How do you fundraise to go to the Arctic and Antarctic?

Congratulations! You’ve been accepted to a Students On Ice expedition. You’re just a few steps away from walking onto the ship and into the wild. Students on our expedition come from diverse financial backgrounds, and while some are covered by generous sponsors or donors, others cover the cost of expedition themselves. However as any Students on Ice Alumni will tell you, everyone may encounter unforeseen personal costs that might require some additional funds: rubber boots, extra camera batteries, a new pair of gloves, etc. No matter how big or small fundraising is always possible and is a great skill to have. We touched base with a few staff and students and gathered some insights as to how they did it.

Caitlin Gilchrist (Arctic, 2016)

“When I first got accepted with a partial scholarship I was thrilled but also overwhelmed by the amount of money I would have to come up on my own.  I was awarded the Schad foundation scholarship but still had to come up with nearly $7000.

I first turned to family and friends and raised a little bit of money that way but barely made a dent in what I would need.  I had been working a part time job for about a year at that point so I had come up with about $2000 from my own savings.  I then turned to my community thinking of anyone and everyone I could contact. The worst that could happen was they ignore my email. I wrote up a two page letter explaining what Students On Ice is, how I got a scholarship, why I was so eager to go and what I would do in exchange for funds. I decide that one way I could give back to the groups and rotary clubs I turned to was presentations on my experience following the expedition. I turned to rotary clubs and Civitans not only in my community but any community near enough by that I could drive to. It sounds ridiculous but I got funds from places I least expected and not even a response from the ones I most expected. I also turned to local businesses and raised some money that way. When I got back I put together a slide show and a hour long presentation. I gave it to all the clubs who gave me funding and any schools or youth groups they wanted me to visit in their area. I talk to 3 or 4 schools and 2 other groups as well.

The fundraising seems very overwhelming and a lot of work but it was 100% worth it. I made connections, strengthened my public speaking skills and got out in my community. In some ways the fundraising taught me as much as the trip itself.”

caitlin-gilchrist-presentationJosh Thompson (Arctic, 2016)

“I applied originally for the 2015 Arctic Expedition. In order to participate, I had to fundraise the full cost of the trip. Due to the short window of time I had available, I asked Students On Ice if I would be able to defer my acceptance until the following year, and they agreed. Thanks to this far longer period of time in which I would be able to fundraise, I was able to raise all the funds I needed.

In order to raise the money, I employed as many methods as possible, rather than focusing on just one or two. One of the first things I did was set up an online funding campaign using GoFundMe. Using that site or other similar ones is a great way to make donating a very easy process, but it is key to publicize your donation page as much as you can. In my case, I was able to run a short piece in an online community newspaper for my area, which made my donation page far more visible. I also asked the group who maintain a highly used trail just outside of town if I could put a poster and donation jar at the head of the trail. I highly suggest pursuing this avenue of funding, whether you place a jar at a trail, park, or other outdoor recreational area. Outdoors lovers were eager to donate money towards my expedition for obvious reasons. Additionally, I approached the committee for a local festival and asked them if I could set up a table at the festival to raise money. I went to meetings for various local organizations such as the Legion, as well as local charities. All of these methods yielded small successes which added up, and there is one underlying theme which ties all of these donation sources together: community-minded people. By that, I mean searching for donations from the type of people who run organizations, who attend festivals, and who explore local outdoors areas will be successful because these people care about their community. I come from a town of just over four thousand people, and was able to raise all of the money I needed, so regardless of the size of your community just get out and start fundraising and you will find success.”

Caitlyn Baikie (Antarctic, 2013)

“I wrote a 1 page letter outlining why I wanted to go, how the experience fit into my career and life goals and what I would be doing on expedition. I sent this letter to different provincial government departments, and the Nunatsiavut Governement, that are relevant to the experience (climate change, fisheries, etc). If and where possible, take the time to get to know your provincial (or federal) departments and staff so they are familiar with who you are! Picking up the phone and calling them to let them know who you are and that you have a request for funding helps. It also allows you to ask the question of who in the department would be best to champion your request!”

Ushpreet Kaur Mehta (Arctic, 2016)

“I followed the expedition for three continuous years and finally decided to fundraise in order to participate – the total cost was $12k. I was absolutely terrified and kept doubting myself but it was the people around me who kept me going. First and foremost, my family, who deserves everything in the world for pushing me the entire summer to keep going after this dream. In the minutes before I would pitch the expedition to organizations in my community, I was so nervous and believed that no one would help. To my surprise, my community helped me more than I could have ever imagined. Friends that I haven’t spoken to in forever were willing to help. Municipal officials and MPP’s were offering their support to broadcast my expedition to their own network. Radio stations allowed me to share my story completely last minute. Complete strangers would contact me from my newspaper feature asking questions and wanting to help me fundraise. Businesses approached me and offered to contribute just because they’ve never heard of something like this before. That was it – little by little people from all over my community were helping and it was slowly becoming a reality. The power of having a community is so essential because I had zero success for sponsorships from large organizations and corporations. The people who helped me raise funds didn’t contribute because of their concern for climate change, they helped me achieve my goal because they believed in me and what I wanted to do. Perhaps the scholarship rejections were a blessing in disguise because the success and support that I received was incomparable.”

Gabi Foss (Arctic, 2015)

“I emailed businesses to ask for some of the clothing/shoe/camera gear on the expedition packing list. In exchange I offered pictures, blog posts, and presentations!”

Jodie Chadbourn (Antarctic, 2009)

“I went to local groups like the rotary club, etc with a letter. I also got the local paper to run a story about my trip and that I was looking for sponsors. For most places, I offered to do a presentation for their group when I returned, to show them how I used the money they provided.”

Jody Phibbs (Antarctic, 2013)

“I also wrote letters to gov’t officials (see Caitlyn’s post above) but my biggest success in raising funds was through a raffle. My mom handmade a quilt for me to raffle off. I also used radio and paper interviews. Any groups that donated (schools etc) were offered a free presentation upon my return.”

William Sanderson (Antarctic, 2014)

“Garage sales work well too, especially when you can get stuff from a bunch of people. Newspapers and Tv interviews are a good way to get the word out like a few people said. Bottle drives work well. I also made little coasters to sell to, if you can make some little trinket like that I found people like to buy things rather than just give a donation.”

Sarah Veber (Antarctic, 2014)

“I also did a lot of the things mentioned above, I gave myself about 3 months of planning to reach out to potential sponsors, visit community groups and organize fundraising events. It goes two ways, it’s important to stress what individuals/groups get in exchange for supporting you, whether that’s a follow up presentation, a report, a thank you note, etc”

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This website was made possible by a generous contribution from the Leacross Foundation.