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To Give is to Receive! Funding Your Volunteer Vacation

By Cherril Young
Reprinted with permission from Global Citizens Network

The idea of volunteer travel, whether around the world or just a few states over, intrigues the hearts and sparks the ambitions of many. That fire of intrigue however, is often smoldered by a blanket of assumed impossibility. For some it's the distance; others fear of the unknown. But for most, money seems the most insurmountable.

The words "I can't afford it" spin a web on a thousand lips waiting to trap any sincere consideration, idea or dream. However, if you look more closely, you really can afford your volunteer vacation.  

A large sum of money, when broken down into more manageable parts, is surmountable.   

Planning ahead and saving just a small amount each day will ensure enough capital to send you flying!  

Most volunteer trips are priced fairly and modestly and you will experience much more than you would on an average leisure vacation, for the same price or possibly even less.  

Most importantly, you needn't put off a dream because of the ever-present dollar sign.  

Still too much to withdraw, save or borrow?  What about fundraising? Yes, you can solicit sponsors to help support your volunteer initiative! This may not work if you plan to take a cruise, lounge in the sun, and sip fruity drinks, but, as a volunteer, that is obviously not what you're interested in.  You want to contribute your time, efforts and heart to a necessary and worthwhile activity for the global community. Tell people what you're doing and ask for their support.

Fundraising for Volunteering 101

When I first considered volunteering in Jampaling, a Tibetan Refugee settlement in Nepal, I looked at the cost and thought, "Whoa!" My next thought was, "I'll get it somehow." I believe there is always a somehow for anything we really want to do.  

Write a Solicitation Letter

I decided to write a fundraising letter to solicit sponsors for my volunteer trip. I called the solicitation  "30 from 100."  If I received just $30 from 100 people, the trip fee and airfare would be covered (other costs include: immunizations, travel insurance, and spending money). I set the goal high, in hopes of raising half or a quarter of that amount. I kept my request low ($30) because I thought it more economical and attractive to donors.  Among those I solicited were: foundations, local businesses, supermarkets, churches, organizations familiar with Tibet and a few individuals.  It worked!

Other Ways to Raising Money

In addition to a fundraising letter, there are other ways to raise money: raffles, fundraising parties/dinners, bake sales and silent solicitations (letters) are just a few. Whatever your project, start as soon as possible. Give yourself enough time to organize, research and plan thoroughly. Remember to be patient and have faith!

Making Donors Feel Good, Too.

Fundraising is about awareness and community. People want to help and be a part of good things, and they will respond to a worthwhile cause if they can. Make sure to follow up with donors upon your return, to share your experience and tell them how much their assistance helped make a difference for you and for the community in which you volunteered.

The Benefits of Fundraising for Volunteering

Challenging as it was, fundraising added another dimension to my experience. I increased awareness about the Tibetan situation, related the importance of volunteering and cultural exchange, shared information about my volunteer program hosts and also raised a significant amount of money. Donor support gave me confidence and encouragement in my efforts and passed a baton of compassion and humanity for me to, in turn, pass on to others.   

My trip to Nepal was, more than I ever anticipated any trip could be, life changing. I walked through a wall of fear and uncertainty and landed in a meadow of true ease and peace. Letting go of everything and just being, with people, who are very good at just being.  My heart remembers so many things: a fun and close volunteer team; beautiful smiles greeting "Namaste!" and "Tashi Delek!;" snow capped mountains roaring; Tibetan warmth, peace, joy and spirit; wrapping one gently and accepting like a snug blanket, worlds closer than ever imagined; understanding; growth; humanity; an amazing kaleidoscope, spirit overflowing; temples, stupas, prayer, meditation, beads, eyes, hearts and souls…  

As the memories often fill my mind, I cringe to think that money or fear could have come in the way of it all.  It is a challenge to pay back loans, pay off credit cards and save, but the challenge of money is an aspect of American life.  With that challenge in my pocket, I continue to plan my next volunteer journey. Taking my own advice, I should start planning some fundraisers also.



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