We never fail to be impressed with the innovative and exciting ways volunteers go about fundraising for their placements in Sri Lanka, Bali and India. We've been paying attention and also have some pearls of wisdom of our own to impart to anyone looking to fundraise to help with their fees. Here are some top tips on the power of asking for money and some handy letter templates you can download, edit and send off.
1. Don’t be afraid to ask. It can be intimidating writing to the CEO of a company, sending a tweet to a major retail brand or phoning up Adam in airline sales to ask for support towards your air fare, but if you never ask the answer will always be no. If you need some inspiration before dialling that number or popping that letter in the post, here is Steve Jobs on the power of asking:
"I’ve never found anyone who’s said no or hung up the phone when I called-I just asked. And when people ask me, I try to be as responsive, to pay that debt of gratitude back. Most people never pick up the phone and call, most people never ask. And that’s what separates, sometimes, the people that do things from the people that just dream about them. You gotta act. And you’ve gotta be willing to fail, you gotta be ready to crash and burn, with people on the phone, with starting a company, with whatever. If you’re afraid of failing, you won’t get very far."
Whilst asking for support towards your SLV.Global placement fees may not seem quite the same thing as building a multi-billion dollar tech company, the spirit behind Jobs' words ring true for all you budding fundraisers out there. Don’t be afraid to ask, stay positive and don’t get hung up on the fear of rejection. Be bold and put yourself out there – you may be surprised by people’s generosity.
2. Stand out from the crowd. You will be gaining hands-on work experience volunteering abroad, not going on holiday, so emphasise this and stand out from the letters, requests and CV’s that land on the desks of companies. You are taking the initiative to improve your skills and gain experience whilst contributing to the under-resourced mental health sector in Sri Lanka, Bali or India.
Your placement is focused on making a positive impact in the local community to the benefit of service users, not on a holiday experience. We are focused on being ethical and sustainable – another big tick for many businesses – and our projects are sourced by and run alongside national team members. You will be working full time during the week in challenging environments and will be responsible for working in a team and organising all project activities. These are all key skills that employers look for so make sure you do yourself justice and tell them why your placement deserves their attention.
3. Get creative. Why not utilise your creative talents and energies and use the power of video or social media to connect with people on a more personal and direct level? Researchers have found that you have approximately three seconds to grab people’s attention so think outside the box and come up with something that companies just cannot ignore! Do the ‘elevator pitch’ test on friends and family and see if you have engaged them in the time it takes to ride a couple of floors in an elevator. Don’t be afraid to get visual and use an impactful image, who has time to read these days? Just remember to check with us if you are unsure of images to use and remember never to post pictures of children or any vulnerable individuals. That's exploitative.
There are so many different organisations and companies you could approach for support towards your placement fees. We thought we would give you a head start and give you three letter templates you can download and edit to send off to retailers, grocery stores and airlines.
SLV.Global's Top tips for asking for funding support from companies:
If you want to get stuck in and write your own, here are some of our top tips to remember when approach a company to ask for funding support.
- Research the company you are applying to and address the letter to a named person. The more personal and targeted, the better! You may have more success with smaller stores rather than large headquarters but it is worth trying both.
- Be specific. The more specific you get the better. This could be with the amount you have already raised, the details of your placement as well as what you are asking for and what it may go towards.
- Use the power of social media! If you are on Twitter, following up the request with a polite and enthusiastic tweet may gain a better response. Something like: Looking forward to hearing back from NAME OF STORE about my recent funding application…fingers crossed! #SriLanka #volunteerabroad #mentalhealth #SLV #SLVolunteers
- Read up about the company beforehand and see if they have a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) policy which they use for social and community good. Relate your request to this and it will show that you have really done your research and this is more likely to get a response. Including a sentence referencing their policy/projects they have supported/how much money they have committed to community development and why you admire this would be enough.
- Jump on current trends in the news to raise awareness about the specificity of the placement and why they should support you over anyone else or a charity cause. Our placements are a pretty unique volunteering experience and mental health awareness and support is currently a topical news item in the UK and globally. Campaigns such as the recent Equality for Mental Health campaign which was backed by over 200 celebrities gained attention in the news. Directing companies towards this will emphasise that your trip and what you will be doing is part of an important broader cause.
- Emphasise the power of positive PR. Remember that the company themselves want to gain something from supporting your trip – usually this will be positive attention in the media/social media that makes their brand or company look inclusive. Emphasise they will contribute to an important community and social development as well as giving you a fantastic opportunity to gain crucial hands-on work experience.
- Offer them something in return. You could write a regular blog on your experience, write them a letter once you return about all the amazing things you have learned, how the experience has helped you in your career goals and how their support has made a big difference to your being able to go out to Sri Lanka or Bali. You could also offer to do a day of bag packing or another activity in return for sponsorship.
- Say thank you! If you get a response write back within three days of receiving it and thank them for taking the time to read your request. If they have given you money say why it is so important and generous they have supported you and what difference you will make whilst out in Sri Lanka and what you will learn. If they have not given you money say thank you for their taking the time to read and research SLV and for responding to you.
Be bold, be brave and good luck!