The work of Global Medical Brigades is supported by donation goals raised by each student volunteer in preparation for their Brigade. Beyond covering trip costs, these donations are one way we sustain in-country operations all year long.
Fundraising for your brigade might feel overwhelming, particularly if you haven’t done much fundraising in the past. But don’t fear — our resources make it simple!
Your Global Medical Brigades team is here for any questions you have in the process. Below, we’ve provided a guide to help you understand what your donation goal is, the best ways to raise funds, and how to overcome the most common objections and challenges you may hear.
Global Medical Brigades is the largest student-led movement for global health.
How Donation Goals Work
Each volunteer has a specific Donation Goal based on their brigade location and the volunteer’s country of origin. Brigade chapters work together to fundraise to reach these goals together. Typically, these start around $2,600 per student.
Understanding donation goals is the first step in fundraising for a medical brigade with Global Medical Brigades. These goals cover vital aspects of your brigade experience, including your travel, accommodation, food, and airfare.
But more than just your personal expenses, these goals contribute significantly to the overall work of Global Brigades. Donation Goals support efforts, such as:
- Procuring medical supplies and pharmaceuticals
- Administrative costs of running these programs
- Local staff compensation
Your goal represents both your financial commitment and the positive impact of your efforts on the brigade's objectives and the organization as a whole.
9 Fundraising Ideas for Your Brigade
One of the most challenging parts of fundraising is often choosing which fundraising methods to use and getting started. Here are the examples of successful fundraising types we’ve found over decades of practice:
- Social Media Campaigns: Leverage platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and X to share your brigade's story and goals. Boost your visibility by taking advantage of trends, especially the ones your classmates can’t get enough of.
- Matching Donations: Talk to local businesses and alumni to match donations over a certain period, doubling the impact of your efforts. Your advisers and professors may have great connections to help you get started.
- Fundraising Events: Organize events such as trivia nights, athletic tournaments, raffles, or product sales tailored to your chapter’s interests and resources. Make sure to pick something that you can both execute well and enjoy along the way!
- Coffee Sales: The Café Holístico initiative is a long-term vision of Global Brigades that allows students to sell coffee (by the cup or bag) provided by partners such as Stone Creek Coffee in Milwaukee as a fundraiser. We developed a comprehensive guide for how it works.
- Restaurant Partnerships: Collaborate with local restaurants to plan a night where a portion of their earnings is donated to your brigade. These are fantastic ways to make a bit of cash without asking people to donate outside of their normal spending.
- Car Washes and Bake Sales: There’s a reason these have become fundraising tropes — they work! Depending on the season and your location, a weekend car wash or bake sale is a fun way to raise money to support your brigade. Pro tip: You’ll often get more in donations with a “pay what you want” model, rather than setting exact fees.
- Stadium/Event Clean Up: If your school has any sporting or other major events, your student group can volunteer to clean sections of the stadium to help support your donation goals. You may even find local venues interested in your help outside of your university.
- Benefit Concerts or Galas: For a larger scale event, consider hosting a concert or gala dinner. This can also serve as a platform to educate people who attend about what Global Medical Brigades is all about and the healthcare disparities we work to address. Many universities will offer free performance space on campus for events like this, so it doesn’t cost much to set up in many cases.
- Local Business Sponsorships: Reach out to local businesses for sponsorships, offering them publicity in exchange for their support.
- Personal letters: A personalized letter campaign to friends, family, and potential donors can be a heartfelt way to request support. Let them know why Global Brigades sparked your interest and describe the far-reaching impact of each individual donation (it goes way beyond a week-long adventure!).
You can customize each of these ideas to fit the unique needs and capabilities of your brigade chapter so that your fundraising efforts are as successful as possible. When you’re ready to get started, check out our guide for implementing these fundraising ideas (including donation goals and group size they’re appropriate for).
Common Objections & Solutions
Whether from those donating or the students doing the work, it’s normal to run into challenges as you raise money for any cause or organization. Here's how to tackle some common objections and find solutions.
- "I don't have enough time": Break down the fundraising process into manageable tasks, and remember that every small contribution counts. This is where Chapter Leaders can offer the most support and guidance. When you need a sounding board or inspiration, lean on the Global Brigades team! They can connect you with other Chapter Leaders who have a successful track record with brigades or give you ideas to keep you moving forward.
- "I’m not sure how to ask for donations": Be honest and passionate about the purpose of your brigade and how the organization works to foster sustainable change in global healthcare. People are more inclined to contribute when they understand the impact of their donation.
- "I don't have enough resources": Digital platforms and social media offer cost-effective fundraising strategies. Consider banding together as a chapter to fill in gaps for some of your other chapter members, such as group study sessions for a difficult class. If time is the problem, ask Global Brigades staff for help and done-for-you resources.
- "I'm worried about not meeting my goal": Set realistic targets and keep your supporters updated on your progress to motivate further donations. Make a schedule for yourself that will keep you on track to send reminders and updates, and ask former brigaders about their experiences and what worked best.
- "How do I convince people to donate?": Share personal stories and the objectives of the brigade to create a connection with potential donors. Many people in a position to donate, such as business owners, are used to requests like these. The key is communicating well about the purpose of what you’re doing and why supporting that purpose is a win for them, too.
- “I don’t understand why I’m donating to your trip”: Many donors, especially individuals, may wonder about the impact their contributions will have. Provide specific examples and documentation of how funds will be used, both for your brigade and for the organization as a whole.
- “I don’t have much to give”: Remind those who donate that even small gifts can make a huge difference when there are many people giving at the same time.
- “Is this a legitimate organization?”: This is a common question from those who are cautious about donating their personal or business funds to non-profit organizations. Share documentation from the Global Brigades website about our non-profit status, the tax benefits of donating, and the year-round efforts their donation will support.
- “I don’t support short-term missions”: Neither do we! It’s possible that donors will be hesitant because of the negative impact of traditional “mission trips.” Our holistic model is designed so that each short-term brigade is a sustainable international volunteering opportunity that drives year-round efforts on the ground with local staff. Get educated on how it works so that you can reassure donors of how their gift will be used to empower, rather than further impoverish, the community where you’ll be working.
How Supporters Can Donate
Your chapter’s Brigade page includes a Donation button where most of your supporters will donate. We include complete instructions for physical checks (when allowed) in our full guide, but they must be mailed to the appropriate address and made out to a specific organization name according to the donor’s country.
Donors may send monetary donations via:
- Credit card (US, Canada, and UK)
- e-Check (US only)
- Paper check (US and Canada only)
Credit card donors pay an additional 3.5% + $0.30 merchant fee to guarantee 100% of their donations go to the purpose for which they were donated.
Check out our full guide to how supporters can make donations to your Brigade for the full rundown.
Your Donation Supports Sustainable International Healthcare
As a brigader, your donation goal directly supports the work of Global Medical Brigades throughout our many international partner communities. This isn’t just “raising money for a trip;” you’re actively giving toward the vision of sustainable, quality healthcare in communities that would otherwise have little to no access to it.
Want to know more about how our donation goals are used? Global Brigades publishes detailed annual reports for how every dime is used.
Check out our comprehensive financial data, including annual reports.