Taking a gap year sounds great right?! Especially if you feel that’s what God’s called you to do. That’s what I felt, I thought, “yeah, great, God wants me to take this gap year, let’s do it!”… It’s not until I started looking into all the different gap year opportunities that I realised that this was going to cost me quite a bit of money.
After much consideration, correspondence and prayer, I felt that God was calling me to go with Tearfund to Malawi. Great! But, wait… What? £thousands?! The thought of finding so much to fund the trip was daunting.
Tearfund sent over details and suggestions of different ways to fundraise for the trip, so almost as soon as I was accepted onto the Malawi team in mid October, I began some intense brainstorming with my parents to see how we could raise some of this target.
For each month I had left, I organised some form of fundraiser: November Quiz Night, December Rice & Beans Challenge and Coffee Morning and finally, a January Entertainment Evening.
Here are some things I’ve learnt along the way:
1. You’re not on your own.
So many people will be ready to support you: trust me, you’ll be surprised! I considered all the people that I knew and who I could ask for support, for example, we had a friend of a friend who was a professional quiz master. I’d never met the man but by taking that first step and asking whether he would be willing to host the evening, I was very pleasantly surprised when he agreed to my proposition, and even more surprised when he said he would do it free of charge as it was for charity!
2. Don’t be scared!
People will respond much better if you’re willing to talk with them about why you’re fundraising. I’ve had great opportunities to share my passion for serving others and the amazing work that Tearfund are doing just by being open to discussion. I don’t even want to know how many times I’ve answered the question “so, what will you be doing out there?” because it’s just too many, but, just think, how cool is it that people are genuinely really interested?!
3. Do a raffle.
I wrote a letter to all sorts of shops and restaurants in town explaining a bit about myself (gap year student with a place at the university of Bath etc.) and explained that I was going to Malawi via the charity Tearfund (note: include the charity number) and wrote a little paragraph about the work I’d be doing out there. I asked whether the company could support me by donating a raffle prize to help raise money.
I phoned up every shop and restaurant that I’d targeted as ‘potential raffle givers’ and asked for the name of the manager. This took up quite a bit of time but I’d recommend it as it adds a personal touch rather than addressing the letter with ‘Dear Manager’.
I went round and personally handed the letter to the managers and sometimes they would tell me to hang on a second and give me something for the raffle there and then. Out of the 30 companies I asked for support, I received 23 raffle prizes! It’s time consuming but so worthwhile! Everyone loves a raffle right!?
4. Write a letter to your local banks.
Some banks are part of a match funding scheme which means that they have a budget that allows them to match money that are raised in charity fundraisers. Again, I wrote a bit about myself and the work I’d be doing with the charity, and addressed the letter to the manager. I visited each branch and the response was usually “we’ll give you a ring in the week” or “call by next week” which was a bit disappointing really.
My best advice: pester them!! Don’t let the opportunity slip by! If they don’t ring back that week, call by the branch the following week.
I felt I was being a nuisance but the result was definitely worth it! HSBC bank match funded my quiz night and Barclays Bank match funded my Entertainment Evening. With both banks on board, this brought in an extra £1,425!
5. Have a coffee morning.
A two-hour coffee morning on a Saturday brought in an amazing £280 and all that was required were eager cake bakers and customers. Dad, bless him, was out on the street in high vis jacket holding a sign directing people into the church lounge for some coffee and cake! Hilerious. Oh, and another bonus: left over cake?… Sell them at church the following morning! That brought in another £90. I can tell you from experience that church goers have a special place in their hearts for cake.
6. Do the Rice and Beans challenge.
I also did a five day Rice and Beans Challenge where for five days I ate nothing but two small portions of rice and beans. It was a great opportunity for work colleagues to sponsor me and for people to donate via Just Giving. I did a load of advertising the challenge over Facebook and the response was great as lots of people gave generously. The challenge was no walk in the park- it was very tough being hungry all the time but it helped to open my eyes to the huge problem of poverty and hunger that exists in Africa and other third-world countries.
7. Write to your local newspaper.
I wrote to two of my local newspapers and to my surprise, the journalists were really interested (although this could be because nothing exciting happens where I live!!) Within a few days I had an article in both papers along with a big photo of my smiling face. Although this could seem a bit cringy (my parents bought a few copies for grandparents, aunties, uncles etc!!) I’d just go for it anyway, even if it’s just to promote Tearfund’s amazing work. Don’t forget to add your JustGiving link, just in case though!
Ask The Lord to be with you through this and He will because He is faithful. These verses in Matthew are great: “Ask, and God will give to you. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will open for you. Yes, everyone who asks will receive. Everyone who searches will find. And everyone who knocks will have the door opened.” How amazing is that?!
So much to my surprise, by some divine miracle, the money kept rolling in and by now, OVER £3,500 has been raised!!
Makes me laugh really ‘cause I still can’t believe it. I wouldn’t have believed anyone if they’d told me at the very start of this journey that I’d be possible to fundraise it all, but hurrah, it’s been done! God has truly been on the case and I feel so blessed.
So please, don’t be discouraged or afraid by what seems like an impossible task, because it is possible if you’re ready to put in the time and dedication.
If you’re thinking of applying to Tearfund or you’re in the middle of fundraising for your trip, I’d encourage you to go for it and do it whole heartedly, trusting that God will provide and you will be blown away by people’s kindness and God’s desire to bless you.