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From art exhibitions to tote bags: two volunteers getting creative to fundraise

If you’ve signed up to do ICS, I’m going to bet it’s because you want to push yourself out of your comfort zone, do something that maybe you’d never imagined you’d be doing and learn something new.

You learn so much on an ICS placement, but trust me - it doesn’t start the day you get on that plane. It starts from the day you send in your application. Fundraising is a huge part of that learning journey.

VSO ICS volunteer Sam Delph-Janiurek recognised this early on: "I chose to volunteer with VSO partly because I wanted to push myself during the fundraising period.”

Fundraising can be challenging, but it really sets you up for your placement and helps prepare you for other challenges you will inevitably face along the way.

As well as wanting to challenge himself, Sam also used the fundraising as a way to further skills and knowledge he’d wanted to build on for some time.

As an art student from Newcastle, he says, “I had been waiting for the chance to host my first solo exhibition as practical experience for the show that I will have to put together next year as part of my degree, so the fundraising came at a good time!”

He successfully organised an incredible exhibition called ‘Depths’ in his local bookshop with a suggested entry fee of £3. In order to boost his funds, he also organised a tombola which he hosted on the night!

By organising a fundraising activity that tied in so closely with his own interests and personal goals, he got so much out of his fundraising.

Art student Sam Delph-Janiurek held an exhibition in his local bookshop, charging £3 per person
© ICS / Sam Delph-Janiurek
Art student Sam Delph-Janiurek held an exhibition in his local bookshop, charging £3 per person

But that’s not to say it was an easy feat. “I had to apply for funding from organisations associated with my university and local art scene to help with hiring the venue, had to get works, posters, flyers and booklets printed and secure extra equipment and refreshments for guests”.

However, Sam said that this has led to him gaining “a much more professional understanding of my own artwork after making a case for it to funding committees, promoting it everywhere I could, and then exhibiting it to the public and developing new network."

"I was very daunted and apprehensive at the start of the fundraising project, but received the encouragement and guidance from my Fundraising Support Officer that I needed to get going. Despite pulling some all nighters, the challenge and the outcome were very rewarding."

It’s completely normal to feel a bit nervous about the fundraising, as Sam says, so make sure you keep in touch with your FSO. We are there to help you no matter what stage you’re at!

In the same way that you start learning well before your placement, it doesn’t end when you get home! We want you to take those amazing skills and all that learning that you’ve gained from your fundraising and ICS placement and apply it to your community and life here in the UK.While fundraising, Sam saw potential links which he can build on when he returns. "After promoting the charity and my own work, I feel a lot more prepared for my Action At Home project after the summer.” Amazing work Sam!

"Despite the all nighters, the challenge and the outcome were very rewarding," said Sam
© ICS / Sam Delph-Janiurek
"Despite the all nighters, the challenge and the outcome were very rewarding," said Sam

Staying with the ‘learn something new’ thread, next up we have Balloon ICS Team Leader, Alison Whiting. Ali came up with a stonker of a fundraising idea and decided to put her entrepreneurial spirit into action before her placement!

She bought 50 simple cotton tote bags and came up with five designs relating to different aspects of her trip: a lion for East Africa, a big balloon and some little balloons for Balloon Ventures, a series of 'more than' signs (>) relating to growing businesses, and a 'be bold' text graphic about the adventures of starting a business and volunteering abroad. 

Bag design and printing was new to Ali, so she did her research and then dedicated time to learning a new skill!

She drew each design onto Lino printing blocks - but you could also use potatoes! - carved them out to make stamps, and then printed the images onto the bags with printing ink. After leaving them to dry, she ironed them to make them machine washable, and added little labels to each bag!

To get the attention of her friends and family, Ali created a group on Facebook and explained a bit about the trip, ICS and Balloon Ventures, and asked for £5 for each bag, with donations given to her JustGiving page.

But as Ali found out, "most people have donated extra on top of buying one, which has been really great.”Not only is this a brilliant money maker, but through linking her fundraising to aspects of her placement country and placement work theme Ali managed to encourage support and buy-in from her donors from the off!

Balloon ICS Team Leader Ali produced 50 tote bags with designs relating to her placement
© ICS / Alison Whiting
Balloon ICS Team Leader Ali produced 50 tote bags with designs relating to her placement

If you start fundraising before knowing where you’ll be going on your ICS placement or being told your project theme you can still ensure that your activities reflect the ethos of ICS and highlights or bring attention to topics that are in keeping to our work and vision, like the £5 food challenge, a talk in your local community about local issues and the importance of active citizenship - how about a Walk to Work challenge?

Not only will this get you thinking about your placement before you leave but will also show your potential donors how invested you are in the work, thereby demonstrating your sincerity to the cause and ensuring support from those around you!

We’ll give the last word here to Ali – “After a lot of initial stress and panic, I've really enjoyed this project. I was incredibly nervous about asking my friends and family to donate money, but have determinedly stepped out of my comfort zone and surprised myself with how bold I can be when I need to.

"It's been great reviving my creativity, and has given me a bit of the entrepreneurial bug!”

We salute you Ali and your tote-ally awesome fundraising idea!

Until next time folks!