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How to Crowdfund Your Travel Expenses

Published by Salvador Briggman. Find him on Twitter.

Ever since the launch of Trevolta, a crowdfunding site for trips, I’ve been getting questions about how to crowdfund travel expenses and finance journeys outside of the country. Whether you are a student and want to study abroad, a member of a church or religious organization and want to plan a mission trip, or simply want to explore the world, you can incorporate crowdfunding into your travel plans.

Keep in mind that Trevolta is not the only crowdfunding website for travel expenses. You can also make use of Indiegogo, GoFundMe, and Kickstarter (if the funds go towards a specific project). That being said, let’s dive right in and get to the meat of why you are here!

Step 1: Get a Clear Vision of Why People Would Support Your Journey.

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While it’s tempting to create a crowdfunding page in an afternoon, throw it up in the evening, and hope that by the time you wake up in the morning, you’ll have raised a bunch of money from amazing supporters, that just doesn’t happen.

Instead, you need to first think about why people would want to support your journey and what value you can bring them in exchange for their hard earned cash.

This analysis might not be as necessary if you are seeking a small amount, and are able to raise it from your close friends and family. These are the people who know and love you, and would support you no matter what. However, it will be critical if you are hoping for support outside of that small network.

classroom-510228_1280For example, let’s say that you are raising money for a mission trip to El Salvador, a poor latin american country, where you will be teaching children, exposing them to good role models, and attempting to encourage them to pursue peaceful behaviors, rather than a life of gang-violence and drugs.

Rather than asking people to give you money so that you can pay for the expenses to volunteer, you should think about why they would want to support your cause. If they are a part of your religious organization, how are you forwarding that org’s mission and goals? How are you bringing your religions values to other parts of the world? Why will this experience make you a better person and more inclined to have a larger positive impact when you return?

Instead of supporting a larger charity, members of your church could receive real-time photo and video updates from you throughout your travels. They could directly see how their money is making an impact.

In addition, it’s likely that members of an organization tend to look to leaders in that community for advice and guidance. If you are able to convince a higher up member that your cause is worthy, then others who might be skeptical of the technology or mission, may be more willing to listen to your proposal and support it!

Takeaway: You must brainstorm reasons why members of your network would feel compelled to support you and then use those points as a basis for a good pitch. 

Step 2: Begin a Marketing Campaign That Involves Supporters

When I say a plan that “involves” your supporters, I mean coming up with a way to both spread awareness about your initiative, get feedback, and attract followers that care about your mission, cause, or what you’re doing.

That might seem impossible, but if you take a second to think about it, there are countless travel bloggers, youtubers (vlogger), and podcasters who are able to use their talents to involve people in their life and make them care about a particular topic.

A few ideas to get started:

– Start a blog on wordpress, tumblr, or medium. Blog a minimum of 1 post per week leading up to the launch of your campaign. I would start as soon as possible (even if that’s a year in advance). Be sure to set up an email capture form and prominently display your social media accounts so that people can keep up to track with your progress.

– Start a youtube vlog or series that brings to attention to the reason for your trip. It will show people that you really are passionate about X and give them time to get used to the idea.

– Ask people to sign up to a weekly newsletter where you will be sharing updates leading up to the trip and throughout your travels.

– Host a party (you provide food or drinks) where the proceeds will be used to jumpstart your fundraising campaign. Make sure you get everyone in that party to share your initiative on their social media channels and subscribe to your newsletter. You could use a tool like Thunderclap to coordinate everyone’s social media pledge or Aweber to host your email list.

What if the trip is “for fun?”

I think these types of trips are a bit more difficult to gather support for. If the “for fun” trip is related to a major life event like a wedding or a graduation, rather than asking for gifts or other showings of congratulations, you could ask people to consider pledging to your crowdfunding campaign.

For example, this Wallstreet Journal Article reported that “Gerald and Rachel Monaco, a San Francisco couple, decided to ask their wedding guests for $9,000 for a honeymoon to Finland.” Although the couple only raised $1,900, they were able to make the trip through a combination of the campaign, monetary gifts not given through the crowdfunding platform, and their own savings.

You could also consider coming up with some interesting rewards or perks for contributors, like bringing home gifts from abroad or hosting a dinner when you get back where you cook authentic cuisine.

