A few people have been asking me how I have been able to fund my volunteer trips around the world. Honestly I don’t have a one size fits all answer. However keep reading, as I have listed some tips that worked for me and people I know.
I am a really good saver, which I realise is not easy for everyone. I’ve always tried to budget my money and save for a spur of the moment adventure. I was lucky enough to live with my parents till my mid 20’s without having to pay rent, which helped me save a lot too. Unfortunately not everyone has this luxury or even wants to rely on their parents. So if you’re not a good saver, now is the time to start trying!
For me traveling was always in the back of my mind ever since high school. I questioned myself and contemplated for days whether I needed something before buying it and whether the money would be better spent traveling. Cooking at home, rather than dining out during the week, will help you save money. Rarely would I splurge and buy myself presents, unless I was on holidays of course! When I travel, I am more of a budget traveler. I don’t mind roughing it up if it means I can be away for longer.
When you volunteer long term with charities, accommodation and training is included in the donation fee. Your biggest expense after paying for flights, insurance and the volunteer fee is food and any travel activities you may want to do. In Thailand activities and food are fairly cheap, so maybe consider volunteering in a country that has a low cost of living.
The Gibbon Rehabilitation Project charged approximately $120USD p/w for a 3 month stay, which is fairly cheap. Keep in mind this was 10 years ago, so prices may have changed now. One of the girls I volunteered with at this project organised a charity event prior to her arrival. She fund-raised the full volunteer fee by shaving all her hair off! Extreme I know, but definitely one way of raising the funds.
When you volunteer for a worthwhile charity, more people are willing to help you fund your trip because they know their money is going to a good cause. Being able to update your donators whilst on your adventure via email or blog posts is always beneficial. This will allow them to see where and how their money is being used within the project. Which may entice them to help you out again for future volunteering trips.
In 2012 I volunteered at Ape Action Africa Inc with my partner, we worked alongside chimpanzees, gorillas and other native primates. I cannot wait to elaborate about my time at this project, a place I highly recommend and respect. This place cost us approximately $2500USD each for food, accommodation and a donation for our 3 month stay. We then had to sort out flights, insurance and a lot of vaccinations! They do encourage you to raise the funds, so that you can spread awareness about the project and not be too much out of pocket yourself. It was definitely money worth spending!
Since we didn’t have the funds ourselves, we created a JustGiving fundraising page, to help us reach and keep track of our target. You could also use a GoFundMe page, which works in much the same way. This page helped us raise awareness and enabled people to easily find out more information about the project. We also organised a fundraising event to help raise our volunteer fee. We held the event in a space that luckily didn’t cost us anything, since I worked in the office building below. Not everyone will find free venues but if you mention you are raising funds for a charity, you can rent scout halls and church spaces for a fraction of the price. If you mention animals, they are sure to be on board!
We arranged a friend to DJ and a dance teacher to hold a salsa lesson during the night. We purchased heavily discounted soft drinks/alcohol, which we could return if unopened. Weeks prior to the event we contacted different businesses around our local area in the hope they would donate something towards our raffle. Some donated vouchers, others donated physical gifts. We charged an entrance fee, which included the dance lesson, music, alcohol and snacks my family put together. We even had a friend dress up in a gorilla costume to entertain our guests! The costume we hired was free of charge providing we promoted the store at our event. All guests were encouraged to take part in a raffle, which turned out to be a great success.
As well as the event, we also sold hand/body soaps to friends/family and had some available at local stores to help increase awareness and fund our trip (palm oil free of course). If you purchase items in bulk, you can save a lot of money and often make a nice profit. In the end we ended up raising enough funds to pay for over half of our total fee, which was fantastic. Unfortunately you do need to have money to make more money. It’s just the way it goes!
There are so many other ways to help fund and support your volunteer trips overseas. I’m sure many of you want to go but you have expenses and bills to take care of at home. But everyone does! Maybe place your room/house on AirBnB, so you have some income during your holiday. You could do that much needed spring clean and arrange a garage sale, or sell your items online. If you are crafty, you could make your own products to sell such as jewellery, dream catchers or candles. If you know how to sew, you could make simple bags, table cloths, cushion covers etc. You could also host a bake-off or bring cupcakes/brownies to work or school each week and ask for a gold coin donation.
Another way is to write letters and emails to companies or individuals who may be willing to sponsor your trip for something in return. Such as mentioning them on your blog, writing a report or giving a presentation. Although this didn’t seem to work for us, it doesn’t hurt to try.
The list of things you can do to raise funds is only as short as your imagination. Every little bit helps, so give it a go, trust me you will not be disappointed. Don’t let the cost of volunteering stop you or get you down. It will be a life changing experience and you will be surprised the amount of people willing to help you.
Let me know your fundraising stories/tips, feel free to comment below!
Happy fundraising and volunteering!