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29 Mar, 2018   |   

Study Abroad Fundraising Ideas: How to Travel Without Breaking the Bank

So, you’ve landed an exciting opportunity to study abroad, but you’re not sure how to pay for it. Don’t panic. A life-changing opportunity to explore and discover the world is probably worth a little extra fundraising effort, don’t you think?

The keys are starting early and staying organized, so here are some of the best ways to raise funds for your adventure of a lifetime without breaking the bank. Most of the time, the hardest part is simply getting started!


Before you begin raising money, figure out how much you have and how much more you need.

Try making a spreadsheet that shows all of your expected expenses, and be as detailed as possible. Some of the things to include: program fees, airfare, lodging, utilities, food, luggage, phone/communication, local travel, souvenirs/gifts, etc. 

Break down how much you want to raise each week. Mark down important dates for achieving those goals, and give yourself a little reward when you hit them (like Up with People alum Sophia from Germany, who bought an ice cream cone every time she raised $500). 

Set realistic goals, particularly when it comes to savings from a job. Saving 75% from each paycheck isn’t realistic, but saving 25% is more reasonable. Most importantly — start early. Once you’ve made that plan…stick to it!


Would you ever donate to someone without knowing what it was for? Probably not. The more information you share with others about your trip and your passion behind it, the more likely people are to donate to your cause.


When you reach out to donors, be sure to mix it up. You don’t want to keep asking the same people for money. Think through the different possibilities, like relatives, high school friends, colleagues, social media connections, etc.

Make both a rational and emotional pitch. Make the donors feel like they’ll be part of something special, because this is an adventure of a lifetime, and they can help make it happen! Let them know how you’ll keep in touch with them while you’re in the program, so they’ll get a chance to see the value of their contribution.

Remember that the worst thing a potential donor can say is “no.” Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there — if you don’t ask, you won’t get! 


Having a graduation party? Let your guests know that money given as gifts will be used to help you study abroad. Knowing it’s going to such a good cause might even encourage larger donations!

Want a bigger event with a bigger upside? 

  • Host a benefit concert, with a cover charge, raffle, and auction items. It’s a natural if you’re a performer (or any of your friends are).
  • Organize a golf tournament, with entry fees and some pay-to-pay competitions (with prizes for lowest score, longest putt, closest to the hole).
  • Plan a pub crawl, with a fun theme like zombies or pirates. Sell a button to participate, or host an “after-party” with a cover charge. 

Pro Tip: Bigger events take more time and effort to plan, advertise and execute — but also have a bigger payoff. Don’t be afraid to ask friends to help. Sometimes an extra set of hands can be a really valuable donation.


One person’s trash really is another person’s treasure. Sell your unwanted items on eBayCraigslist, or Facebook’s Marketplace. You can also sell items using apps such as letgo and OfferUp, which can be downloaded on any smartphone.

Pro Tip: Trade-in services like Gazelle and NextWorth pay cash for old electronics, while retailers like Appleand Best Buy offer store credit. Ask family, friends, and neighbors if you can recycle their electronics as an easy way to make some extra money.


Do you have a few hundred Facebook friends or Twitter followers? Post your travel plans and fundraising goals on social media with instructions on how to donate. Creating a GoFundMe account can make it easier to donate. Remember to use all of your social networks to promote your other fundraising events too!

Pro Tip: Countdowns and meeting goals are great excuses for social media updates. Whenever you’re “two months away” or “raised another $500,” use the opportunity to post a progress report and remind people how to contribute. 


Score an interview with the press. It’s not as hard as you might think. Editors of small local newspapers are always looking for local stories to fill their pages, and yours might interest them. A good writer can certainly turn your efforts into a story that might entice people to support your cause.


A great way to fund your trip is to get a seasonal or part-time job and use some of the money for your adventure. NextDoor can be an easy place to land smaller jobs around the neighborhood like mowing lawns, raking leaves, pulling weeds or babysitting.

Grants and Scholarships

Study abroad programs are educational, so you may be able to fund your trip with grants or scholarships. Start your search on general scholarship sites like FastWebFinAid, and IEFA (International Education Financial Aid), and look for organizations that list experiential learning, global leadership, study abroad, or cultural immersion in their criteria.


Some of the best fundraising ideas happen when you think outside of the box. Change your voicemail to announce your study abroad plans or “advertise” in your church bulletin.

Break down how much a single day of your trip will cost and then sell daily sponsorships like Up with People alum Ellen from Minnesota. “I sent a postcard from the road to each day’s sponsor to show them what they paid for,” Ellen says. “My friends and family really enjoyed getting updates from abroad and loved owning part of my trip.”

Pro Tip: Have some fun and become a walking vending machine. Buy snacks in bulk at Costco or Sam’s Club and sell them in school. Sound crazy? Up with People alum, Jackie from Colorado sold snacks out of a backpack throughout her senior year in high school and raised more than $10,000!

No matter what you do, remember that fundraising and saving don’t have to be a drag — especially when you’re shooting for such an exciting goal. Have fun and enjoy the process as you build a community of support for your upcoming adventure!

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