Tap into the power of numbers, wealth, group membership & more

By Annie Rose Stathes, edited by Valeri Boyle
Published February 19, 2014

Study abroad funding is all around you. You simply have to open your eyes, engage your creativity, and ask for what you want. The following article offers ideas for funding your studies abroad.

The Power of Numbers

With the expansion of online communities and platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and others, crowdsourcing has become an increasingly popular and viable way to raise funds. “Crowdfunding”, a sub-innovation of crowdsourcing, describes a collective coming together to support the financial needs of an individual. Crowdfunding can be used to raise funds for your study abroad opportunity by collecting smaller amounts of money from a large amount of people. When determining how best to crowdfund, consider the following:

  • What communities of people do you have access to? Think about student communities, family members, family friends, religious or spiritual groups, online communities, recreational communities, hobby-based communities, etc
  • Consider what online platforms and databases you have at your disposal. Examples include Facebook, Twitter, email, Craigslist, and other platforms and databases.
  • Create an inspiring message—something that describes the study abroad program you want to attend, explains your intentions and goals for the trip, outlines the program’s costs and expenses, and makes an argument for people to help you. Also, help your “crowd” understand how helping you might benefit them. When completing this step, it’s important to consider your audience. The message that you deliver to your religious community, for example, might be very different from the message you deliver to your academic or friend communities.
  • Identify how much money you need and how much money each individual would have to donate for you to reach your goal.
  • Depending on how many people you need to reach, choose an appropriate platform or database to use and an appropriate community to target. Send them a message asking for funds, and, when people contribute, send them a note of genuine thanks.
  • Once you’re traveling, send your funding crowds pictures and updates so they know their money is being put to good use.

The Power of Wealth

We often times forget that there are people and organizations around us who have more than enough money. They might be hard to find at times, but they’re out there. Why not ask them to share some of their wealth with you? It’s true that this takes guts; however, many wealthy people want to share their wealth, especially with young people who want to become global citizens. If you know wealthy people, ask them for their help. Be prepared to share the details of your goals and trip and to explain to them why study abroad means so much to you. Also be prepared to make a clear and direct request—tell them exactly how much money you need and exactly what it will pay for. Then, once you start your travels, honor the gift of their money by participating in your program fully, doing good work, and sharing your experiences with your benefactors.

The Power of the Greek Life and Group Membership

In general, the more groups and organizations you “belong” to, the more you’ll have resources to help you through life. Fraternities and sororities, for example, often times have money to offer to members who want to study abroad. Other organizations on campus, such as culture clubs, sports clubs, and hobby-based clubs, might also have money to offer. Make a list of all of the organizations to which you belong (both on and off campus) and start asking them for money. Explain to each organization the design and purpose of your trip, and how your adventure will ultimately benefit them. Then, once you’re traveling, meet any obligations or requests they have of you.

The Power of Contribution and Having Fun

Join together with a group of friends who want to study abroad and plan a fundraiser to raise money. People love to contribute to the lives of others, especially when doing so involves fun. To tap into the power of contribution and fun, create an event specifically designed to raise money for your and your friends’ study abroad programs. To do so, do the following:

  • Figure out how to inspire people about your journey. Commit to a community service project abroad, promise to share inspirational stories and pictures, or vow to use your experience to contribute to your community back home.
  • Brainstorm ideas for the event. Think about where you can have it, who can help, and what might be the main event (entertainment, a silent auction, a raffle, a spaghetti dinner, or a combination of the above, for example). Ask friends and loved ones to contribute to the event by playing music, donating items for the auction, or contributing funds for a dinner or light snacks and beverages. If you feel like being brave, ask local restaurants, stores, and other businesses to contribute their resources to the event, raffle, or auction.
  • Plan the event and invite people. If you know someone who plans events, ask them for help. Then, once you have an idea of the date, time, and structure of the event, send invitations to as many people as possible. Charge for entrance to the event and be prepared to inspire people about your trip and to offer them something of value (again, a dinner, entertainment, opportunities to buy cool things, etc.).
  • Once you’re traveling, send your contributors updates and pictures of your travels and thank them for enabling you to take the trip of a lifetime.

The Power of Service

People love to give money to people who plan to be of service. If being of service feels like a genuine expression for you, consider tapping into groups of people who like to fund service-oriented trips. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your study abroad trip has to be specifically designed around a service project; it simply means that you must find a way to be of service while you are studying abroad. You could, for example:

  • Volunteer for a specific organization while living and studying abroad
  • Volunteer for an organization at home that needs your skills once you’ve completed your study abroad
  • Design a research project that helps clarify an important issue in another country (the one in which you plan to study)
  • Offer your skills and talents to the people of your study abroad community and document how your offerings impact them (teach yoga, give singing lessons to impoverished youth, teach English at a small school, etc.)

These are just some of the many ideas that exist for being of service to the world. Once you’ve established a service-project idea, contact individuals, groups, and organizations that might be interested in funding your idea and study abroad program. Consider religious organizations, well-funded non-profits, schools, service organizations (such as Rotary International), and other entities directly connected to what you wish to do.

Annie Rose Stathes is a Colorado-based writer, teacher and political scientist. Her background is in international affairs and she holds a Master of Arts degree in Political Science.