A Guide to Raising Travel Funds

One of my biggest annoyances in the world is when people say 'I can't afford to take a gap year!' Why it annoys me so much is that it is one of the biggest reasons why most people DON'T go through with their gap year plans. Eighty per cent of those who consider taking time out don't go through with it and I would stab in the dark to say that this excuse must count for over half of them.

It also annoys me because for the thousands of emails we have received over the last few years from people whinging about this (yup, not kidding... THOUSANDS), every once in a while we get emails from funds desperate to give money away to anyone who asks, and other emails from young people who have raised thousands of pounds in a matter of weeks. Really?

Better believe it

Two examples to prove the point...

  • The Peter Kirk Memorial Fund annually GIVE AWAY £1,500, to up to 12 worthy people
  • One lad wrote to me having raised over £6,000 in two weeks from local charities

Read on...

Now, I'll level with you - this money isn't given away so you can swan off round the world and have a holiday at other people's expense, so get that straight out of your head. This money is usually available from local funds and charities to enable young people (16 to 24 year olds) to either get involved with projects (here or overseas) that will improve the lives of others or the community they live in, or to help you develop as a person through an activity that will benefit you as an individual.

Lads'/lasses' beano to Ibiza... no

Heading out to South America to assist with forest conservation, large game conservation in Africa, orphanage work in India, teaching kids English in Nepal and development projects all over the world (even in Pacific Islands where you can live in a hut on a beautiful sandy beach and swim with dolphins at lunchtime)... yes

Get the idea?

These funds will also give you money for doing cool stuff in the UK, but similar criteria apply...

Sitting on your arse watching Jezza and Neighbours followed up by a hard evening in front of the telly... no

Deciding to set up a football coaching session in your village, creating a centrepoint for the homeless in your town, developing a youth club for local kids, spending a year assisting people with disabilities or getting a bit of cash up front so you can plan a project for 15 months, the culmination of which is to walk from Lands End to John O'Groats over the course of four months with the sole purpose of raising awareness for Cystic Fibrosis and maybe £10,000... yes

Slowly getting the idea? On to the next section then...

How do I get this money?

Whilst I am deliberately making it sound easy to encourage a few of you to check this out, don't be fooled into thinking that it is too easy. Some of you will be lucky and will raise cash very quickly, others may find it harder, it just depends on where you live and the amount of funds in that area.

Top tips

  • Look locally
  • Focus on matching criteria - don't waste time randomly hitting everyone
  • Be professional with your approach

Let me take you through an example...

I live in Ipswich. There may well be a local fund which will state something like as follows:

'The Joe Bloggs Memorial Fund. If you are aged between 16 and 24 and would like to participate in a project which adds benefit to your life or the lives/community of others and you live within five miles of Ipswich Town Hall, then we have £1,000 available'

Chances are Joe Bloggs was a wealthy local and before he died he decided to set up a fund to help young locals. The problems the funds have is that they have anything from £500 to £600,000 which they have to give away each year, but don't have the budget or the means to tell people like you about it!

So, how do you find these funds?

You need to go to your library and find a book called the Directory of Grant Making Trusts. There are a few of them. You then need to spend some time working through them trying to match as many categories as you can. In the example above you would need to:

  • (a) Be from Ipswich
  • (b) Be aged 16 to 24
  • (c) Require the money to enable you to do something which will benefit either yourself or the lives/community of others

NB: Loads of people go this route and then get bored and 'can't be arsed' trudging through all the data. I find this very odd. Spend one week working on this and another following up and you may raise £3,000 or even more. This is the equivalent to working a minimum of 750 hours (over 18 weeks) at somewhere like McDonalds! Your call guys!

Other places to look?

Rotary, Lions Club and Round Table. These are three 'associations/clubs', whose members are usually made up of local businesspeople. They get together for socialising, business contacts etc. One of the best things they are known for is donating money to locals. Guess what? If you are local - you can apply! Many local churches have funds, schools have bursaries/awards and many towns have other awards to give. All it requires is a couple of weeks' worth of looking and you are bound to find something!

The next step?

Make a professional approach to any fund you have found and you think you are eligible for.

Make yourself a letterhead on a PC. If you can't, get someone to help you. The simplest way is to have your name centred at the top in bold (font size 16?), with your address on the next line (font size 10?) and your telephone number and email on the line under that (get a good email address - twinklystar@hotmail.com or vulgar alternatives may impress your mates but will put people off). Choose a nice friendly font (have a play with Rockwell, Tahoma, Century Gothic) and, for your name and address only, a different colour - a dark one though (dark blue, purple, red, brown, green etc). Have a play around and ask your mates/parents/the postman for advice. Maybe stick your name top left underlined across the top of the page with your contact details centred in the footer at the bottom? Save it to disk or on your/someone-with-a-colour-printer's desktop to print out letters when you need them.

Invest in a bit of nice paper - Conqueror isn't too expensive and looks professional when you print on it. If you can, print your letterhead in colour as it will make it stand out. If not, black and white is fine.

Your covering letter should never be more than one side of A4, and ideally should be three small paragraphs. This will ensure that you keep it brief, focused and don't waffle. Get to the point, be confident and put across any points you feel may help your case.

