Leadership forums and other similar educational conferences are often the hardest things to fundraise for, as the fundraiser (the applicant/delegate) usually isn’t a “trusted charity”, just a humble person, and therefore isn’t quite as trusted. It’s particularly hard when it’s an event with a big cost that needs to be cleared quickly. I have tried to fundraise multiple times for such experiences (not just this KaosPilots thing!) and I’ve not been successful.

I would like to invite all of you to visit Solidariti, an Australian blog dedicated to non-profits and social enterprise. Priscilla, the writer, has been accepted into the Benevolent Society‘s Sydney Leadership Forum, and needs at least $1000 to secure her place in the forum. She has about $180 so far and I’ve contributed $5.

To donate, go to her post on the event or just her blog in general and click on the ChipIn widget on the right column.

As for me: I’ve thought about it, and have actually received an offer from a friend (hey See Ming!), but it feels a bit weird. Mainly because:

  • It hasn’t worked well in the past, or becomes messy. To fundraise for the UN Youth Assembly last year, I set up a challenge to donate whatever I got to UNICEF Malaysia if I didn’t get my goal of $2300. I only raised $60. I sent that $60 to UNICEF Malaysia, which was a long complicated mess of Western Union fees and money transfers and post. I still don’t know if they received my money.
  • PayPal fees can eat up money – if it’s from another PayPal user, that’s fine, but most of my friends have credit cards but no PayPal. Bank transfers are an option, but that might eat up into the funds of anyone sending money internationally.
  • It feels weird to ask people I know for money, especially when I’m not in poverty (hell, as far as Malaysia is concerned I’m “rich”). This is mostly the result of my dad telling me “Don’t accept money from your friends! It’s shameful!” because it does give the impression that I’m begging and that my parents don’t want to support me at all. While this is a personal non-family-funded venture (out of both circumstance and personal choice), I can see how that reflects badly in Malaysian culture.

Personally I’d feel a lot better if I had something to offer or sell in exchange for money. Daniel and I are working on an entrepreneur e-book which would be a great way to go if we succeed. I’m also trying to think of other things I could sell, though it seems that I am much better at curating and selecting things for people than I am at actually making them. (Hey, does anyone need a personal gift shopper?) That said, this is what the ING Direct account was for, and when you are in a tight situation you simply can’t look gift horses in their mouths.

I am also thinking of throwing a party in Brisbane, as the people I know are big partiers and that could be a great source for fundraising. One of my friends actually holds parties as fundraisers for her uni club; perhaps I should ask her.

How else have people successfully fundraised for a personal venture such as a leadership course or youth forum? How do you not come off as an online beggar?


first batch of letters

The first batch of fundraising letters have been printed and are ready to post! This batch is going out to:

  • Bertel Haaarder, Ministry of Education (Denmark)
  • Birthe Ronn Hornbech, Ministry of Refugee, Immigration, and Integration Affairs (Denmark)
  • Brian Mikklesen, Ministry of Culture (Denmark)
  • The State Education Grant and Loan Scheme Authority (Denmark)

Each pack has a cover letter, a 2-page proposal (based off the one I sent to STA Travel), an abridged resume with references, and the KaosPilot syllabus from their website. It was the best I could do considering the Aarhus school doesn’t have a 2-minute document like the other schools do. Dad’s sceptical that I’ll get anything, but you never know unless you try!!

I spent most of yesterday gathering contact details and sending proposals for partnerships & columns by email. Even on the last and first days of the year, I’m still working. I wonder if it’s possible to actually take a break. On the one hand, I don’t think it would make THAT much of a difference if I skip one day writing letters. On the other hand, what if that one day made all the difference?

Such is the dilemma of a lazy workaholic!

In other news: my sister got engaged!! Yay!! 😀

I had been wary of informing my parents about my plans for the KaosPilots. They know I’m interested (they did know I went to Stockholm for the workshop there in November!) but so far they’ve been rather skeptical about the program. They would much rather have me finish my degree, stay in Australia for the PR, settle down, get a job. Get back to normal, essentially. Spending 3 years in Denmark while potentially sacrificing my degree seems like craziness.

In the past, when I tried to involve my parents in my international learning plans (Up with People, a UN conference, etc), I would have to face a lot of skepticism and pessimistic comments. “Why do you have to go? What’s the point?” It’s ironic that my dad would more readily buy a guitar the second I conceive of it but needs way more convincing to support my educational goals. They do come from slightly more traditional backgrounds – finish school, work, settle down. My way of life – jumping around from school to school, country to country, learning experientially – is still alien to them. They understand that this is how I learn best, but they still have a hard time comprehending that it’s what I need to thrive in life. To them, it’s like “why can’t she be normal?”. And sometimes I feel that way, but then that means I wouldn’t be myself.

I had not involved my parents in my fundraising so far. I don’t want them to give me a cent for this. They have paid for me in the past (mainly because my fundraising skills were nonexistent – I tried, really) but with that payment comes a certain degree of control, of obligation. “Oh, we always bailed you out, so you can’t ever get upset!” Considering that my parents often drive me and my sister crazy (anyone with the Typical Traditional Asian Parent can understand), this gets rather difficult. Also, my family’s relatively well-off status in Malaysian society (they’re not megarich but they are in the upper end of middle-class) means that I’m often not taken seriously for my efforts – “oh, she’s a rich man’s daughter, she’s privileged, she doesn’t know anything”. Sure, I’m hella privileged, but I went through most of the same things as a typical Malaysian – government school, exams, the lot. I didn’t even have public university as an option because of my citizenship. It’s unfair to dismiss my advocacy work in education simply due to my background, but that’s the reality of it.

Also, I’d rather be independent. I want to earn this. Every cent. I want to know that I got this because I earned my way in, not because I managed to pay for it. While I did earn my Up with People experience through my character and personality, I still have a feeling in the back of my head that one big factor was that I could afford to go without a scholarship (at US$14,500, it was a pinch, but doable). I did eventually earn the respect and friendship of my crew, which money can’t buy. But for this, I’d rather know that I earned it through my effort, my knowledge, my networks, my work. Not because I’m a leech.

So anyway. Somehow word got out to my dad that I was trying to get to Denmark. Perhaps one of my relatives who got an email or Facebook invite told him about it. He asked me what it was about and I told him that it was a business management program for 3 years that I was planning to take when I finished my degree. I told him that I had one year left (he was surprised that time flew so fast!) but that my final semester was all electives so I’m trying to get credit for them somehow. I told him that the KaosPilots were on BusinessWeek’s list of the Top Design Schools alongside Harvard and MIT (That got his attention).

Dad was fine with it.

It was me saying that I’d try to finish my degree early that sold him. As far as he’s concerned, once I’m done with the degree I can do whatever. He did tell me not to stress about it – he’s seen me stress out before and doesn’t want me to get sick! He’s a workaholic too, I inherited that from him. He got intrigued about their inclusion on a list that also has Harvard (he did a management course, might have been an MBA, in Harvard many years ago). He did say that if I could get money for it, if someone would pay me for it, then I can go. Which is basically what I’ve been trying to do anyway.

So great! One big hurdle down. It was less dramatic than expected (though I’m sure the drama would flare out even more as September comes closer, especially with Mum) and basically gave me free license to do my fundraising however I wish. Yay!