“It’s not happy people who are thankful, it’s thankful people who are happy”
Don’t let the cost of your volunteering experience undermine your dreams of traveling to support a cause abroad. Money should not be the end for your objective but only a mean to achieve it. Trust us, once you have set and strongly believe in the goal you have set to yourself, you will feel the support from the people around you with pretty much any activity you take on. Be patient and work hard for your goal.
If you want to travel to Thailand to volunteer at an elephant shelter or to teach English by the beach in Costa Rica, among other travel plans, you will have to budget your costs and expenses during your trip. Think about it: applications, air tickets, visas, travel insurance, travel gear, accommodation, food and pocket money. The resulting figure might discourage you to continue, but fortunately crowdfunding nowadays has become a key practice to making volunteering happen.
So where should you start? Here are some best practices for your next fundraising mission:
1) Start early: You need to plan your strategy and this may take time. Give yourself plenty of time to complete your mission.
2) Use social networks: Whether it is a Facebook event or page, a Twitter account or a crowdfunding site (Indiegogo.com, Gofundme.com, for example), you need to create your profile with a photo, some personal background, the background to your volunteering objective and the consequent financial goal. Some crowdfunding sites offer you a simple and guided procedure to create the profile that you need to begin collecting donations. Once you have done this, begin spreading the word online by sharing your profile with your family and friends through social networks and emails.
3) Talk to people: Personally talk to people at home, at school, at your workplace, at your gym or your favorite hangout place. Don’t be afraid to ask for a donation for the cause you will volunteer for. The only negative response you can get back is a ‘no!’, but the positives can come in the form of money and/or, support, encouragement and a referral to somebody that would be happy to contribute.
4) Online blogging: Periodically giving updates of your volunteer travel plans and achievements encourages people to keep following you and to keep spreading the word about what you’re doing. Don't forget to include the link to your blog site in your crowdfunding site!
5) Create events: With the help of Facebook or your favorite social network, spread the word about upcoming events that you plan on carrying out to raise funds. Here are some ideas for charity events you may want to organize in your community:
● Mini sports tournaments: This can be done with basketball, soccer, tennis, badminton, golf (or mini golf!) or any other sport.
● Pub Tournaments – e.g. Skittles, darts, pool, cards. Just ask a local pub to host a tournament evening and charge patrons to take part in the competition for a prize.
● Car wash: With a group of friends, set up a car wash in the parking lot of your school, religious institution, or public area. You can also think of just cleanings windshields at a local drive thru and ask people to donate money to have their windows and windshields washed.
● Dog Wash: Everyone wants their dog to be clean, but not everyone has the ability to give their dog a bath at home, and groomers can be expensive. You and/or your group can offer a low-cost dog wash for with the proceeds going to your trip.
● Mow-a-thon: spend an afternoon mowing lawns in exchange for a donation.
● Quiz Night: Round up some smart (or not so smart friends) and arrange them into teams. Then get your ‘quizmaster’ to test them on their knowledge.
● Scavenger Hunt: Make your own ‘Amazing Race’ with teams competing in various challenges and donate the entry fee.
● Bake Sale: There’s a reason this is such a staple – everyone loves it! You can even create your own twist, such as selling bagels one morning at the office.
6) Show and tell about your volunteer experience: During your time volunteering and most importantly, after you have completed your experience abroad, don’t forget to keep in touch with as many of your donors as possible and tell them about your achievements. Use your blog and your created online profile to post pictures, videos and to narrate your experience.