Fundraising Tips


At ELI, we work hard to keep the costs of our program very low. However, traveling abroad is an expensive venture; travel costs add up very quickly. You may fear that you will never achieve your aspirations and volunteer, study, or work abroad because of financial constraints. However, extensive information regarding fundraising for trips like yours is available if you are diligent in seeking for it.

To help you get started, we’ve created a fundraising guide to give you ideas and resources for raising money for your international trip which you can download here. Download the fundraising guide for a comprehensive report on our tips and ideas for financing your trip abroad. If you’re just looking for a quick reference, we’ve outlined our guide below for easier access.

Calculate Your Fundraising Goals

Before you start earning and raising money, you’ll need to know the amount that you need to end up with. Calculate the costs of your trip (look to our fundraising guide for what to include in your assessment), determine how much you’ll be able to obtain on your own through working and saving, and then subtract that from your costs. The remainder will be the amount of money that you’ll need to try to raise.

The Basics

You are going to put a lot of time and hard work into planning and fundraising for your trip. We want to share some recommendations that will help to enhance your efforts. Look to our fundraising guide for full information about our suggestions, but try to follow these tips:

  • Turn to the people that you know for help
  • Tell people what you’re doing and why you’re doing it
  • Utilize social media resources and connections to advertise
  • Show your appreciation to your contributors
  • Don’t do it all alone

Grants and Scholarships

Finding and winning scholarships or grants takes effort and time, but you might be surprised at how many awards are available. We’ve got a few resources to help you begin your search, but the key to finding a scholarship or grant that will work for you is to follow the leads that you get. If you see information about a scholarship, research it and enter right away. Don’t procrastinate or think that you can come back to it later; it may be gone.

  • Resources:
    • Go Abroad has a great resource to help you find a scholarship, grant, or fellowship that is catered to your trip’s location and purpose. Their website contains links to material about every aspect of your trip: insurance (international health and traveler’s), airfare deals, health and vaccination data, and cultural and tourist articles. Search for grants and scholarships listed in Go Abroad’s database by following the links on their page. Link: Go Abroad
    • The Institute of International Education includes some excellent resources on their website to help you find scholarships, grants, and fellowships that are targeted toward international students, volunteers, and interns. Explore their website to find details about awards that you can win. Link: Institute of International Education
    • If you’re a student, one of the first things that you should do is check with your university to see if they have resources for finding scholarships for travel abroad programs. For example, the University of Minnesota has a search for scholarships and grants for travelers. However, you don’t have to be a U of M student. Click on the link below to see if you can find a scholarship through this search, or search your own university’s website for similar services. Links: University of Minnesota

Write Letters to Local Businesses and Organizations

Businesses and organizations that operate in your area are likely looking for opportunities to reach out to your community. Your cause may be one of the ways that these groups decide to get involved. Write a letter that briefly explains who you are, why you’re contacting them, and a proposal for a donation. Make sure to inform your contacts that their donations will be tax-deductible. Offer to present details of your trip upon your return so that the organizations can see what their money was used for. After receiving donations, make sure to send a thank you note to your contributor by the following day. Our fundraising guide has further details regarding writing letters to businesses or organizations.


A steadily growing industry, crowdfunding is a way for people to raise money using social media and other internet services. The five crowdfunding websites that we recommend are Go Get Funding, Fundly, Go Fund Me, Volunteer Forever, and Fund My Travel. The latter two are expected to debut in the fall of this year; however, Go Get Funding, Fundly, and Go Fund Me are fully operational. Setting up a profile is easy to do, whichever of these programs you choose to become involved in. Once you have built your file you can connect to your social media pages to advertise your fundraising campaign and ask for donations. For your friends who donate, they simply follow the directions on the website and their payment goes through WePay or PayPal. As always, these donations are tax-deductible. Each of these websites removes a small portion of the donation to cover business costs. For more information, look at the section regarding crowdfunding in the ELI fundraising guide.

Additional Ideas for Fundraising

There are countless ways for you to raise money for your trip. Do what works for your circumstances, which may be simple fundraising projects throughout your community. We’ve described a few examples of projects that have worked in the past. Look in our fundraising guide for further details about each of these suggestions.

Seek donations from your community.

Ask local businesses to put collection jars at their teller stations for people to put spare change in. You may be able to convince local shops to let you set up a booth in front of their location, and you can pass out flyers with information about yourself, your goal, and how to donate. Go to the churches and religious organizations in your area and ask them to let their congregations know about your fundraising campaign and how to contact you to make donations. Find upcoming farmer’s markets and fair locations, then contact the director to find out if you can set up a booth for free or at a discounted rate. You will probably have told your family and friends about your trip and your fundraising campaign; ask for contributions to your fund instead of gifts for holidays and your birthday. 

Offer small services for a reasonable price.

Although washing cars, shoveling driveways, or mowing lawns can be great ways to earn a little extra cash and spread information about your fundraising goals, take advantage of your skills and think outside of the standard fundraising strategies. For example, if you’ve taken a photography class and own a camera, advertise discounted family portraits or offer to take snapshots of your neighbor’s newborn baby at a lower price than local photography studios. If you have a background in communications or writing, charge a small fee to edit documents for students at your school or at a local university. Cut or style hair for high school students attending a school dance. For you, it may be most effective to walk your neighbors’ dogs or clip their hedges, but if you have special capabilities, utilize the training that you’ve received to offer unique services to the people in your community. 

Organize an event.

If you’re thinking of holding an event, like a dinner, a running or bicycling race, or a concert, realize that this can be a messy undertaking. The largest problem with arranging an event is that it takes money, and you may put a lot of work into your event before you are confronted with unexpected costs. However, if you have an original and appealing idea and you’ve figured out a way to do it, putting on an event can bring great rewards. If you are interested in organizing an event, try to find sponsors to help front the cost or find vendors that will donate food or services to your event.

Money Saving Tips and Resources

We’ve highlighted some of the ways that we save money while we travel in the hopes that these tips and tricks will lower the initial cost of your trip. These are just a few examples of strategies that help to reduce expenses, but we’ve included additional links for you to explore that contain a lot of money-saving advice.

  • Book flights in advance to find good deals
  • Travel lightly to avoid large baggage fees through your airline
  • Look for free activities if you are going to roam local cities
  • Carry your own water bottle with you always; fill up for free at local restaurants or businesses, but be careful about your water sources
  • Buy food at local markets rather than at restaurants, and find things that you can find to snack on, reducing your reliance on restaurants. When eating out, ask the locals where to find the most delicious, authentic, reasonably-priced food in the area.

Additional Resources:


* Click on the links below to access the noted articles

"How to Build Your Travel Fund"

Izah Morales is a travelling photographer, and in this article on her blog she describes what kind of success she has found in funding her travels.

"How to Fund Your Wanderlust”

From the Journeying James blog, James Betia traveled around the Philippines for one hundred days on a budget of around ten U. S. dollars a day. Read his blog to hear about his experiences and how he was able to travel so inexpensively.


Financial Aid for Study and Training Abroad, 2008-2010, By Gail A. Schlachter and R. David Weber

How to Live Your Dream of Volunteering Overseas, by Joseph Collins, Stefano DeZerega, and Zahara Heckscher

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