Updated: Jul 29, 2019
If you are in the process of creating a change-making project you may find yourself in need of money. So I have gathered a list of ways to raise funds for your initiative
To carry an example through this post: let's say I want to hold a conference to empower girls to pursue STEM jobs. Here are some tips on how not fail because of my lack of cash.
This is probably the first thing people think of. It's relatively simple: you find a website that lets you create a cause, people can donate and you get money - sounds great doesn't it?
Pro's of Crowdfunding
Perfect for small scale short-term initiatives or partial funding: it's simple and easy
Doesn't have to be too professional (although you should spend some time to make it look credible)
Best way to engage family and friends
You can decide how much time you spend on it
So, in my STEM-girls Camp example, I could create a profile, upload some information about me and my story, how the camp will look like, who would attend and the impact I am trying to make. I would then tell all my friends, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends of friends about this idea, send them the link to my campaign and share it on my social media accounts.
Although crowdfunding has made amazing things happen (including some of my own initiatives) there are a few things to consider:
Con's of Crowdfunding
Most crowdfunding websites take a percentage of what people donate to you (usually around 5%). Please check that and factor that into your budget!
There are some countries in which donations are taxed* - check that too! Don't get yourself in trouble
It's not sustainable. Crowdfunding works best for a one-off cause but let's say I am running my camp every year? My friends and family are going to get tired of me asking them for money. At this point I should consider a more sustainable source of funding.
*There are also countries in which donations that are collected in it are not allowed to leave the country unless you are a registered NGO. Singapore, for example.
2. Approaching donors
Most of us know of people and companies who have money - but it seems unrealistic that they would give it to you, right? Now here YOUR skills and efforts (and a little bit of luck) come into place.
Let's consider my STEM camp: who would be interested in supporting something like that?
Universities, for example, could maybe not support me financially but allow me to use their facilities. Tech-companies may be interested in empowering girls (and advertising their company to young people!).
"It's all about how you present yourself"
Moreover, embassies often support local projects, just like foundations like the international Lions club or Rotary. Just google foundations + your country/city and look for organizations that may have a connection to your cause. Write them an email - and then it's all about how you present yourself!
2. Applying for grants
If your project is something that could become something bigger or more official you can consider applying for grants. The good thing about grants is that they can give you one big chunk of money in one application - without having to approach dozens of small donors.
"But don't be mistaken - hundreds of organizations are competing for grants and you have to show why they should support yours!"
You may want to ask someone who has experience with writing grants for help.
You can also check out my blogpost about how to apply for grants.
There is a website called GrantStation.com where you can search for various grants. Unfortunately, the membership is quite expensive - so this may only apply to you if you are already working on a big-scale initiative. There are other alternatives too.
There is no perfect recipe in how to find grants other than to google google google.
3. Collaborate with an established Nonprofit/NGO/Company
This can make your life so much easier! If I, for example, collaborated with a Nonprofit that provides tutoring for girls, they could connect me to donors, I could use their facilities, they already have a network of girls that I can use to recruit participants and so on. Especially if you don't have much experience:
"This is a great way to learn and make connections"
The only downside is that the organization may have some ideas about your project as well - and you have to be willing to make changes to your plans. An organization I could collaborate with may require me to accept 10 of girls from their organization into my program - without an application. Or they may want to have a day or two of my conference to run their own workshops. That doesn't mean that you should not collaborate with them but these are negotiations you should be prepared for.
4. Taking part in competitions
Competitions work very similar to grants but they may take more time and may have clearer guidelines of what is expected of you to submit. Make sure to look for grants specifically for young people so you wouldn't have to compete with registered Nonprofits/NGOs.
Finding these competitions can be hard - especially if you have a deadline to meet. If you are starting a business you should check out my blogpost about Social Entrepreneurship Competitions. You can find other competitions by frequently visiting the platforms that I recommend in this blogpost. But it's always good to keep your eyes open for competitions like this. Not only for the money but also often for the experience they give you. Here's a list of competitions for social entrepreneurs for example.
5. Try to get things for free (where you can save money?)
Think about how you can reduce your costs. Can you get stuff for free? Approach universities or other organizations that may have facilities that you can use for a reduced fee or for free when you tell them about your cause.
What about your participants, can they contribute? Could they bring their own lunch or pay for their own transportation - maybe even accommodation. Keep in mind that your choices may impact what kind of people can participate in your program (If I charged a lot of money for my STEM girls, I may have less applicants and only reach girls from wealthy families).
6. Get a loan
This is not something I recommend! And probably this is not going to be an option for you anyway. Why? Because, unfortunately, most social initiatives don't make a surplus of money.
However, there are certain projects where you may make money off in the future. It's unlikely that the bank will give you a loan but you may want to check out Kiva, where people get crowdsource loans for various reasons (e.g education, farms etc). The interest rate is low but existent.
This should be something you don't just do spontaneously, loans can be really dangerous and ruin your life instead of making the world a better place. But sometimes it can be just what you need. You be the judge.
7. Be creative
In the history of change-makers there are so many creative ways people have managed to get money - think about the Ice-bucket challenge. It raised thousands of dollars within weeks.
Another example is Adam Braun the founder of Pencils of Promise. For his birthday, he asked his friends not to buy him gifts but to donate money to his charity. He started doing this annually, and eventually his birthday party became a gala-charity event dedicated to building schools around the world. (Read more about his story in his biography). Or what about the old-school bake-sale?
"Fundraising can be a full time job - so start now"
I hope this list gave you some ideas of where you can get funding for your initiative from. And you don't have to limit yourself to just one! But it also hopefully shows that this can be a full-time job: searching for grants, writing grant-proposals, emailing friends/donors/family.
I don't mean to scare you but I want to stress that it pays off to start early!