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Beg, Borrow or Fundraise

By  Kyla Surtees June 20, 2009

How you can get the funds to travel.

There comes a time in every traveller's life when they need that little bit of extra cash. I don't believe that money makes the world go round, but when it comes to travelling, it sure does make for a smoother ride. Of course there are your basic money-makers such as working, winning the lottery, or begging your relatives, but for important trips and life-changing experiences (e.g. volunteer projects and studying abroad) I find it's useful to supplement your income with fundraising.

I am aware that in the 21st century more and more people are raising money for all sorts of important causes, making it difficult to convince the public that personal endeavours are of any value. Not to worry, with the right attitude and a little creativity you too can have a crack at a global experience.

A few years back I had the opportunity to travel with an international student program called "Up With People." In less than a year I managed to raise $12,000 dollars while still studying. I tried to focus on my personal strengths to create fundraisers that were both easy and memorable.

The most successful was an evening of improvised comedy and theatre sports (similar to the television show Whose Line is it Anyway?). I asked several well-known faces from the community (theatre managers, politicians, actors, etc.) to form teams, and participate in the event. Several friends made snacks to sell at intermission, and my family helped advertise and sell tickets at the door. I made $600 and we had a blast.

The most important tool you have is you. Use your strengths and interests to create fun and original ideas that will leave a lasting impression on potential donors. That said, another very important tool you have is your family and/or friends. Not everyone can help out financially, but often people are willing to donate time. I find it helps to sweeten the deal with the promise of souvenirs and postcards. Showering them with compliments never hurts either.

Remember that you need to sell yourself and your ideas, so it's important to be polite, organized, and enthusiastic. I find the best approach is simply to be friendly and upfront about your plans. It is always useful to have a portfolio ready that outlines the purpose of your travels. Make sure to have detailed information about any organization you may be travelling with, and be clear that you are raising money for your own participation and not for the organization directly.

One word of caution: Be sure to research any licenses you may need to hold fundraisers and raffles in your community as well as the proper protocol for using slogans and/or copyrighted materials belonging to your organization.

Most volunteer and study abroad programs provide guidance and support for fundraising. You can also find helpful suggestions at many volunteer sites on the Internet. A great book that talks about a variety of opportunities in international study and travel is The Global Citizen by Elizabeth Kruempelmann.

Once you're on the road, don't forget to document any relevant experiences that might interest your sponsors at home. It's courteous to keep in touch and it may help to gain sponsorship in the future. That said, enjoy your adventure and be grateful! The people who got you there are probably reading your postcards in minus 20-degree weather, facing three feet of newly fallen snow, and feeling a wee bit jealous. I know I would be. Here's to the light at the end of the tunnel. Good luck!

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Published in Volunteer Abroad

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