How to make money to travel to conferences/events

A lot of our students these days are being selected to attend various conferences and programs that require them to raise money for their travel/visa/accommodation and so on.

Since most students are not earning while in College, they will need to source money to attend these programs from various sources.

Here are few plausible solutions to pool in money for you to attend these programs.

Before we delve deeper, let’s address the elephant in the room —

Is it really worth it?

If you decide that you absolutely need to go to the program, then raising the money to get there is the easier part. What you need to take a call on is whether the program is really really worth your time, effort and of course, money.

Today, there are umpteen opportunities that provide you exposure but not all are really worth it. It might be good for you to first validate the opportunity by talking to previous winners/participants and check if it really adds value to you.

Remember, good things come at a price but the great things come for free.

So anything that requires you to pay money, rethink!

Now once you have decided that you really want to go for the program, we have to explore your options of funding. Let’s look at some options you have:

1. Ask your parents

Well, this is the most obvious option you have. If the amount isn’t overbearing on your parents, if they also feel that you’d benefit from it and if they agree to giving you the amount, then you’re sorted.

2. Get yourself a scholarship or a travel grant

This is one of the best investments you can make for yourself. Apply to free scholarship programs that give you a stipend/grand for your professional advancement. You can then use this amount to fund your travel.

I had received 5000 USD as a part of the WeTech Qualcomm Global Scholarship. Few of my fellow scholars have used this amount to purchase a laptop, some used the money to attend International Conferences in SriLanka. Now that is some real good use of the amount.

My personal story is slightly different. My mother proactively put in my scholarship amount in a Fixed Deposit. So every time I’d say that I need to use the amount for something, she would say, don’t take that money, let me give you the amount you need. I leveraged the situation to get many other things done such as buying myself a MacBook and a scooter. (#leverage)

Even when I decided to live alone, my parents happily chipped in to furnish my place and get me things since they knew I had a backup amount in the Bank.

The scholarship really is my insurance to get more things done!

Coming to Travel Grants, there are a number of great Travel Grants offered by organisations. A simple google search will fetch a lot of information about these grants. See!

Most of these options require you to submit an application, some of them let you apply for the grant one month prior to travel while others have a single application process, once every year or so.

3. Crowd-fund the amount

When I got selected to Jagriti Yatra and my parents denied to support me, I took up crowdfunding to raise money.

Now, crowdfunding is a good option but it works only when you have enough social capital to leverage. If you have a good network of people who know what you do and support you, then crowdfunding would be a breeze! If not, there is a possibility that you might struggle a bit.

Post my campaign, I’ve seen a LOT of students crowdfunding. While this is great in terms of setting a culture, this may also backfire. Now if people get requests for money every other day, then it is additional effort for them to validate who is genuine and who is not. This in turn puts additional pressure on you to make a genuine case for yourself.

This is where I recommend that you tap in to your personal networks and reach out to people who know you well. If you set up a crowd funding page, share it on social media and expect that money will pour in, let me tell you, it doesn’t work that way.

In my case, I listed down close to 120 people who I thought would be able to support me. I then wrote a personalised email to each and every one of them. Some of them wanted to get on a call with me, so I spoke to them on phone. Some of them asked for very specific things in return for the money (like giving them a call and narrating the entire experience or investing in a project when I return from the yatra.) These demands actually ensured that I was accountable.

I took to social media to thank everyone who supported me and make them look and feel good as well. I kept sending update emails very diligently throughout the campaign. Finally when I came back from the Yatra, I wrote a letter narrating my experiences, made personalised bookmarks and posted them to all my 62 backers.

I went on to sharing my learning via a blog and I did take up a meaningful project after the yatra (It basically is my body of work now). And as promised, I continue to help others who are looking to avail such oppotutnities.

So in summary, crowdfunding requires you to commit to what you promise and be accountable to the people who give you the money. Sometimes, it clicks, sometimes it doesn’t. So I would suggest that you look at CF as an experiment.