Step 3: Make it Easy To Give.

money-494165_1280In this article we talked about how crowdfunding has not yet gone mainstream. There are a lot of people in your network that won’t know what crowdfunding is, whether or not it’s safe, and how they can contribute to your campaign.

I’d recommend making a simple PDF or graphic overview that will explain what you are doing, what crowdfunding is, and how individuals can support you. Think dead simple and provide a step-by-step walkthrough for non-tech savvy users.

Don’t forget to emphasize the time-sensitive nature of the crowdfunding campaign. Most people (myself included) have a bias towards laziness. If people read your email or see your Facebook post, they might want to support it, but simply forget or put it off, because it’s not urgent. A specific deadline will help motivate your backers to get up off their butts and contribute while they can!

Ultimately, you  know your network better than anyone else. By spending an hour thinking about some of the common FAQs that will come up, you will save yourself some headache and also ensure that more people will pledge, rather than ignoring your document or clicking off it because they don’t fully understand the project.

Step 4: Use Social Proof and Shout-outs. 

With email, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Snapchat, it’s easier than ever to get lost in the swarm of social feeds.

One way that you can improve the chances others will see and pay attention to your messages is to leverage the social proof behind your initiative. If your relatives see that other members of your family have already supported you, they will be more likely to pledge to your project. If you mention a friend on Facebook and thank them for pledging, they will probably like that post and possibly re-share it, making it more likely it will stand out in your friends’ and their friends’ feeds.

If you’re planning your trip abroad with a particular organization or university, ask if you can use their logo on your fundraising page. It will raise the credibility of your crowdfunding campaign and if it’s successful, it could be a good PR piece for that university, which could lead to further contributions or good press.

Step 5: Don’t Give Up & Alternative Solutions

You can take all of these steps, read my other tips, and you still might not be successful initially or in the long run. Rather than being tempted to give up, you should evaluate the actions you are taking and their results. What is working? What isn’t? This data will be different for every campaign.

There are sites like GoFundMe that will allow you to continually raise money over a long duration. You can use this time to figure out the best way to approach your network and communicate your project. Even if you are not successful, you will learn a tremendous amount from running a crowdfunding campaign.

Depending on your skill set, there are many other ways to finance your lifestyle while traveling abroad or during the time leading up to the trip. If you are volunteering while on the trip, you could consider some of these fundraising ideas. If you are studying abroad, you could use this opportunity to set up an online business or start a blog, which can help bring in some extra income. Let me know via comment, and I’ll point you to some good resources to help you start!

Where are you looking to travel? Let me know in a comment below!

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  • Great concept whereby Crowdfunding a ]journey means the people can bring the funders on the journey with you in terms of updates Video and photos.

    The most important factor I feel in this area is the reason for the journey in the first place. This is what people will buy into ultimately.

    • CrowdCrux

      Good point about bringing people on the journey with you :). I agree, the reason is paramount to convincing supporters why they should fund it.

  • Pär Linder

    Great article and good instructions, interesting is that it follows the same patterns as for a normal crowfunding project! I agree upon the fact that going on a specific mission where you try to support people is an easier way to get funded than pure travelling. However, I could definitely support e.g. someone’s wedding trip if it’s done in a fun and creative way but in addition it probably has to be some kind of “never been able to afford an intercontinental flight” for it to spread and of course use low buy-in-levels of pledging ($2, 5, 10). I love the fact that this can make any persons dream come true, just by trying to use the tools and platforms that already exists!

    • CrowdCrux

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Hope we’ll see this area of crowdfunding grow in the future!

  • Ryan Chase

    London for my 30th birthday! http://www.gofundme.com/xemfw4

    • CrowdCrux

      Not sure what you are asking?

  • Scot Hunter

    3+ years around the world on a motorcycle to raise funds for organizations fighting child sex trafficking. The organizations I’m supporting already exist as non-profits, but the trip itself I’m trying to entirely self-fund through my limited retirement income. I’m now thinking of crowdsourcing to help support the trip itself. I already have a web site with blog operating: ridingforhope.net This article has been incredibly helpful.

  • Line Speed Jedi

    Great article. Thanks