Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Guest Post: Billy Beltz of Volunteer Forever

Volunteering is a very important activity in my life. Locally, I have been volunteering as a Wildlife Caretaker at a wildlife center close to where I live, and it has been one of the coolest and best experiences of my life. I've helped to take care of injured and orphaned wildlife (ducks, birds, squirrels, bunnies,  etc.) and I'm so glad I found a way to not only spend time around animals, but actually be a vital part of their health and well-being. 

I have never volunteered abroad but it has ALWAYS been on my bucket list and it is definitely in my future plans. One of the biggest issues that comes up though is how to help fund a volunteer trip. Billy Beltz, Co-founder and CMO of Volunteer Forever, provides some tips on how to fundraise to help keep costs down:

As you may have already discovered, participating in a quality volunteer abroad project is not cheap. Aside from the general program fee that a volunteer placement organization may charge, there can be other costs including travel to and from your chosen destination. All these expenses can add up and be discouraging to prospective volunteers. But don’t let financial barriers keep you from participating in such a meaningful activity! One solution is to use ‘crowdfunding’ to help raise funds for your trip and help supplement the cost of volunteering abroad.

Crowdfunding websites allow users to create a campaign page that conveys their story and fundraising needs in a simple yet powerful way, and provides them with the tools to promote the campaign to their extended network. If done correctly it can allow you to reach more people than you ever would have through traditional fundraising methods. Crowdfunding has been highly effective in helping people raise money for new business and creative projects, and Volunteer Forever is excited to bring the concept to the world of volunteering abroad.
Here’s how to get started:

First, make sure you’ve decided which volunteer project you’ll be participating in (if you’re unsure visit Volunteer Forever (www.volunteerforever.com) to read reviews and select a placement). Once you’ve chosen a project and determined the amount you need to fundraise, visit Volunteer Forever (www.volunteerforever.com) and sign up. It’s quick, easy and free. Setting up your page is the easy part- the success of your fundraising campaign is determined by what you do afterwards. Here are 5 quick tips to ensure you optimize your fundraising campaign:
  1. Tell Your Story. Your campaign page should be much more than the basic facts of where you’re going and how much money you need to raise. People respond to stories, so make sure your page explains yours. Why are you volunteering and what do you hope to achieve? What will their donations contribute towards? Don’t hold anything back- this is a life-changing experience, and the more enthusiastic you are about your trip the more likely it is they’ll get excited too.

  1. Share Your Page. Spread the word among everyone you can! This may include family, friends, past teachers, co-workers, community members, or even just people that you know on a Christmas-card basis. A good first step is to use the “Share” widget on your campaign page to promote the page through email, Facebook and Twitter.
    1. Ask Your Contacts to Share Your Page. Don’t limit your outreach to just people you think have the money to donate. One of the most powerful benefits of our crowdfunding platform is that it makes it easy for others to share your page and reach an exponentially larger network. So when you share your page, ask people to share it with their contacts as well! If you don’t ask they may not even realize how they can help.

  1. Reach Out to Local Media. Send a short press release to your local media about the campaign. Make sure to include your campaign page link in the press release so people know where to go to donate. If you’re not comfortable writing a press release you can contact your local media and tell them about your volunteer abroad story, and they’ll let you know what they need from you.

  1. Take Advantage of Holidays & Special Events. No matter what time of the year you’re running your campaign, there’s usually some kind of holiday or special event you can integrate into your campaign. Make donations to your campaign the first thing you ask for as a Christmas, birthday, or graduation gift. And use holidays or other family get-togethers as an opportunity to show everyone your campaign page in person all at once.

Steven Weddle (Founder & CEO) and Billy Beltz founded Volunteer Forever to make it easier for people to find and fund their volunteer abroad trips. The website features program reviews to help volunteers discover and select the right overseas placement, as well as a unique crowdfunding platform that allows users to tap into the power of their extended networks and raise funds for their trip more effectively. To learn more visit www.volunteerforever.com.

So, fellow travelers, where is your next volunteer destination? I'd love to hear your own stories, tips, and info!

Monday, October 1, 2012

It's Finally Fall!

Greetings and HAPPY OCTOBER!! I wrote that in shouty capitals because I'm having a hard time containing my excitement as October is one of my favorite months. 

I've enjoyed taking some beautiful drives in my area, but regretfully haven't had much time to stop and take some photos. Luckily, I remembered to bring my phone along as I was walking my dog and was able to snap a few. I really enjoy the little things in life and stepping on crunchy leaves while admiring the newly colored trees is probably one of my favorite things this time of the year.

Some of my other favorite fall activities:

Decorating with autumn/halloween decorations (already did this 3 weeks ago)
Drinking apple cider and pumpkin spice drinks
Watching scary movies
Going to apple orchards and pumpkin patches
Haunted houses
& Bonfires!

A Salute to Autumn

Here's to a wonderful October! What are your favorite fall activities?