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A Series of Fundraising Success Stories

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Written by: Vicky Philpott

It is no secret that taking a gap year is not cheap. The final cost will of course depend on all sorts of factors, and some trips are inevitably much more expensive than others. But either way, you will need a sizeable chunk of money, something that all the people featured here managed to achieve through various forms of fundraising. Read and be inspired!

Tori’s story

Amount needed: £5,300
Fundraising events: Face painting, karoake night, ‘Become a girl day’ and sitting in bath of catfood
A good way of raising money was face painting. I’m trained in face painting, I’ve had to do it for three of my previous jobs (and they train you each time!). I visited local boot fairs and sat in the corner with a big sign offering face painting for £2 a face. I start by face painting one kid for free. This is the best advertisement you can have! Once children see them, they all want it done.
Local events helped a lot too. I went into my local pub and asked if I could put on an event there. I discussed it with the manager, Kevin, and we eventually decided to do a karaoke night. I have my own karaoke machine and CD’s so I made a song list on the computer and got it laminated. I designed all the posters and stuck them around town and we agreed to charge £1 per song. The manager was sooo sweet, he said he wouldn’t take any of the profit (but I think he trebled it in bar sales!).

Sponsorship has helped me in a big way! I got sponsored to ‘become a girl’ for a day! I spend my whole life in trousers. I’m a complete tomboy. I don’t own a handbag, I haven’t worn a skirt since school when it was part of the school uniform, I own two pairs of comfortable trainers and no sandals, and if you showed me an eyelash curler, I would think it was some medieval torture device and run screaming for the hills… As you can tell, I am totally not a girlie girl.
Finally I got sponsored to sit in a bath of cat food for an hour. Work supplied the cat food and the event made over £1,200.

Laura’s story

Amount needed: £700
Fundraising event: 16 mile sponsored walk
To raise money for our African Conservation Experience, we knew we had to do some fundraising and we knew we had to something a little bit different. In the end we decided to do a walk in animal costumes. All we had left to decide was how many miles we were going to walk and the places we would go to. In the end we decided to walk from Brixham to Newton Abbot which is approximately 16 miles. We did the walk on November 26th 2004. I was dressed as a lion, Ben was a tiger and Lyn and Frankie both dressed as pink hippoes.
When the day of the walk came we were all nervous but very excited. We started the walk at 9am at Brixham Town and we eventually finished around 5pm after a couple of hour long breaks. We were lucky enough to get lots of money from people on the way, as well as lots of encouragemnt from people in cars after they heard what we were doing on the radio. In the end all of us raised around £700, so it was well worth it!

Graeme’s story

Amount needed: £200
Fundraising event: Busking
I have done busking before. I found the easiest thing was to improvise rather than following sheet music. Also, I busked during a children’s festival the first time and after that when tourists were getting off a cruise ship at the local dock. The one thing about this fundraising idea is that if you pick the right moments, you can make a lot.

One thing I learned was that having people chuck dirty money in my flute case was a bad idea – I had a time of it cleaning the money smell out. All in all, it was an awesome experience, especially the very first time someone dropped money in my case. Even when they didn’t, it felt awesome when someone would walk up to me quietly and compliment my playing. For me, this was a great fundraising experience.

Tracy’s story

Amount needed: £1,200
Fundraising events: 80’s themed disco and raffle
When my work placement with African Conservation Experience was confirmed, it quickly struck me that I was a broke student that needed to raise £4000 in the period of a few months. Initially, it didn’t seem like it would be a hard task as I was motivated and excited about working in South Africa. It turned out to be more work than I imagined.
I decided to have a fundraising 1980’s themed disco in the local town hall with a bar and a raffle to make money. The hall cost £140 to rent for the night. I needed to make as much money as possible so that I could cover all the costs of the night and still raise money! A friend suggested that I should buy all the drinks myself at supermarket prices and sell them on the night for a profit. I ended up buying 1000 beers and 30 bottles of spirits for the 200 guests that I expected on the night. I knew I probably wouldn’t sell it all so I made sure that the shop accepted returns so that I could get my money back on the excess.
I also wrote to large companies on the off-chance they might give me something for the raffle I was to hold on the night and I had a good response. I ended up getting donated drinks and merchandise, a DVD player and even a £100 meal for two at one of Scotland’s leading restaurants.
I didn’t really get to enjoy the night like everyone else did, because it was so much pressure, and I had to supervise the bar and make sure everything was running smoothly. I ended up making £1200. Some people had also been very generous and given me donations which amounted to another £600 on top of my profits from the night.

Beki ‘s story

Amount needed: £4,000
Fundraising event: Writing letters and sponsored run
I had to raise this much to go to Guyana and Venezuela – this included flights and kit. It’s amazing how much it all costs! At first I tried sifting through a book of charitable trusts and writing letters, after sending out loads and loads of letters, I finally got some responses and raised £200 this way.

I also decided to run the Flora Light Challenge for Women and got sponsorship from my friends and corporate contacts. I raised about £1500 this way – even my old school gave me £200.
I decided to be realistic and that I couldn’t put much more time into fundraising now that I was working full time, so it was through my job that I managed to raise the rest of the money. As my placement was a once in a lifetime experience, the very long hours didn’t really matter.
My message to all fundraisers would be that it is possible to raise money, especially if you have loads of passion for your placement or destination. I did it, so there’s no reason why you can’t too.

