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Fundraising for International Opportunities

July 6, 2012

By: Malika Jones

When was the last time you saw someone fundraising? If you’re a New Yorker–like me–you see this everyday! On a small scale from those in need begging in the subway stations to large scale charitable organizations “tabling” at community fairs in hopes of raising funds for a much-needed cure. The truth is that fundraising has become ingrained into the global culture of our society– it propels the altruistic intentions of humanity by enabling us to make a difference where it’s most needed. When we fundraise, we are not only raising funds, but we are also raising social accountability–the mindfulness and conscious awareness of some of the emerging social concerns in the world. We may not be able to solve all of the world’s problem’s at once, but little by little we can make this world a better place. This was the impetus for my fundraising initiative.
The Inspiration
InteRDom/CCNY Study Abroad Program in Urban Farming was the program of my dreams! It has always been an aspiration of mine to develop a sustainable urban organic food gardening project in my hometown of Far Rockaway, New York. It’s very difficult to find organic food in my community and if you’re lucky to find it, it’s very expensive. Many people want to eat organic, but unfortunately they don’t have the budget to eat as healthy as they should be able to. Therefore, the opportunity to partake in a service-learning based course on urban farming would 1) Enable me to develop urban gardens for 50 families in impoverished areas of the Dominican Republic 2)Grant me the opportunity to gain knowledge and experience necessary to develop urban farming systems in NYC 3) Opportunity for cultural enrichment. I was going to seize the opportunity by any means necessary. Unfortunately, financial complications were a major challenge in my ability to participate in this program that would complement perfectly my lifestyle and professional goals. With the knowledge and experience that I would gain in this service-learning program, I could return to my local community of Far Rockaway, NYC to educate residents on how they too could learn to grow their own produce using urban methods.
The Method
Originally, I assumed that I would find a department within the CUNY system to fund my study abroad experience. I went to every department and office I thought would be able to support my effort. Some of the departments I approached include: Biology, International Studies, Office of Student Affairs, Office of Student Life, the Dominican Studies Institute and the Dominican Studies Library. The answer from all the above-mentioned places was: “Sorry we can’t help you. We have no money.” It was pretty hard to believe that they didn’t have any sources to help fund my trip, but I kept on searching. The problem was that I came to the realization that I wouldn’t be getting any money from these departments only 3 days before I was scheduled to leave for the Dominican Republic. I had to think quickly. I consulted with a dear friend of mine who suggested that I start a fundraiser two days before the money was due. As bizarre as this sounds I was motivated to do it! He encouraged me saying “If you do not try you will not succeed.” Immediately I began fundraising on campus. reached out to other students and faculty members and tapped into the networks that I had: a non-profit of which I’m an active member , representatives from my councilman’s office, community activists I’ve worked with in the past, and other business professionals who I knew could get the word out and also contribute to my efforts.
I used to bring immediate awareness to the cause and my fundraising campaign. I did this by creating a flyer that I thought would attract people’s attention (you can view this flyer at the bottom of this blog post). The flyer was simple and straightforward. It included a picture of myself, a title succinctly expressing the action I wanted readers to take and two subtitles -explaining how studying abroad would help my community and my involvement in community projects. I highlighted my active participation in the Rockaway Youth Task Force non-profit organization. I encourage anyone fundraising to tap into the wealth of their social networks– whether it’s the non-profit of which you area member, soccer team, religious institution, council-member’s office or your parent/(s) job. It took me approximately 2 hours to go through a series of edits/revisions of the flyer until I was satisfied. This time may be more or less for you depending on the vision you have for your flyer and your skill level of achieving that.
I was elated to see all the positive feedback I was receiving. I had approximately 5 people who offered to donate within hours of seeing it on Facebook. I motivated people to donate by explaining how the trip would also benefit them as members of the community because I have plans to start an urban gardening project in my local community.
It was unfortunate that by then, I only had one more day to raise $800. If you consider fundraising online–which I highly recommend– it is necessary for you to set up a paypal account for donors to easily deposit money. It was difficult for me to collect the money donated because I had to travel to different people dispersed across the 5 boroughs in one day. I remember having to go to Brooklyn, then Harlem and then two opposite ends in Queens to pick up donations. It would have been much more time-efficient to have the money deposited online.
Another method of fundraising would be to physically go to the institutions and people that with whom you’re affiliated. Let them know what you’re doing, how they can help and how they will benefit. The benefit can be as simple as a sponsor on a presentation that you’ll show about your experience when you return. Get creative!

The Results
The results were that I raised approximately $500 in the two-day fundraiser. If I had begun fundraising from the time that I applied to the program I would have been able to raise funds to pay for the full program cost, the flight and the tuition– something I wish I would have done. The only reason I didn’t start an initiative like this in advance is because I wanted to be certain that I was accepted to the program before I began to solicit funds. I received a letter of acceptance on May 14, which gave me approximately 3-weeks to fundraise. I’m so happy that I pressed on and did not give up. That’s one thing any student conducting a fundraising should always remember. There were many people who said “no” but I knew that there were plenty others that would say yes. “Where there’s a will there’s a way,” always remember that.

I would like to send a special thank you to a dear friend, Amalu Jenkins, for encouraging me to initiate this fundraiser when I thought there was no solution to this problem. I learned there’s always a solution. You just have to find it–by any means necessary.
Also thank you to everyone who supported this initiative through encouragement and monetarily. You have helped me to better the lives of 50 families in the D.R. in a small but significant way. I will continue to make you proud!

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