The term "crowd funding" may be fairly new, but the idea of getting someone else to pay for your trip is old news—really old. Even Chris Columbus convinced someone else to bankroll his travels (actually, a few people: the Queen of Spain and a handful of rich Italians all pitched in for his journey).
Asking other people to pay for your next vacation isn't as selfish as it sounds, either; it's a realistic way to see the world, fund your projects, and actually give back to your community when you don't have the money to do so totally on your own. The best part? It's not as unrealistic as it sounds. Here, six steps for crowd funding your next vacation—discovering the New World obviously not required.
Step 1: Find the right platform
Raising money from a large number of people means signing up for an account on a popular online crowd-funding platform, but be cautious when choosing the right one for you. Kickstarter.com might seem like the obvious choice, but it has a strict rule against "fund my life" campaigns; only choose this platform if you have a project in mind, like making a documentary about the Serengeti or shooting a photo book on the spice markets of India. No project in mind? Try Indiegogo, GoFundMe, FundAnything, or Trevolta, which is not a "Saturday Night Fever" fan forum, but an online community where you can attract corporate sponsors looking to help regular people travel. If you have a wedding coming up and can live without fine china and new towels, ask guests to fund your honeymoon through Honeyfund.com.
Beware: Kickstarter won't award you a cent of the money you raise if you don't reach your crowd-funding goal, so be realistic when setting one. On the other hand, some sites, like Indiegogo, will allow you to keep what you raise even if you don't match your goal, but will enact a percentage penalty.
Step 2: Have a compelling reason for your trip
Everyone has ideas. Everyone wants a free trip. Hell will freeze over before a stranger will use their hard-earned money to send you on vacation—unless you have a good reason for asking them to help out. You'll have to prove you're in this for the right reasons and have a compelling enough story to actually convince people to contribute to your travel fund.
Maybe your idea is to travel to every clam shack in New England to gather the best seafood recipes for a new book, or maybe you want to turn your travels into a how-to web series. Maybe you figured out where the Fountain of Youth is and want to prove it. Noble, funny, heartfelt: Whatever your reasons, make them powerful enough to convince someone to part with the money they could be spending on their own trip.
Step 3: Give back
Most crowd-funding sites allow you to offer rewards for incremental donation amounts, so come up with some incentives, like offering framed photo prints from your trip to donors who give $100, or postcards stamped by the local post office for donations between $30 and $50.
Step 4: Add in some bells and whistles
Professional-looking photographs are eye-catching. A funny video can go viral. Whatever you do, make sure your crowd-funding page is visually appealing and well planned. If you want to go scuba diving in Australia, upload pictures of yourself learning how to dive with your dad when you were a kid. If you want to visit a sloth orphanage in Costa Rica, make a video of yourself covered in your collection of toy sloths or going through your daily routine really, really slowly to prove your dedication. The more engaging and interesting your crowd-funding page, the more convincing it will be.
Step 5: Get feedback before you post
Send out a draft of your crowd-funding plea to close family and friends before you post; they may have ideas on how to make it more entertaining and convincing. Remember, you're asking for free money—probably a smart move to make sure you aren't coming off as entitled or desperate.
Step 6: Spread the word
Once your crowd-funding site is live, get the word out. Use your social-media accounts to ask for help, email supportive coworkers, and send letters to your extended family. Get creative: Send your friends postcards from trips you took together to remind them of your passion for travel, or post a clip from your campaign video to Instagram with a link to your page. Don't spam your friends (that's just rude), but do make sure they know what you're doing. If crowd funding feels like begging for a free trip, it is—but it's also a smart way to travel and fund your dream project, so don't feel bad about it.
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