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Catalogue Blog

International Volunteering (part 2)

By Jade Floyd

This is the second post in a two-part series by Jade Floyd. Ms. Floyd works in international public affairs in DC and serves on the Board of the DC Arts and Humanities Education Collaborative. Follow her on Twitter: @DcThisWeek. Read the first part of the series here.

Preparing for an international volunteer experience can be daunting. But paying for it is the hardest part — and once you have tackled that, you are well on your way. (And remember: keep all you receipts because many of these expenses can be tax deducible.) My program required nearly $6,000 when you factored in program fees, flights, buses, immuniztions, taxis, supplies, gifts for family and friends, hotels, guest houses, and gifts for myself. Luckily, I had a very good friend who worked for an airline, which made a major difference. You can also consider using your Airline miles or those of a family member or friend if they will donate them to your cause.

There are many ways to pay for an international volunteer program — it not out of your reach. You can self-fund or fundraise for the program or, like me, do a combination of both. For the art supplies that I took with me on this journey, I held two fundraisers: the first at a local bar that I frequented and I asked my friends and colleagues to donate $10 or bring art supplies. It is good to give people options because you do not want them to feel they are funding your vacation or the money will not go to good use. In asking for physical supplies, I have my donors the ability to go out and choose for themselves.

The second fundraiser was at a local organic cafe, which enables non profits and individuals to use their bar for fundraisers a few times per months. It was a great setting and we had a small gathering of 30 or so people in their outdoor space. Between these two fundraisers and my family and friends, I raised more than $1,200 for art supplies. I made supplies a real priority and I wanted to give the program more supplies than they needed so that they could have a lasting impact after I had departed.

Having a fundraiser does not have to be a stressful process. I have thrown galas with 250 people at an Embassy and small jewelry trunk shows with just 50 guests and 10 jewelry designers. Both accomplished their goal of raising the profile of the organization and raising funds. There are a few simple ways you can plan a personal fundraiser for your volunteer experience.

These are my five go-to steps:

1. Select a location well in advance. It can be anywhere — in someone’s home, a bar, restaurant or art gallery — as long as it is easy to find! There are always people willing to donate space for causes. Determine how many guests you anticipate and pick your space from there.

2. Have your ask ready to go. What do you need? Supplies? Money. Be very specific in your ask and request that the pogram send your their mission and photos to include in the invite. And you should always have a one-pager on the program (including its website) in your own words that you give out at the event.

3. Determine what guests will receive in return for their donation and offer a tax donation form. Maybe they receive bar specials all night long, or a special performance. Or you can secure wine donations from a local wine store and offer wine and cheese platters. Always show your guests that you appreciate them. Even consider providing everyone with a photo from your volunteer program once you return.

4. Team up with a local well-known DJ to drum up publicity. I co-hosted a fundraiser with one who was a friend at a venue where he was scheduled to spin — so his fee already was covered. Music is very important and keeps the crowd entertained. Enlist a friend or volunteer to help with set up and to keep the crowd social.

5. Send out invites one month in advance, follow up in two weeks, and send a final reminder two days before. People are busy and need to be reminded. Also create a Facebook invite and send to the events section of your local newspaper. There are also local blogs that might be interested in helping you promote.

Preparing for your program is an exciting and vital part of the global volunteer experience. With good preparation and a little support from your friends and family, you can tackle the challenge and be well-prepared when you hit international soil. Good luck!








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