Online Fundraising is Successful for Graduate Students

News Story: April 28, 2014

Two Sacred Heart University graduate students took a creative route in fundraising for their recent service learning mission trip to Guatemala with the College of Health Professions. The students were Ashley Spencer of Huntersville, N.C., and Kelli Koehler of Red Hook, N.Y. Since 2010, this mission trip has sent groups of 25 to 30 individuals to the Greater Panchoy Valley surrounding La Antigua, Guatemala. The purpose of the trip is to help improve the health status of the most vulnerable, underserved populations while also giving students the hands-on opportunities to use their classroom lessons and critical thinking skills in challenging and creative ways.

The students were responsible for paying $1,500 for travel expenses. Christina Gunther, director of global programs and assessment for the College of Health Professions, encouraged the students to raise money to cover the cost of travel and provided them with a fundraising guide. One method that proved to be successful in fundraising was a website called Project Travel.

Project Travel allows users to create their own page for fundraising purposes. They can write about what they are fundraising for and share the website with family and friends via email or on social media sites such as Facebook. The site also has a link for direct donations.

“We encourage students to fundraise as much as possible,” said Gunther. “The money raised primarily goes to the student’s travel expenses. Any additional funds that students raise above the cost of travel can be donated to the clinics in Guatemala to purchase medical supplies or equipment.”

Spencer, a second-year graduate student in the doctorate of physical therapy program, was able to raise a little over $1,000 of her travel expenses online. “I thought Project Travel was an excellent site that allowed me to tell people about my trip and help me fundraise for it,” said Spencer. “I chose to share the website via Facebook for all my friends and family to see.”

Koehler, who is also a second-year graduate student in the physical therapy doctoral program, agreed that the site was a successful tool for fundraising. “The site was really convenient for me to use and for my friends and family to access. I liked that I was able to display pictures and explain to my friends and family what I was doing and why I was doing it,” she said. “I was able to fundraise 111 percent of my trip cost, allowing me to donate the extra money raised toward building wheelchairs and other supplies! I was so amazed and humbled by how generous my friends and family were, and I am so grateful for all of their love and support throughout this whole experience.”