America's Unofficial Ambassadors

We work at the grassroots level throughout the Muslim World to counter violent extremism before it takes hold, to promote tolerance and understanding, and to foster better relations with the United States.

Fundraising Made Simple for Volunteers

The following is a guest post from AUA Mosaic Scholarship recipient Shibrika Pansy. She will be volunteering with Cross-Cultural Solutions in Morocco. To find an amazing opportunity like this one, search the AUA Directory of Recommended Organizations© today!

In 2007 while attending Howard University, I received an information packet from Cross-Cultural Solutions (CCS).  Since I am an adventurous person who loves to try new things, I was fascinated with all CCS had to offer.  I participated in health-care and non-health-care related volunteer activities domestically, but the opportunity to volunteer abroad was a dream I had not fulfilled.  As I began to conduct more research through the Internet about international volunteer work, I discovered that I would not be able to accomplish my goal due to a lack of time and financial constraints.

The Dream

Although my dream of becoming an international volunteer had to be delayed, my desire to complete this task never diminished.  One day while I was browsing the CCS website, I stumbled upon the America’s Unofficial Ambassadors (AUA) Mosaic Scholarship offered by Creative Learning.  Instantly, I knew this opportunity would be perfect for me. I applied and I was awarded a partial scholarship to participate in the program.

As a Research Technician at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, I perform difficult experiments in a setting in which more than fifty percent of the participants are Muslims adjusting to the challenges of life in America.  Finally, I would get the chance to walk in their shoes for a few weeks while volunteering in Rabat, Morocco, a Muslim majority country in North Africa.  But first, I had to figure out a strategy to get the remaining funds I would need to travel abroad.  My parents would not give me money to travel to Rabat, so I knew that if this was something I had my heart set to do, I would have to do it on my own and I could not fail because people were depending on me.

People I encountered spoke highly about traveling abroad, but no one murmured a word about fundraising and what it would entail.  Initially, I was extremely apprehensive about asking people for money to travel to another country.  Who should I ask and how will people respond to my desire to volunteer in another country?  What if I do not reach my fundraising goal?  These are just a few questions that surfaced in my head.

The Plan

My fundraising plan would have to be simple and cost efficient. 

  • Approximately seventy-five people would be notified through letters, fliers, and emails to make a thirty-dollar contributions to offset my travel expenses to Africa. I asked friends, family members, and businesses in Lockhart, Texas, my local community.
  •  If I traveled by car to a particular destination I would always have ten fliers handy.
  • Whenever I was near a computer, I would check my email or view my account with CCS to see if people had donated.

For twenty-eight days, I completely immersed myself in my fundraising project.  Eventually, I began to hear from people, but I did not receive the answer I anticipated.  The harsh reality of fundraising and in life is that a person will not always get what he or she wants.  Roughly fifteen people told me no at the start of my fundraising campaign.  I began to lose my motivation and I took my eyes off of my vision to volunteer internationally.  Had my work been in vain?  If this is what it would be like from now until the end of my fundraising project, then I must wave the white flag immediately because things aren’t looking good.

Before surrendering to defeat, I had an intense conversation with my mother and my best friend.  They encouraged me to continue to fundraise for my trip to North Africa.  Aside from the Creative Learning staff, I knew these two individuals could serve as a source of support.  They were two of my biggest supporters.

Although, things began a bit rocky for me, I am extremely excited about the things I was able to accomplish.  Fifty people agreed to donate to me, and I raised almost $2,000.  As my departure date approaches, and I reflect on my experience as an amateur fundraiser with a big heart and small pockets I am extremely grateful I was selected to be one of several AUA Mosaic scholarship recipients and that I met my fundraising goal.  Just like I was able to reach my goal of raising money to volunteer internationally, I believe that anyone who reads this article and follows the tips listed below will be successful as well.

  1. Come Up With A Budget – Write down a list of all of your expenses (flight, lodging, food, immunizations, travel insurance etc.).  Try to formulate a budget that is extremely cost-efficient.  Remember your mission is to create change through volunteering abroad without getting into too much debt.
  2. Design A Fundraising Plan – How much money do you need to cover your expenses?  Who will you ask and how many people will you ask?  What material (webpage, fliers, letters etc.) will you use to display your desire to volunteer abroad?  These are just some of the questions you should ask yourself while developing your fundraising strategy.
  3. Be Persistent – Whenever you share your passion for volunteering abroad with people do not be discouraged if you don’t hear a “Yes, I will donate to your cause” instantly.  It takes time, and the more people you ask the more comfortable you will be with fundraising.
  4. Show Your Graditude – Personally, I hand wrote and mailed fifty thank-you cards to all of my sponsors.  Also, I said thank-you to the individuals that took time out of their busy schedules just to listen to me even though they did not give me a monetary donation.  Saying thank-you doesn’t cost a thing and it goes a long way.
  5. Keep People Informed – Let people know where you are in all stages of your fundraising goal and volunteer trip.  For example, when I wrote out my thank-you cards I mentioned that I had met my goal and that I would send pictures of my experience.  If people are willing to donate to you, then they are just as excited about this opportunity given to you as you are.  Remember to keep them posted before, during, and after your trip.
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