A guide to raising funds to support your quest to gain international development experience
In my previous article, 3 Simple Ways To Gain Practical International Work Experience, I provided three simple strategies we can employ in our efforts to gain international work experience.
I admit it is fairly easy to brainstorm ways to acquire experience in “the field.” The real challenge often comes from raising the financial capital necessary to turn these goals of studying or volunteering overseas into reality.
Undoubtedly, it is expensive to work abroad – we need money for vaccinations, visas, health insurance, airfare, accommodations, food, local transportation and, of course, souvenirs!
Before I share with you four potential funding sources, let me pass down one of the best pieces of advice I received from a mentor, which is that money begets money.
What exactly does this mean? It means that financial donors are more likely to invest in people who have proven track records of success. This philosophy of ‘money begetting money’ will become clearer in the following sections.
Local Rotary chapters
Local Rotary chapters across the country regularly invest in young people in large part because they recognize that youth have plenty of talent and we represent the future.
Although some young people might receive financial aid by simply writing a letter of “financial request” to multiple Rotary clubs, I recommend a slightly more strategic approach:
- Initiate and then maintain a relationship with several Rotary members by attending meetings and introducing yourself to the crowd.
- Find out if there are any upcoming youth-oriented programs you can apply to, such as “Adventures in Citizenship” or the “Rotary Youth Leadership Award.”
Once you have developed a positive reputation among the group(s), you could submit a letter outlining your project abroad, how it correlates with the ongoing priorities of Rotary International, why funds are necessary, and how you will give back to the chapter.
Rotary clubs will often provide partial funding for projects they deem worthy in exchange for a commitment on your end to speak at a future meeting. That’s definitely a win-win situation for you because a speaking engagement will look great on resume and it also will expand your professional network.
And remember: money begets money – so if Rotary invests in you once, chances are they will invest in you again.
Awards and scholarships
Take time to research scholarships and bursaries available to students at your school. Speak with administrative staff – program coordinators, undergraduate and graduate counselors – and teaching staff, including professors and teaching assistants. Based on my experiences, they really are eager to help. Explore department websites as well as your faculty of arts and sciences’ website.
Remember to give yourself plenty of time so that you can prepare written applications and ensure timely feedback from your TAs or professors for feedback without missing deadlines.
Check out the International Development Research Centre. They provide some financial awards to competitive applicants enrolled at a post-secondary institution.
Given the current fiscal climate, non-profit organizations are substantially less likely to provide you with financial aid. However, if you establish a relationship with an international organization, they might be more willing to invest in you.
Remember that investment is a two-way relationship. Therefore be sure to show them how their financial contributions will benefit their organization in the future.
Also, some organizations actively fund youth volunteers to engage in international development work. Do your research and be strategic. One common strategy is to volunteer with a non-profit for an extended period of time before approaching them in desire of financial favours.
Although fundraising may be the “least prestigious” of the listed options, it may prove to be the most attainable strategy. Similar to the other possibilities, this one requires planning skills combined with creativity and resourcefulness.
First, approach existing networks, including immediate and extended family, neighbours, friends, and if you attend a religious institution, ask fellow congregants.
Then approach community businesses. The worst that will happen is that you receive a “no” and, to be cliché, a “no” will not kill you. One of my friends was incredibly successful in fundraising an entire missions trip to Southeast Asia. Her main donors, surprisingly, were the owners of local businesses with whom she had no pre-established connection.
As mentioned, fundraising may not be your ideal choice. I would personally rather be the recipient of a prestigious scholarship, but I also know from personal experience (i.e., rejection letter after rejection letter) that the other options won’t always work out.
What I also have learned though is that we can frame our fundraising efforts in such a way to showcase our talents. For instance, successful fundraising is indicative of aspects of excellent project management skills.
If you have additional ideas on how we can raise money to support our international work expenses, please share in the comments section below.