To know more about my Crowdfunding campaign, checkout the following blogs:

And here’s my TEDx talk on my Crowdfunding Journey and particularly how I managed to help my parents understand.

4. Seek help from your Alumni

All colleges have an Alumni Fund. It’s just that some colleges use this fund to renovate infrastructure or other activities.

What you can try is reach out to the Alumni Association or even individual alumni of your college and explore whether they may be able to support you.

I am aware of the SCT College Alumni putting together a corpus of 5 Lakhs and supporting students in attending exposure programs. Likewise, maybe your Alumni fund will also support you. And even if they aren’t already doing this, maybe you seeding this idea will nudge them to take it up.

5. Seek help from Organisations

There may be organisations that would be happy to support you. Most orgs have a CSR fund set up to support various social causes. Reaching out to the organisations and seeking help to support you, in return for your doing a project for them might work out.

I do not know anyone who has already done this. So if you see this as a possible option, I’d recommend that you try out and let us all know how it went.

6. Offer Something

So this is a suggestion inspired from something SKG attempted during his days in Chennai.

Couple of his friends were putting together a website that covered key events happening in cities. They’d put together one for Cochin and Trivandrum and were looking to expand to Chennai. And Sijo, since in Chennai, tagged along with few friends in working on chennaivibes.

Since they were a media platform, they had a lot of event coordinators reaching out to them to have them cover their event. In cases where SKG and team had favourite events they wished to attend, they’d reach out to organisers and offer to cover their event in return for an invite/event pass.

This is an excellent hack! While they attempted to blog, you may offer any other skills you have — maybe it is videography, maybe you can put together a chatbot for the event. Could be anything!

7. Don’t rely on just one option, Go for a mix

While it may be hard to put together the entire amount from one source, it might seem more easy to source it from different places.

Let’s say the final amount you wish to raise is 80,000 INR. Now if you divide it by 4 and if you reach out to 4 different soucres, they will each need to provide 20K each.

So let’s say you speak your Alumni Association and get them to provide 20K first. You then go speak to an organisation, tell them that you already have 20K and request them to offer a matching 20K.

With 40K in hand, you have a good case to run your CF campaign. You raise another 20K and finally, request your parents/well-wishers to contribute 20K so you hit your goal.

From my personal case, my parents were willing to give me money once they saw that my CF campaign was going great. Everyone needs some social validation to believe that your case is genuine and that it makes sense to support you.

Some General Tips

Well, the first tip would be to not be ashamed to ask your parents for help. I see a lot of students wanting to be independent and actively resisting even the thought of asking their parents for help. While the independence streak is nice, it might not work really well for you. As a student, you are still under the care and protection of your family. Your parents will always want only the best for you and having them onboard with your travel plan is always a great idea! Given their experience, they will be able to guide you and support you as your prepare (not just financially, but also emotionally).

I recall, when I got selected to go to the US and attend the Google I/O, they were more excited than me. Not only did they ensure that I had the money and resources to travel, but they also ensured that I spoke to few people in their circle who had travelled to the US and also that I was connected to some of their friends there, in case I needed help.

And while I thought to myself that all this was unnecessary, I realised how useful it was once I boarded my flight and was all by myself. All the information I’d received was helpful, given that it was my first international flight. In the US, I was struggling to eat proper food and these friends that my parents connected me to were generous enough to take me to an Indian restaurant and get me Dosa!

So yes, always have your parents in the loop. It will only help you!

Now, if you were to ask me, which of these options is the best, I’d say it is option 2 — Getting yourself a Scholarship/Travel Grant. The kind of empowerment and independence that gives you is of a different league altogether. So if you were to work on one thing that would take care of everything else (money, parents, social recognition/support), I’d say, invest your time in getting yourself a scholarship.

Finally, look at this as a learning experience. You might struggle a bit, but eventually, you will get the hang of things. And instead of looking at a single option, go for multiple options.

Knock all the doors you can and some of them will surely open!

I hope you found this article useful. Should you have any other queries/thoughts or suggestions, feel free to write in to [email protected].