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Creative Fundraising Ideas

Fundraising can help to make studying abroad more affordable and also serves as a way to educate the public.

If a study abroad program helps achieve long-term goals, it will be easier to solicit funds from external sources.  Local, regional and national groups, as well as individuals, are all possible contributors.  They include:

  • Heritage groups that have interests in specific countries (e.g. Japan America Society)

  • Civic groups (Rotary, Kiwanis, and Lions Clubs)

  • Agencies and foundations

  • Travel agencies

  • High school alumni associations

  • Professional and business clubs

  • Media (newspapers, radio and TV)

  • Sororities and fraternities (local and national chapters)

  • Vocational rehabilitation agencies (for students with disabilities)

  • Charitable, ethnic, religious and campus organizations

Direct, informal appeals often work best.  It is best to be specific on how the funds will be spent (airfare, program fee, personal travel, special projects, etc.). Including a photo with requests is a great way to establish a personal connection. It is important to make donating as easy as possible (cash or check), so donors can easily make an actual donation rather than just a promise to donate. If a response hasn't been received, following up is a good next step. Enthusiasm, creativity, and perseverance --and not fearing rejection in some instances - are the keys to successful fundraising. Every little bit helps! 

A creative idea is to pledge to "give something back" in exchange for financial support. One example is providing regular updates while abroad. Alternatively, there are things than be done upon returning to the US, such as:

  • Writing an article

  • Showing a video from experiences abroad

  • Creating a Web site

  • Sponsoring a regional dinner or presentation

  • Leading a discussion or seminar

  • Organizing a topical campus or community forum

  • Promoting educational and business exchanges

  • Participating in radio and televised interviews and broadcasts

  • Contributing community service and outreach

  • Helping others to have a similar international experience

Other fundraising ideas that have worked:

  • Waiving holiday and birthday gifts and requesting financial gifts or loans instead

  • Writing a creative letter to relatives, asking for financial support in exchange for monthly letters while abroad and offering a presentation and dinner upon return.

  • Asking friends to help raise money by painting, cleaning or washing cars.

  • Organizing an event to solicit donations by providing instruction for a couple hours (cooking, quilting, yoga, karate, computer skills, dancing, sign language, stained glass, woodworking, etc.).

  • Collecting used books, CD's, computer software, etc. and having a sale.

  • Asking a church, synagogue or temple to sponsor a special offering, dinner, or raffle and give the proceeds for study abroad.

  • Organizing a radio talk show and solicit contributions.

  • Checking if parents' employers have a scholarship program for their children.

  • Asking an employer if he or she will be a sponsor or might be willing to make a cash advance to be paid back through payroll deduction.  No harm in asking!

  • Combining fundraising opportunities: selling T-shirts at a fundraising dance marathon.

  • Students can offer the use of their car while they are gone and ask a friend or sibling make all or part of the car payments.

  • Organizing a can drive in the residence halls.

  • Collecting cans during football tailgating (it is important to let people know the purpose so they will more readily pass on their cans and bottles.)

  • Selling coffee and baked goods.

  • Contacting foreign exchange students you might know about staying with them, thus reducing housing costs.

  • Asking family members to donate frequent flyer miles.

  • Saving all spare change in a jar--small amounts can really add up! SAVE, SAVE, SAVE!

Keys to successful fundraising: confidence and perseverance!

Keeping careful records of supporters and the amount donated is helpful. Remember to express appreciation for their support.  Good luck!