Sarah’s story

Amount needed: £4,000
Fundraising event: Fashion show
I organised a fashion show, a three-day event with models, music, food, raffles, amazing prizes and raised £11,000. £5,000 repaid the loan from my parents to pay for insurance, the deposits for the lighting, disco etc. £1,000 went to Cancer Research. £4,000 for my placement in Mexico and then the rest for the trip where I travelled around the country afterwards.
I thought about a gap year since the age of 14. I wanted to do something constructive and never thought it’d be as expensive as it was. I thought ‘Wow this is going to cost a lot of money!’ I thought I would work for six months but then fell on feet with mum working with Cancer Research and having the idea for the fashion show, definitely more rewarding than sitting in an office from 9 to 5! I was terrified that we wouldn’t sell the tickets to cover the costs but had loads of publicity on Capital FM and Kiss FM and all the local newspapers and the place was packed.
We held it over three days in the Landmark Arts Centre, Teddington. It was really hard work, getting the models (mates) to come down and practice and the odd problem like not having clothes racks for the clothes. I would definitely do it all again in an instant and am going to do the same for my sister. It was definitely worth it. If I can do it, anyone can do it. I hope more people do go through with it, if not, they’re missing out!

Simon and Kate’s story

Amount needed: £1000
Fundraising events: Concert, parachute jump and sponsored silence
I did lots of fundraising, playing in a band around Buxton, organising a concert and doing a parachute jump. I also managed to get donations from the local Round Table and Lions Club.
I worked weekend jobs and have done sponsored events. I did a sponsored silence that everyone was very grateful for – 24 hours – it was brilliant! I also organised concerts. My school was very supportive as were some of their friends who went around the pubs in fancy dress collecting money.
It is quite daunting and I had to have courage, but so many are doing gap years nowadays. It can be a lot of money, but raising it can be done. Between us we wrote loads of letters and got sponsorship from Lions, Rotary and local charities, but none from companies. We didn’t actually know about the local charities, but then found out from a friend about one and they were very generous. If you are fundraising for a charity it is a lot easier as the money goes to the communities.

Sarah’s story

Amount needed: £1300
Funrdraising event: Halloween supper
I did a spot of spooky fundraising in order to fund my teaching and conservation project. By organising a Halloween supper and quiz at the restaurant where I worked part-time, I raised £1300 in just one evening.
I plan to spend three months in Ecuador. For ten weeks I will teach English in the country’s capital, Quito, followed by a four-week stint doing conservation work. To finance my placement, I needed to raise vital funds to cover training and placement fees, flights, vaccinations and also food and accommodation for my time overseas.
I work at a restaurant, so it seemed like the obvious place for me to raise money towards my trip. My boss kindly cooked the food the Halloween supper – clearly she knows why I’m a waitress and not a kitchen worker! She also provided the premises, food and use of equipment free of charge. My placement will do some really valuable work in an underprivileged part of the world, so I’m really pleased that people were so generous with their support.
I also had some support from my company’s press office who wrote a press release to advertise my event. It worked! I was in three newspapers with sizeable articles and one had a photo. We were inundated with phone calls we had to turn away at least 50 people. It was also good for the restaurant as they got extra bookings as a result. The restaurant only actually serves 54 people and we got 73 people in with 20 chairs borrowed form the local sports hall. Very cosy! Also a photographer came which I was really pleased about. It goes to show what can be achieved when you really put your mind to it.

Stuart’s story

Amount needed: £2950
Fundraising event: various
I decided to spend my gap year doing a six-month AFS project in Brazil. I needed to raise £2950, and here’s how I did it:

  • First I did a couple of car boot sales on consecutive days, and raised nearly £50
  • I did a sponsored headshave (my hair was getting too long for most people’s liking), and I raised nearly £80
  • I wrote to my local MEP and got £50
  • I got three friends of the family to give me a total of £40
  • I saved around £460 from working at Asda
  • My Dad raised over £600 doing a sky dive
  • I approached my old school, and in return for putting up a website and giving talks about my project, they pledged me £200
  • I approached NUS via my student liasons officer and they pledged me £200 from a party
  • I have had money from my parents (around £200 so far)
  • I cross-dressed for a day in college, and raised around £1170
  • Two talent contents: £500
  • College pool tournament: £500

Katie’s story

Amount needed: £3,550
Fundraising event: various
I had to raise enough to cover the cost of my gap year, which I spent teaching in rural China. I actually ended up raising £4,350 – which was £800 over target – and all this while still at school. Here’s how…

  • Most of my funding came from charitable trusts. I spent around 20 hours in libraries looking through directories of charitable trusts. This gave me 110 addresses of trusts who might consider giving me a grant – I sent a letter to all of them. The response rate was about 10% positive, 30% negative, 60% no response. The average contribution was £280 which made the total funds from this source very high.
  • I spent six hours designing a fundraising leaflet on the computer. I sent these out with all my letters, and also handed them out to anyone who’d take one and left them in my local pub etc.
  • I was interviewed twice by local papers to raise publicity.
  • I handed out Smarties tubes to friends and neighbours. Once people had eaten the Smarties, they filled the tubes with 20 pence pieces. When they returned them they were entered into a prize draw to win something with a Chinese theme…
  • I had a stall at my old primary school’s Christmas Bazaar. I sold homemade jam made from berries from the garden and had a raffle to win a bottle of Glenfiddich whiskey. I also received a lot of money in donations at the bazaar.

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