Want To Do Good? The Crowd Can Help

Audrey White

Working abroad to support a good cause and get key work experience can be cost prohibitive for many people, including those living in the low- and middle-income countries most likely to host volunteers. Around the world, people are turning to crowdfunding to fund international and domestic do-gooding.

For example, a few former World Health Organization interns were troubled that so few of their fellow interns were people living in LMICs. They put their heads together to launch a Kickstarter to bring new interns to Geneva, all expenses paid. With two days to go, they’ve reached their £7,000 goal, and they’re still raising funds so they can bring a third intern. These interns will feature in a documentary, made by the Kickstarter’s organizers, highlighting the importance of training health professionals from countries with a high disease burden.

Organizer Ashton Barnett-Varnes explains:

Internships at the World Health Organization Headquarters (WHO-HQ), as at many international organisations are unpaid, which restricts access to candidates unable to afford the cost (~£3500 for a 3 month internship). This is well-known. However what we showed in the Lancet Global Health last year is that this is causing huge disparities in the geographical representation of the 600+ interns at WHO-HQ each year; only a quarter are from low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), and less than 5% are from Africa (see figure attached). Given most disease burden (~80%) is in LMICs, should we not be training their next generation in public health leadership as a priority, in order to sustainably tackle the health burden their communities face?

Using crowdfunding was a way for the group to attract the needed funds for their project as well as help spread the word about the importance of their effort to a broad audience.

Many international volunteer and internship programs require their interns to seek funds in order to participate. Using online crowdfunding opens a door to a much wider network of potential funders for people whose immediate contacts may not be wealthy. The organization International Volunteer HQ partnered with crowdfunding site FundMyTravel to help potential volunteers get to their destinations. In the past year, volunteers have raised $700,000 (£448,588).

Potential volunteers and interns for any organization can use sites like GoFundMe, IndieGoGo and others to reach their fundraising goals. The web gives people access to a broad audience of potential donors who will believe in their mission as much as they do.