Aid work and humanitarian travel is an experience that is both extremely challenging and even more rewarding. A primary concern for many individuals who feel compelled to travel to locations in dire need of aid and resources is how to fund a trip of this kind. An easy way to accomplish this is through fundraising.
There are thousands of different organizations that specialize in humanitarian efforts and the methods by which they fund missions of this sort vary wildly. I recommend looking for an organization that commits its members to some level of fundraising. Why?
- Fundraising lifts the burden of travel and housing off of the organization (or the host country) thus freeing your team to allocate funds for community needs.
- Fundraising expands the network of individuals and companies who are aware of the cause for which you are raising money. This presents an opportunity for growth in the future of the organization or cause.
- Fundraising allows for exceeding monetary goals by not limiting it to a fee that you or the organization pays. Again, this allows for more funding to go to those who actually need it.
If you're just starting out and need some pointers on the best way to raise money for a mission trip of this kind, here are a few methods that will make your fundraising efforts particularly effective.
Reach out directly
It's easy to send out a Facebook blast with a general, "Hey guys, wanna help out…". But this kind of message is also easy to ignore. The most effective way to garner funding and interest is by directly reaching out to individuals and companies. Type up an email, call them on the phone, or (gasp) write a letter. The time that it takes to make these messages personal make it much more difficult to ignore and thus much more effective.
Be clear about what donors are investing in
There are a lot of scams out there nowadays. People want to know that their money is being used for a good cause. Make sure to be very explicit about where the money is going. If it's to pay for your travel, emphasize that this allows you to use resources towards the cause. If it's building houses, make sure you mention it. Tax write off? Mention it.
I work with an orphanage in Haiti every year...it's some of the most rewarding work I've ever done and it would be near impossible without fundraising campaigns.
I'm currently raising money for a mission trip to Haiti. I very explicitly mention in all my letters that my team is providing water filters for areas that don't have access to clean water. A large part of funding goes to this cause and people are almost always willing to give for something as important as clean water. Be specific.
Give hard deadlines
It's easy to think, "I'll give in a few days, or weeks, or months." Make sure to be clear about when you need to have the money. Even if the organization you work with isn't specific, set your own deadlines and stick to them. It'll be less overwhelming for you and easier for your donors to wrap their head around the project.
Make it simple to give
Don't assume that everyone is carrying their checkbook around or will mail you some cash. In the age of the Internet, attention is sparse; you need to make it easy for someone to invest in the cause. A PayPal link is one great way. GoFundMe is another great resource.* It takes a few seconds to setup an account and it's super simple for people to give. This is an example of a GoFundMe campaign I'm doing right now.
*It's important to note that GoFund me takes a certain percentage of funds for using their site. Take this into account when using it.
Use every available network
Ask your friends. Classmates. Co-workers. CEOs. Churches. Small businesses. You'd be surprised how many companies have a budget to give to charity. All you need to do is ask. Even if money isn't an option, many people and companies are willing to donate supplies related to their business. This is huge depending on your need. So check 'em out. Get creative.
Clean water and sincere friendship can bring people dancing in the streets! Don't let fear stop you from giving. Best of luck in your fundraising efforts. Stay hungry for justice and remain grateful for the privilege to serve!