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Fundraising Tips for Students

Fundraising is important to ensure that students can afford to attend your conference, and is an excellent way for students to get more involved in conference planning.  Many of these ideas can also be used for raising funds to attend a conference at another university. Below are tips and suggestions on how to succeed in raising funds for your event.

General Fundraising Ideas:

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Auctions (silent, online)
  • Raffles
  • 50/50 draws
    • Have items and gift certificates donated by businesses in the area
    • Get services/time with an important person donated; e.g., breakfast/lunch with the president/dean/department head; job shadow the head of a local company; free hour of tutoring; etc.
    • Note: for raffles and draws, please check if your student union has any policies regarding raffles and draws and check the legal requirements in your province
  • Sell items with your school/student society’s logo – T-shirts, jackets, travel mugs, printed calendars, etc.
    • Take orders before purchasing items so that you don’t end up with a large inventory of unsold items
  • Special event fundraising (income through ticket sales)
    • Gala or banquet
    • Pie in the face events
    • Variety shows
    • Movie nights
    • Miniputt for prizes
  • Message delivery service (Valentine, Secret Santa, Exam Elf); balloon-o-gram, candy-gram, etc.
    • Provide the Valentine or Christmas card. The purchaser writes the message and tells you where to deliver it on campus (a class, the library, etc.)
  • Bake sale/food table
    • Note: Check the requirements with your student society; are you allowed to sell food on campus?


Many companies have sponsorship programs.  Be sure to check their website for any information about how and when to apply for funds and what criteria you must meet. Often, your application must be submitted months in advance to coincide with their review schedule, so you must plan ahead.

As a first step, find out who sponsored the most recent two or three conferences and obtain the contacts and copies of applications used by the previous conference organizers. Developing a relationship with a repeat sponsor is usually simpler than starting from scratch.

Note:  keep good records of who you contact so that you can pass this information on to future organizers.

Potential Funding Sources:

  • Textbook publishers
  • Companies (field-specific or broad – scientific supply companies, etc.)
  • Industry associations
  • Local philanthropic organizations (eg, Kiwanis, Lions, etc.)
  • Local government
  • National science organizations (Chemical Institute of Canada, Canadian Association of Physicists, etc.)

Potential sponsors will want some or all of the following:

  • Description of the event:  what, when, where
  • An estimate of attendance
  • Primary contact information
  • A budget
  • What their money will be used for
  • Information about how they will be recognized (logo on website, in program, etc.)

Important: Be sure to follow up to thank your sponsors after the event. 

What to give your sponsors after the event:

  • A thank you letter
  • A formal invoice if the money has not already been received
  • A report including the following information:
    • A description of your event and its activities
    • The number of participants, broken down by students, faculty, etc.
    • Details of any publications you plan to release (conference proceedings, etc.), or attach a copy of the program (be sure it shows them on the sponsor page!)
    • Scientific highlights – this will show your sponsor why they are sponsoring your event. Examples: top student talks, keynote speakers
    • Some sponsors will want a full income and expenditure statement

Travel Funding For Student Presenters:

When raising funds for student travel to a conference, some schools have funds set aside for presenters that you can apply for.  This is often through your Dean’s office or student society.

In general, you can approach:

  • Your university’s Dean’s office
  • Your supervisor
  • The student society for your discipline
  • Your university’s student union