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.

Crowd-Funding Your Way to Volunteering Abroad

By Joelle Peikes, Communications & Outreach Intern

Being an Unofficial Ambassador is a rewarding experience that takes you to new places and gives you a chance to put your skills to the test while meeting people and learning from a new culture. But the costs associate with doing volunteer service abroad present a challenge that often keeps many would-be ambassadors at home. Flights, program fees, day-to-expenses, all of it can add up to more than some prospective volunteers can afford.

For some, AUA’s Mosaic Grants Program provides financial aid to make the Summer Service Internship program more affordable. For others, crowd-funding is becoming an increasingly more valuable way to raise money that will bring down the cost of service abroad.

Fortunately, there are plenty of resources available to help guide crowd-funding efforts. April 5, 2014 marks the 2nd annual Global Crowd-Funding Day, an organized 24-hour drive to raise funds on crowd-funding sites with a page that includes advice and ideas to make crowd-funding effective. As part of #globalCFday, you can also catch a streaming radio broadcast with crowd-funding experts covering every facet of running a crowd-funding campaign.

But it’s not enough just to create a page online and wait for funding to roll in. Instead, it pays to be pro-active. So here are some tips and resources to help you get started and get the most out of a crowd-funding campaign for your volunteer service.

The Basics

Crowd-funding empowers individuals, groups or even companies to raise money online for projects through their personal connections and networks. A whole host of sites are available on the Web that enable prospective volunteers to create a page and start raising funds. Many take a small fee from each donation for use of the service, normally in the range of 3%-7%. You can upload photos, a text description about your service plans and even videos to help share the details of where you want to go, what you want to do and why you want to serve. Here are some examples:

Rockethub is one popular online tool for setting up a crowd-funding campaign. It walks users through the process of creating a description of their project and reaching out to their circle of contacts.

Similarly, Indiegogo is an effective platform for raising funds and hosts scores of pages with examples of volunteers raising money for service overseas.

Gofundme, is yet another crowd-funding site popular with prospective volunteers.

No matter which platform you choose, the benefit of creating a page is that you’ll have a landing place for your volunteer effort online to which you can send people interested in learning more about what your volunteer plans are and each one of those people is a potential donor. Whether they give $1 or $100, those donations add up.

Getting Started

Creating a crowd-funding page is just the beginning. Once you have a landing place, you need to try to bring visitors to the site and encourage people to share your story with others. RocketHub has an awesome Success School page with info on how to spread the word and make the most of your campaign that any potential crowd-funder should check out if they want to get ideas and raise money. Additionally, Indiegogo came up with this handy video on crowd-funding success:

Here are some other quick ideas to help get you started:

1)       First off, make the most of your social media circle. Share the page on your Facebook or other social media feeds and urge your friends to repost it on their walls as well. It’s simple, easy and requires little effort.

2)      Make a list of people you know who would be open to helping you and email them directly. Politely ask for their help in spreading the word and ask them to share your page with colleagues and other people in their community or networks.

3)      Likewise, make a list of groups or organizations who might have an interest in supporting your service work and send them a link to your page. They might be a student group on your campus, people in your faith community, or people in local organizations. Tell them about the service work you’ll be doing, the social or development issue you’re hoping to address through your service work and why it matters to their group.

4)      Write something. Pen a blog post and ask other bloggers to re-blog it for their readers. If you’re a good writer, submit an article to a publication about your service plans or write a letter to the editor of your local community newspaper to let more people know about your campaign. Just like with #3, focus what you’re writing on the important issues surrounding your service plans rather than just your campaign itself. Whether it’s addressing HIV/AIDs education in a place that needs it, or working to expand educational opportunities in a small village, tell people why your service work matters and include a link to the campaign.

5)      Lastly, keep the beat going. Your crowd-funding campaign is something you should stay engaged with every day it is active, even if it’s just for a few minutes. You can post updates to your donors about your progress on the page, research new places or people to whom you can reach out, or post new materials talking about your service plans. The bottom line, be proactive. The more you’re engaged in the campaign, the more other people will be too.

Added Benefits & Crowd-Funding’s Future

There are several benefits to raising money through crowd-funding aside from the money it produces. It builds awareness and support for your company, organization or project. It can build your professional network by linking you to donors with common interests and goals, connections that can sometimes lead to lasting partnerships

Looking ahead, crowd-funding can also be used to forge cooperation between governments and private citizens or groups. In a recent Diplomatic Courier article, Crowdfunding Diplomacy: The Next Frontier for Government, Daniella Foster of the U.S. Department of State highlights some of the potential crowd-funding has for building partnerships, funding projects and even establishing cooperative efforts between the government and nonprofits or individuals who have common goals. (Many thanks to Daniella for a lot of the resources listed above)

“If you combined government’s ability to convene and accelerate projects globally with the crowd-funding platform’s ability to engage local communities and investors in projects, you would have a potentially game-changing impact on grassroots diplomacy and development. Why? Because in an era of budget cuts, the value that government brings to the table has shifted from funder to partner.”

Additional Resources:

Here are some added pages and links you can use to help spur your crowd-funding campaign:

CrowdMapped: A crowd-funding site directory

Fundraising Tips for Volunteer Service

Crowd-funding Lessons Learned

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One comment on “Crowd-Funding Your Way to Volunteering Abroad

  1. Andrew Broadbent
    April 2, 2014

    Thank you so much for linking to our crowd funding lesson learned blog. I like your article nice work.

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This entry was posted on March 24, 2014 by in Volunteer Related.
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