August 15th, 2011

By Guest Blogger: Alexia Nestora, voluntourism industry consultant and author of VoluntourismGal

White piggy bank sitting atop a pile of penniesUsing vacation time to volunteer abroad is a great experience for people of all ages and walks of life.  Yet although we think of volunteering as free, there are costs involved in volunteering away from home.   Costs like travel and living expenses and in many cases the fee volunteers must pay to the program.  Many volunteers are deterred from volunteering abroad because of these costs.


The good news is that in many cases fundraising is an option.  Fundraising can be a great way to cover the expenses, receive much-needed resources for underprivileged communities and raise awareness about the good cause you are heading off to support.   The Building Bridges Coalition has prepared this guide to help empower volunteers to raise enough funds for any volunteer-vacation on any budget.

Before you start planning your fundraising efforts for your volunteer vacation you need to set yourself a realistic target to work towards. Think about what you want to raise money for, the resources available to you and the time you have to raise the money. Realism is important, so make sure you aren’t reaching for the stars.

You’re volunteering because you want to make a real difference to underprivileged communities and fragile ecosystems, because you want to give something back and make the world a better place. This kind of passion will give real weight to your fundraising efforts, so make sure you keep that in mind.

Ideas to Get You Started:
1. Make a fundraising leaflet you can pass out to help spread the word
2. Write letters to family and friends, remember don’t ask for the moon – ask for reasonable amounts
3. Create a profile on so donors can contribute online and promote it via all your social network pages
4. Hold fun events and charge a small admission fee:

– Costume parties are always fun, have a local bakery donate the food
– Have your friends bring their old clothes and auction them off
– Ask your local movie theatre to donate 10 seats to your cause, have your friends give you the ticket fees
– Host a bingo night at your house, add your special twist to make it exciting
– Host a fashion show for a local designer, all admission fees go to you

5. Contact your local newspaper and radio stations; let them know that you are planning to volunteer abroad and see if they will help broadcast your plea to neighbors
6. Check if your company has a fundraising matching scheme – you’d be surprised how many do
7. Research local trusts and charities, many have funds set aside to further their causes abroad
8. There’s nothing like a good ol’ fashioned bake sale, lemonade stand and car wash

And Remember… Make your donors feel good

Make sure to follow up with the people who contributed to your trip on your return as well as while you’re in country if possible. Tell them how much their assistance helped make a difference for you and for the community in which you volunteered.

Alexia Nestora is a voluntourism industry consultant, helping providers with strategy and monitoring industry trends. She has volunteered in Ecuador, South Africa, Thailand, Costa Rica, New Zealand and Switzerland but her favorite place these days is at home in Littleton, CO. VoluntourismGal aims to facilitate discussions and further the field by doing so.

A group of volunteers on a recent trip to Costa Rica cleaning out a large green cage

Alexia leading a group of volunteers on a recent trip to Costa Rica.


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