Create a small proposal

The best way to show that you are a worthy person to receive any sort of funds is to put time and effort into a proposal which you can use for your application. It is worth spending a bit of cash on it (speculate to accumulate and all that!) as if one of these beauties lands on the right desk it will prove instantly that you are professional, focused and worthy of the money they may decide to give you. Bear in mind that some, especially Rotary, Lions or Round Table may ask for a brief talk/presentation when you get back - a small price to pay for free money and anyway, all good experience!

I would seriously recommend a minimum of a five page proposal, eight maximum (there is an example one below in a second) - unless you are doing something which is specialist and requires more (the Fabes' brothers created a larger one for their expedition to Chile where they cycled the length of it raising £7,000 for Cystic Fibrosis - as they were after sponsorship, had a budget and route planned out etc...)

It should look smart, well-presented and, after a brief flick through, make the reader aware of exactly who you are, what you are going to do and what you want from them.

Useful points to note / additions

  • Add in any press you have got or have planned - local is always easiest to get and best.
  • The proposal should be ring-bound with a wire ring binder. It doesn't cost a lot, makes it look professional and won't fall shut when trying to read it like the cheap plastic binders.
  • I would recommend the facing page to be a page of clear acetate (the stuff you use on overhead projectors), the back page to be hard card (recommend a different colour e.g. dark red, blue etc) and the inside pages to be printed on a nice paper e.g. Conqueror. Remember, money spent now should be seen as an investment. Even if you prove unsuccessful, you will certainly use this kind of proposal again soon.
  • If you are doing a supported placement or project with an organisation ask them to help you out with your proposal. They should be able to give you information about the project as well as references and confirmation that you are indeed raising money for them and where the money goes. This makes your proposal even better if the organisation donates some of your money to charity.
  • General references are useful for people to say that you are of good character and that you are working hard to achieve this goal.
  • The 'kick ass' reference I refer to should be from an MP or the most famous person you can get. All local MPs should be happy to give you a reference if you send them your proposal and ask for one. Explain why you need one etc... they will say something like 'I fully support this type of activity blah blah blah'. It will look good with its headed paper. If you get someone famous make sure you scan a photo of them on the sheet as well (their PR will have publicity shots you should be able to use)
  • CV - use bullet points, keep it sharp and tight and no more than two sides. One side is preferable. If you don't have much to say, don't say it! Don't waste a whole side showing off your GCSEs, 'A' Level grades etc... looks pants. If there are loads of 'I do this, I do that' - cut the 'I's' out.
  • Cost breakdowns are very useful - shows you know where the money is going. Don't be shy about explaining this as everyone is aware that you will need to eat, get transport, buy stuff etc
  • Produce a copy and then show it to someone who has never seen it before, preferably someone you don't know (ask someone at the bank or someone who works in an office?). Ask them to give you an honest answer.
  • Gather all the names and addresses of the people you need to send the proposal to and set aside three days (preferably a week) for sending it out, following it up and attending interviews if needed.

How to send your application in

Day One

Ring round all the funds you have identified first thing in the morning (you have a long day ahead) and ask for the contact name of the person you are sending your application to. If possible, speak to them. Be polite and brief, mentioning that you would like to send an application for their fund - have details of it to hand so you know what you are talking about. ONLY CHAT MORE if they push you to, as rabbiting on may ruin your application. Say that you will put the application in the post today. Print off all the letters and get the proposals ring-bound and stick them in the post, first class.

Day Two

Assuming you are happy that the post will get there the next day (it is sometimes two days in and out of London), get up, have a nice breakfast and a relaxing first part of the morning. Don't start ringing until after 10am, giving people time to get in, read emails and open post. Have a notebook to hand and get ready to take notes. Ring round all your contacts. Ask if they have seen your application and ask their thoughts. If you have done a good job on your proposal they should be impressed - which is why I ALWAYS recommend acetate on the front and hard, coloured card on the back. The rest from then is up to you. You need to:

  • (a) Find out what the next stage is and whether you are in for a chance
  • (b) Would they be interested in interviewing you (based on (a)) - say you are free immediately/that week
  • (c) Take notes of everything that is said

If people are not answering try to get through to someone else to see if they are around. There is nothing worse than trying to reach someone who is on holiday! If you get through to answerphones I would advise NOT to leave a message, write a note to try again later.

Never leave the call on a negative - always leave on a positive. Even if they turn round and say 'No', ask politely for a bit of advice. Is there anyone else you should try. Have they got any advice for you etc...

Day Three

Tidy up anything not achieved on Day Two and work through your initial success. Plan the next few days/week.


Things have gone well? Let us know... we would love to hear from you. Maybe you can give some tips for others trying the same stuff.

Things have gone 'worse than pants'? Sit back and ask yourself why. Hopefully you should already have the answer as you should be asking people why you have been unsuccessful. Didn't do it? Then get back on the phone and ring up the people who were nicest to you and ask for a brief bit of advice. Maybe you need to do a bit more research. Did you rush it? Maybe you are not eligible for some reason. If you make a kick-ass proposal and prepare your case well there is no reason why you shouldn't have some element of success.

Remember - you are allowed to get funds from more than one source, so if you're on a roll, keep going. But, don't be dishonest as getting funds under false pretences is not only unethical but you will probably find illegal... and it is very easy for them to find out!