As the application deadline for the Indonesia Coffee and Storytelling course approaches (April 11th) we are shifting into high gear raising scholarship funds. Both of us who lead Forest Voices relied on scholarships and financial aid to get through college, so we understand what it’s like to be on a tight student budget, and we want to help you out as much as we can.
It’s easy to look at a program fee or airline ticket and be discouraged if you don’t happen to have those funds on hand. But that’s no reason to rule out an experience like this; we feel strongly that a life-changing experience is worth some creative searching in order to find funds. We do it for our own projects, and we are doing it right now to help raise scholarship funds for this program. We have a long list of people and organizations we are reaching out to with requests for help and we hope you will join us in that collaboration.
For students who may be applying for scholarship funds and also working hard to raise funds on their own, we recognize that the $500 application fee may be a barrier. Because of that we have waived that fee for students applying for scholarships. Please let us know when you submit your application, and we will be in touch about funding strategies and options.
Based on our experience, we’ve put together this list of suggestions of ways you may be able to to find some support for the program fee and airfare to join the Storytelling for Action course this summer:
Approach faculty and deans your department or college. Explain the project, how you will benefit from it, and ask if they have ways to support you or ideas of where you could apply for funding. If you make a strong case, you may be surprised at the resources available that may not have been advertised.
Meet with your financial aid office to talk about your resources and options. You may be able to apply part of this year’s or next year’s financial aid package if you take the course for credits. If you have an AmeriCorps education award, you can definitely apply that. (You can contact us for more details on how that works.)
Approach local businesses and ask if they will sponsor you. Is there a roaster or coffee shop in your hometown that is proud of its fair trade offerings or the origins of its coffee? A bookstore that values good storytelling and hosts community events like readings and talks? Offer to supply some images and stories or give a presentation when you return, in thanks for their sponsorship and help.
Identify organizations and groups that support cultural exchange, sustainable farming practices, or international development, and ask them for help. Some ideas include: local Rotary Clubs, Lions Clubs, groups of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, the AAUW.
Ask your family and friends to contribute directly, even in small amounts. Noah and I have asked our own parents, siblings, cousins, friends and colleagues to contribute to your scholarship fund. Many of them have said yes, and they don’t even know you! How many people would have to make a $10 or $20 donation, in order to meet your needs? Consider hosting an event and sharing a meal to make your case to family and friends, asking for contributions. We have some ways we can help you with these kinds of efforts, too--providing roasted coffee or prints to offer as thanks to substantial donors.
Reach out to your social network via Facebook, Kickstarter or Indiegogo. We funded our first coffee roaster by offering shares from our own Facebook network and have friends who have successfully crowd sourced a variety of initiatives. As people who have both run and contributed to campaigns, it feels great to be part of something. You might be surprised at how happy people are that you've asked!
Regardless of who you are approaching, here are a few tips to help make your ask more effective:
1. Share some of the course materials with the person you are asking for support to help them understand the program and how you will benefit from it. You can download a course flyer and a copy of the syllabus from links on the course page, as well as sharing the course page and stories from the blog about the farmers we’ll work with. If you are meeting with a business, or someone you don't know directly, make sure you make an appointment and prepare in advance with materials to share.
2. Lay out a clear budget of what level of financial support you need so you are making a specific request and people can see how their contribution fits in. This also helps you understand how many people you’ll need to pitch in, at what level, and where to focus your efforts.
3. Be prepared with some ideas of how you could give back in thanks for the support. Remember, storytelling skills and good stories are at the heart of this course, so you will come home with some great material. As you talk with potential sponsors, offer to share some of the images you capture, and to write a newsletter article or blog post for their organization or business. If you find an external, large donor that is not a direct family or friend, we are willing to part with some of our direct trade coffee to help seal the deal. Contact us about this. Even Noah, on his recent visit to Indonesia, engaged in a little bit of fundraising work between all the farmer visits and logistics-arranging. Remember, just like us working with farmers, you also need to build trust with your supporters!
4. Recognize that not everyone you ask will be able to help out right now, and that’s okay. Be sure to thank them for meeting with you or listening to your request, and ask if they have any contacts or connections who might be able to help.