Practical work

Online seminar for volunteering at Europe's (external) borders


8. Fundraising

Fundraising may sound a little big and daunting for you at first. But even on a small scale and without experience, you can collect donations and support organisations that are in urgent need of private donations. However, it is also important when fundraising to scrutinise yourself and the images you use, for example to avoid reproducing inhumane images.

Fundraising and Support work

Why is fundraising important in the context of support work?

  • Supporting people on the move with necessities, medical support and/or legal advice, education and leisure activities always requires money. There is not only the running costs of the project, but also costs in the administrative work of the organisations or simply the travel and supply costs that you yourself have.
  • Of course, such necessary care should not actually be covered by private donations. But unfortunately, the reality at the moment is that there is little or not at all enough public money available to come close to covering the needs.
  • As the running costs in supporting people on the move should not all be covered by few (and always the same) private persons, it is usually a good idea to try and get donations for the organisation you are working with.
  • Fundraising is of course optional, and we understand if you don’t feel comfortable doing so. But if you are open to the idea, there are many relatively simple ways and resources to raise funds and share your support with others, as donating is one of the easiest and quickest way to show support.
  • If you are considering collecting donations in kind, be sure to check with your organisation first to see what exactly is needed.

Pitfalls / Recurring problems

  • What are your intentions as a volunteer or supporter? Always ask yourself why you are doing something before you share it on your social networks. Are you asking for donations on your social networks to show solidarity, or do you have other motives? Are you presenting yourself as a saviour? The answers to these questions will affect your fundraising and the potentially critical picture you paint of the situation on the ground.
  • It can quickly become about you rather than the circumstances you want to draw attention to, especially if you focus on your work rather than the situation of refugees.
  • Even if the focus is not on you and your work, pay attention to how people are portrayed. They are not passive victims who need to be 'protected' and 'liberated' from their suffering by you. Instead, it is important to present a nuanced picture of active people who are structurally discriminated against. People of Colour are often portrayed as recipients of aid rather than in an active position. They are also rarely addressed as donors. Instead, donors are mostly addressed as white people who supposedly need racialising and stereotyping images in order to feel something - and then donate.
  • Good intentions, such as raising awareness of the situation of refugees or collecting donations, are no justification for violating the dignity or privacy of other people, or for overshadowing or disregarding their self-perception.

Source: e.g. glokal e.V. (2017): Die Spitze des Eisbergs. Spendenwerbung der internationalen Hilfsorganisationen - Kritik und Alternativen (DE)

What do I have to pay particular attention to?

  • Basically, there are no limits to your creativity in fundraising, but from our experience, personal conversations are always best in collecting donations.
  • Do not hesitate to ask for a donation for the project you are working with or to fund your own activities. Even if asking for money is often awkward at first, you don't have to feel uncomfortable! The necessity of such donations result from a number of structural inconsistencies and inequalities that have nothing to do with you. Trying to combat injustice through various ways is a good thing, and trying to get people involved - who might have more financial resources than you do - also. The worst-case scenario is to be turned down and that's fine too.
  • Pay attention to the principles of public outreach in your fundraising campaigns.

Fundraising Options

What are the different options for fundraising?

You can raise money in many different ways - get creative or think about what would motivate you to support other people and projects with a donation. We have put together a few suggestions for you on how to collect donations for the project, both among your friends and in public.

Fundraising among friends and an extended circle of acquaintances

  • The closer the person is to you, the more likely they are to donate if their financial situation allows it. At the same time, there is a greater risk that you will (unintentionally) present yourself as a white saviour in personal reports.
  • One way to raise funds within your circle of friends and acquaintances is to talk to people in your immediate environment. These conversations have the advantage that you can report in detail about your concern and that a very personal connection is established, which increases the chances of success of your fundraiser. In addition, you can give the person immediate answers to possible follow-up questions.
  • As you can't meet everyone in person, it's a good idea to pick up the phone and call your friends or family. You will see that a phone call can be much more promising than a post, a message or an email.
  • Sending a newsletter with an informative text about the project as well as a concrete appeal for donations, in which you declare your willingness to be available for further questions, can have a huge effect, especially if you want to reach many of your friends at the same time and if you can't call them all.
  • At birthday parties, other events or locations where you spend a lot of time (such as school or university), it can be a good idea (even over a longer period of time) to set up a donation box with a short explanatory text. In addition, it is useful to draw attention to the fundraising campaign in a short speech and to be on site or elsewhere for possible questions.
  • You can also report about your project in your sports club, music school or similar club and ask for a donation of money and/or material donations.

  • As a way of saying thank you, you can suggest to all your donors, for example, that they subscribe to an email newsletter or blog, where you inform them about the project and the situation on site.
Fundraising in public

  • If you want to reach people beyond your personal circle of acquaintances with your call for donations, you can possibly ask local newspapers or radio stationsto spread your fundraising appeal.
  • The most important option for public fundraising is to use the internet.
    Various social media platforms, such as Facebook or Instagram, can be used to create a fundraising campaign, which you can publish and then share. For a bigger success, ask your friends to spread the fundraiser on their own channels. There are also various fundraising platforms, such as GoFundMe or Betterplace. Inform yourself about the terms of use in advance, as fees may apply.
  • With all these options for public fundraising in mind, it is especially important that you put a lot of preliminary work into your information text, and provide all relevant information in a clear and concise manner. Follow-up questions are usually difficult to answer during public fundraising campaigns and you should avoid possible mistrust or insecurities of the recipients.
  • Since the personal touch is lacking in this version of fundraising, you could think of an appealing and informative headline.
  • For this type of fundraising, it is helpful to set a precise target amount with a specific purpose in advance, which you then communicate in detail.

  • As with public relations work in general or fundraising in your own area, it is also important here to scrutinise the image you convey of yourself, the situation of refugees and of refugees themselves.

Picking the convenient time for your fundraiser

Why is the timing of your fundraiser relevant?

The timing of your fundraiser comes with different advantages and disadvantages that you should consider. We have listed here different options for fundraising before, during or after your volunteer or support work for your guidance.

Fundraising before starting to work

  • If you want to raise funds for the organisation you will be working with, it is important to find out about their current needs and expenses. E.g. contact the project management and ask them for information about the projects for which financial support is currently needed. Often, donations in kind are needed, which you can arrange in advance in your hometown and then bring along on your journey.
  • Since you cannot report from experience yet, it is useful to put together a short information text describing the project and its goals in detail and explaining for which purpose money is currently needed.

Fundraising while working

  • This option usually proves to be the easiest, as it is the most authentic. Since you are currently involved in the project, you can tell others directly about your personal impressions and thus motivate them to support the project.
  • If you launch an appeal for funds while working in the project, it is usually very valuable to give personal insights into your daily work and an assessment of the situation that will help to clarify the urgency of your appeal. Be mindful of the guidelines of solidary public outreach.
  • If you want to use pictures, always check with the project management and respect personal and data protection rights. Have another look at our unit on Public Outreach.
Fundraising after working

  • This option can be a good way for you to continue to support the project in the long term even after your support work has ended by continuing to accompany the work with informed public outreach and awareness-raising.
  • The advantage of fundraising after your stay is that you now have a good overview of the situation, that you can pass on information and report about personal impressions and experiences, while all the types of fundraising are at your disposal again - not only online.
  • The personal connection to the project is usually valuable for fundraising and people trusting you in regards to donating their money. If you decide to set up a donation box at an event, it might be useful to give a short talk about the situation on site and to be prepared to answer follow-up questions. Again, be careful not to present yourself as a saviour or invite other people to report.
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