to announce this special event for you in trade for a free car wash. You can choose to charge your customers of simply ask for a donation; you might be surprised how generous people are!
- Look into towns and small cities as they are usually more affordable than larger cities.
- Consider the cost of living in non-traditional locations (e.g. Eastern Europe, Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia) is often lower than Western Europe, Japan and Australia. Studying in these locations may also increase your chances of getting a study abroad scholarship.
- Look online to get a sense of the cost of living in cities worldwide; you may be able to live abroad for 3 months for cheaper than you would at home for that same time period if the currency exchange rate is favorable.
- Consider lower cost programs, such as direct exchanges that have less administrative support, community college exchanges, or shorter-term programs
- Look for programs that provide living stipends or lodging with host families, such as teaching, volunteering or internships.
- Use a budget sheet to see how costs compare in programs abroad versus expenses for staying on campus for the same time period.
Need more ideas? Read "Survival Strategies" Chapter Two: Making Your International Experience Happen (Part Two) Fundraising: How to Finance Your Program Participation PDF (or Chapter Two - Part Two RTF).