Funding Yourself While Volunteering
People are motivated to become a volunteer for all different kinds of reasons yet depending on the kind of role you’re looking to take on and, perhaps more importantly, whether it’s overseas or not, the fact that the role will be unpaid will always be an issue in terms of how you’re going to fund the experience. If it’s a case of it being a local project close to where you live, the chances are that funding the experience is not going to be a real issue. Most organisations who take on volunteers will usually cover any reasonable travel expenses you might incur and some may offer you a meal allowance to cover you whilst you’re working there. If you’re on benefits, you should check with your local benefits office first before you volunteer. It’s unlikely that any benefits you receive will be affected if you take up a voluntary position as long as you’re still looking for work and immediately available should you be offered a paid position. However, for volunteer projects which require you to put up funding, which is quite common for projects based overseas, it’s important to be able to know how to maximise your chances of obtaining relevant funding to support your volunteering endeavours. Here are a few ideas.
Do Your Research FirstIt’s important to do your research first in order to attract potential financial donors. Try to find out how others who have already undertaken the same voluntary before you went about raising the money themselves. Quite often, they will have approached companies and organisations that, like themselves, are passionate about the same cause and/or see the value in providing sponsorship in terms of the media coverage they might benefit from in return. You should also find out if there are any scholarships or grants you could apply for which are relevant to your cause.
Approaching Companies and OrganisationsOnce you have targeted a specific company or organisation to go to ask for financial help, it’s crucial that you take the effort to find out exactly who is the most appropriate person within the company to approach. Companies will often receive hundreds and, perhaps, even thousands of applications for funding each year and if you’ve not bothered to address it to the correctly named person, it will almost certainly be a pointless exercise so ring round the companies telling them what you’re looking to achieve and get hold of the name of the person to whom you should write or, at the very least, the name of the correct department if a company is unwilling to give you a specific name. Better still if it’s possible, try to get to speak to the person who would be the key decision maker as it’s often easier to remember you and your cause if they’ve spoken to you previously.
Letters, Leaflets and E-mailsWe’re all used to receiving tons of junk e-mail every day so, if you’re looking for funding for your venture, it’s probably better if you send a well-written letter or well-produced leaflet. If, however, you’re also able to have your own website, better still and include a link to that with your letter or leaflet. Your written approach should outline details of why you’re looking to raise the funding, some background information about the project you’re going to be working on, how much money you’re looking to raise and you need to try to give them a valid reason why they should be looking to donate money. For example, you might have arranged to speak to the media to promote the work you’re doing and the benefits of assisting the cause along the way and there may well be good photo opportunities and a chance for you to mention the company who has helped you to achieve your aims in interviews which may heighten the company’s profile and/or broaden its appeal. You should also include details of confirmation that you have been invited to take part in some official voluntary programme which contains details of a contact name as the potential donor will probably want to verify that before parting with any money.
On A Local Level Going Door To DoorTrying to fundraise on a much smaller more local scale should also be approached in a similar fashion. In other words, when looking to raise funds from anybody, there often has to be ‘something in it for them’ too. Let’s say, for example, you’re door stepping people in your own neighbourhood. You might be able to raise money from some close friends or family members on the strength that they know you personally but for others, you might need to come up with other ideas such as offering to babysit their children or to wash their car in return for donations or, at the very least, come up with a way of ‘selling’ the venture which pricks their conscience or touches them in some way or other that they feel that they must donate.
Fundraising EventsOther ways of funding your venture may be to hold some kind of an event. It might be at your local pub, community centre or church and could consist of a disco or karaoke evening perhaps including an auction where all profits went to fund the venture or you could maybe hold a car boot sale or do some kind of event to gain sponsorship like a parachute jump, for example.
Getting PublicityContact the local media. A weekly provincial newspaper is often looking for stories and charitable or voluntary ventures are usually met with a positive response from newspaper editors, especially if they’re a little out of the ordinary.
You also need to ensure that people know how to send or give the money. On a small scale, it might simply be a case of somebody collecting sponsorship but if you’re looking to obtain a much larger amount, you might need to include bank details and if this is more appropriate, it’s often better to set up an additional account in the cause’s name as opposed to using your own bank account. Alternatively, you could also set up a website through an organisation like ‘Just Giving’ where not only can people directly donate over the internet but where you can also promote your cause and also keep interested parties informed about your progress before, during and after the voluntary experience has taken place.
So, whether it’s a large or small amount, you should be prepared to do your research and to put in some hard graft and careful planning to be able to obtain funding for your volunteering experience and the bigger the amount you wish to raise, the more effort you’ll need to put in and you may even need to enlist the help of others. Looking at previous examples of what others have done before you is often a very good place to start, however.