You may have thought of asking family and friends to help fund your homestay adventure abroad, but have you considered appealing to complete strangers? As Blake Boles, author of The Unschool Adventures Guide to Online Travel Fundraising points out, “Donors aren’t just paying for the rewards offered; they’re paying to bolster a cause, support an individual they admire, or participate in something bigger than themselves.” In other words, a lot of people believe that studying abroad matters.
Many people you know probably studied abroad when they were young and would like to help other young people have a similar experience. Giving small donations to individual students through online crowdfunding platforms like indiegogo or fundmytravel is a great way to do this. So, how will your personal experience abroad benefit our larger community? State your case!
Step 1: Make a plan
Figure out how much you might earn from scholarships, how much time you can devote to babysitting, lawn-mowing and other odd jobs, and how much you’ll need from other sources. Let your friends and neighbors know that you are trying to raise money for your trip abroad and will work in exchange for donations. Many people enjoy helping a young person work toward a goal, and you might notice that you earn more per hour than you normally would for the same work.
Step 2: Ask questions
Start talking to people in your family, neighborhood, and community. Find out who studied abroad, where they went, and what sort of impact the experience had in their lives. How about people who didn’t study abroad, but wished they had? Are there any organizations or companies in your community with some sort of international connection? Don’t forget to include your language teacher!
Task: Make a list of reasons why people in your community think studying abroad is important.
Step 3: Figure out why you want to go abroad
Before you approach people and organizations, it is important that you are clear about your goals for the program and the benefits it could have for yourself as well as for your supporters and your community. Be prepared to answer questions like:
Why is this a worthwhile program?
Why do you want to be part of this program?
How did you choose it?
How will your participation benefit the people you are asking for support?
What will you do with the experiences you gain on this program in the future?
Step 4: Who can support you?
Think outside the box when you look for supporters. Of course your relatives may be among them, but you could also consider international organizations and companies, as well as other people who share your enthusiasm for intercultural understanding and international travel. For example:
Local businesses that support education
International clubs and organizations
Family members who are excited about your educational goals
Step 5: Draft your proposal
Once you have decided whom you want to ask for support, you will need to prepare a proposal or a presentation of your goals. You may want to adapt it to each person or organization you are approaching, but it should always be well organized, neatly written, and spelled properly. Be positive and show your enthusiasm! Your proposal should include:
Information about the program
A description of your goals and motivations. What do you hope to gain from the program and how will it enable you to benefit others in the future?
An explanation of your financial needs. What does the program cost, how much money do you have available for it, and what amount do you need to cover the difference?
Extras: a letter of recommendation from your language teacher or international club adviser could add weight to your proposal. Think about what else makes you stand out.
How much should you ask for?
It depends on whom you ask, but it is always helpful to have an amount in mind that you want to suggest. It is better for people to know that you will appreciate their $10 donation than to wonder whether you are expecting $100. What about other kinds of contributions? Some organizations or businesses may be able to give you things you will need for your travels, and some people may be willing to help you spread the word about your fundraising efforts.
Be prepared for a no. You should be polite about it and not take it personally. There are many good reasons why someone may decide not to support your cause. It is still worth asking them – otherwise they would never have the chance to say yes. Also be prepared to get maybe as an answer. Have some information such as a copy of your proposal to leave with them if they want to take more time to think about it. Ask them when they would like you to follow up and make it a point to thank them for their consideration in person and with a thank you note.
It is also important that you know what to say to a yes! Give an enthusiastic thank you on the spot and send them another note a bit later. Make sure to express how much their support is appreciated and keep them updated about your progress. It is also nice to make a list of all your supporters and send them a post card from abroad or tell them about your experience after your return home. You don’t want to make them feel like their money, time, or gifts fell into a black hole. If you promised to give any presentations to an organization that helped you reach your goal, follow up on it promptly.
Sounds like a lot of work?
It is! But the energy you put into this project will come back to you in the form of experience, confidence, new connections in your community, great material for a college admissions essay – and a program abroad!