Founder of The Uncultured Project with an impoverished Bangladeshi widow and her two children. Above photo and feature photo by Shawn.

For a novice fundraiser, even a raising 500 dollars can seem overwhelming. With the right mindset however, fundraising can be both easy and fun!

With volunteer tours growing in number, more and more tour operators are including fundraising minimums either within tour fees or as an additional requirement for tour participants. Learn the basics of how to raise funds for your cause, organization, or favorite volunteer program.

1. Start close to home.

The people who will inevitably be the most invested in your cause are those that know you and can see your passion.

Start with friends, family, and acquaintances. Speak to everyone you know about the cause and be specific about your needs. Don’t be afraid to ask for dollar amounts from those around you!

The best requests highlight your personal involvement and ask for specific amounts of money for specific goods. Write to your address book and don’t forget to include friends who have long since been out of touch. What better way to spread the word while getting in touch with old friends?

2. Utilize local and small businesses.

Often small businesses are happy to provide goods in exchange for getting the word out about their services. Try asking small restaurants to provide free or discounted food for a dinner and charge a small entrance fee.

Or throw a dinner party at your home and ask friends to donate potluck dishes. Getting publicity in local newspapers, company newsletters, on radio stations, etc., will introduce you to a wealth of possibilities for gaining both corporate and individual sponsorship.

Photo by Maryann

3. Find a common interest.

Though your cause might be across the ocean from your home, there are always local networks that share similar goals and are great avenues to access funding.

Is your cause education related? Tap into local high schools or universities. Is it sports related? See if teams in your area would be willing to provide sponsorship or in-kind donations. Raising money for a particular country or group? See if there are locals from that country who can mobilize their networks. Check online groups, such as MeetUp.com to find people who are passionate about the same cause.

4. Be a social butterfly.

Organize a karaoke night, pub quiz, or concert with local musicians willing to share their talent. Better yet, do a clothing or book auction with your friends. Everyone brings a few items and you can buy items back for a set donation. You refresh your wardrobe/bookshelf and recycling is good for the earth!

Make sure that any event has minimal costs to you and as many costs as possible are donated in-kind.

5. Share your talents.

What is your skill? Yoga, surfing, karate, tennis, cooking lessons? Raise money by offering to share your talent with others!

Additional Tips

Know your cause.

The easiest way to put off potential donors is to not have answers to basic questions:

  • Where will the funds go?
  • Are they being used to pay for part of your trip?
  • Is the organization registered in the US and/or abroad?
  • Are the projects sustainable?
  • Any responsible voluntourism operator or NGO should be able to answer these questions. If you aren’t sure yet where the money will go, try to be as specific as possible with friends, family, and potential donors about how you will make decisions about putting the money to work.

    Find a responsible charity/NGO.

    As a fundraiser it is your responsibility to make sure your donors are putting their money into a sustainable and responsible project. Consider:

  • Is the organization located within the communities where they work?
  • Are projects run in coordination with the communities they serve?
  • Are they willing to admit their failures and give you detailed information about where the money will be going?
  • Match.

    Be sure to also ask donors to check with their employers. Their donations might be easily doubled with company matching plans!

    Say thank you.

    Be sure to acknowledge donations and follow up after your trip or once the funds are spent.

    Community Connection

    For an extensive list of great orgs to support or research, please reference the Organizations Page at Matador.