Blog post by Tobias • September 4, 2019

Welcome back; this is my second blog post about my School at Sea adventure. In case you missed it, you can read my first blog post (and find out a little more about me). In this post, I’m going to tell you a bit about raising the funds for my trip. This is the first step of my journey. 

Fundraising is the first lesson that SaS (School at Sea) teaches its students. All students with SaS take part in their fundraising training. These sessions also enable us to meet the crew and the other students for the first time.

There are three fundraising sessions. You learn about the importance of your own network: who you know and who those people know too. You learn how to make a good elevator pitch and you practice how to present it to companies. And there is also a session about how to deal with success and failure; about making plans and taking responsibility for the things you do. This is important because this is how you take ownership of achieving your goal. At the end of the training, we were all assigned a coach who would help us with the fundraising and teach us how to set and achieve our goals.

With my coach I had an agreement about when we were going to be in touch and what I was going to do. So, I had the responsibility of sending emails to companies and talking to people, giving presentations to get the funding that I needed. My coach would ask me if I had achieved my goal and give me tips on things I could try. So, I got to work and I must have sent about a hundred emails and letters during the school year. First, I sent emails to companies in my village. A few companies wanted to fund me, but couldn’t offer anywhere near enough to cover the full expense of the trip.  Many companies told me they couldn’t sponsor me because they were facing financial difficulties and budget cuts in the current economic climate.

So I went on to try some other ideas.

With the help of a friend, I placed an article in a local newspaper. I tried out the classic bake sale fundraiser at a couple of school events, but I didn’t raise significant funds this way.  

I also had a stand at our local winter fair where I sold lottery tickets and cakes, and I went to two diving/watersports conferences with my father: one in the Netherlands called DuikVaker and another in Germany called Boot Düsseldorf. There I spoke to a lot of people and my pitch kept getting better and better (I could now do it in three languages!). I really wanted to find someone to sponsor my sailing gear, but although this didn’t happen I did make some useful contacts and receive some financial sponsorship this way.

The supermarket I work at also helped me by allowing me to collect plastic bottle deposit money for a month for my cause. They also sponsored some ingredients for my bake sales.

All this independent fundraising activity got me almost halfway to my target when I met Mr. Adam Caller, founder and director of Tutors International. I presented my (by now extensively practiced!) fundraising pitch to Mr. Caller and he agreed to sponsor the rest of my journey. I am still amazed by his generosity and really excited to work with Tutors International – their company ethos of flexible and practical learning ties in well with my own preferred learning style and that offered by School at Sea.

I have learned a lot from the fundraising experience. I learnt that it requires a lot of hard work and dedication if you want to succeed. It can be difficult to keep going when you hear ‘no’ so much and you encounter people who make promises they do not keep. I also learned how to tailor my pitch: you have to think about who you are talking to and what will interest them when you tell your story. In general, people don’t want to give you their money so you have to make it really easy for them. I found that people are more likely to help you if they feel that there is a connection with you, whether it’s because they know your family or because they are interested in the sailing or teaching part of the project.

In the end, I feel really positive about my fundraising experiences because with commitment and perseverance I managed to reach my goal, bringing me one step closer to exploring the world by sea.  

In my next post, I’ll talk about the next stage in my journey: preparing practically for School at Sea.