How students can overcome the funding obstacle to attend climate conference


Students can overcome the funding obstacle to attend climate conference

Navigating the fundraising trail to Capitol Hill

By Taylor Krause

Inspiration and desire to attend a life-changing opportunity to lobby Congress are not usually the hurdles which students have to overcome in order to attend CCL’s International Conference in D.C. Finding the needed funds to attend, is the bigger challenge.  Flights, accommodations, transportation, food — these expenses add up and may be out of the financial reach of a college student whose idea of a splurge is a $50 concert ticket.

Get Your University to Fund Your Trip


Universities differ in their scholarship opportunities and funding ability, but every school should have some sort of conference funding available. An example of a group of students who were able to have their school fully fund their attendance to CCL’s 2016 November D.C. conference came from Chapman University. They reached out to their student government and discovered their school had conference scholarship applications available for students. Many universities have funding available for students to build their professional development and broaden their knowledge of potential post-graduation possibilities, but don’t necessarily specify that the funds can be used for conferences. Moral of the story: RESEARCH! RESEARCH! RESEARCH! ASK! ASK! ASK!


Potential University Funding Resources

  •   Student Government
  •   Student Activity Fees
  •   Conference Scholarships
  •   Professional Development Funding
  •   Career & Development Center Aid
  •   Department Funds for relative activities (i.e., School Environmental Science, College of Business, or Political Science Department)
  •   Contacting deans of departments or student body for potential resources
  • Researching miscellaneous scholarships that are applicable to you (i.e. previous students who were first generation college students applied to their school’s Promising Futures Program and were granted funding to attend this year’s CCL conference)

Words Matter

Students should appeal to their university on a personal level in order to increase the likelihood of approving their conference application. Additionally, to increase your chances of preparing a successful funding request, consider the person who will be reading your request. Will your request be reviewed by professors or by those who may possibly be less knowledgeable about lobbying (like a student government committee or other peers)?  

It pays to research your application reviewer, even going as far as reaching out to the reviewer to ask what qualities, activities or deliverables they are hoping to review and then incorporating them into your request.

Asking a professor for a letter of recommendation to supplement your request shows initiative and can solidify eligibility for funding.

Specific Successful Statement Examples

State how you will directly bring back skills you gain from the conference to your school.

o   “The advocacy skills/personal empowerment/political will I will gain from this conference would allow me to be a more involved/active/participatory student on San Diego State’s campus/my poli-sci classes/my community.”

Be budget conscious and express your plans to be financially aware and careful about how money will be spent, especially in regard to accommodations and travel expenses.

o   “If granted this funding, I plan to be economical with this scholarship by staying at an Air BnB and utilizing public transportation to the conference and lobbying events on Capitol Hill.”

Outline how this conference offers a beneficial experience which your University cannot

o   “My participation in CCL’s International conference would be an excellent opportunity to gain professional development skills/advocacy skills/personal empowerment which are difficult to learn from the events hosted by my Environmental Science Club/Democrats on Campus Club/Career & Development Center.

A strong suggestion, especially for seniors who are worried about being funded by their school since they will be graduating soon:

Explain how this can benefit your school long-term.

o   “My participation in CCL’s International Conference would be an excellent opportunity for me to network on behalf of the University of Michigan and have students represent UM’s commitment to being global citizens/actively participating citizens/catalysts in effective change/advocates for environmental justice.”

Download this example of a funding request letter.

Personal Fundraising

Sometimes your school will only be able to partially fund your conference expenses.  However, taking the initiative to reach out to personal contacts for sponsorship can be easy and effective!

Letter Writing Campaign

The mailing of letters seems to be a long lost art, but this old school method is an effective means of asking personal contacts for sponsorship support. Just think: how often do people nowadays receive a nice hand addressed or even written letter? The answer is almost NEVER. It is so much easier for someone to click ‘Spam’ or ‘Trash’ on an email asking for money than it is to throw away  your beautiful handwriting.

Did this fundraising method peak your interest? Please refer to the following google doc for a template of a letter requesting donations as well as tips for conducting a successful letter writing campaign: CCL Fundraising Letter


Campus Fundraisers

Although most schools have finished spring semesters, an option for future conferences is campus fundraising.  Fundraisers on campus sometimes necessitate a permit or other form for permission depending on the school or type of fundraiser being hosted.  Some campuses limit their students’ fundraising events and will require research.  For example, Chapman doesn’t allow students to host some generic fundraisers like a car wash or bake sales (or other selling of food) due to the school’s environmental regulations and licensing contracts with the campus’s food vendors.  Key concept, again, being do your research and don’t be afraid to ask

The group of Chapman students instead set up a fundraiser off campus at a popular pizza joint for CU students called Blaze Pizza. Customers who brought a fundraiser flier had a percentage of their purchase go to the CU students’ conference fund. Facebook Event for Chapman Blaze CCL Fundraiser

Consider Group Vemno

Organizing fundraisers among a group of students can get messy. Anticipate questions like, “Who paid for the fundraiser fliers” or “Who still has to pay their share for the Air BnB.” Consider using the application Vemno and managing your group funds in a Group Vemno account ( This option can help alleviate some stress of keeping track of group expenses and who donated what, and overall instill some transparency of when money is put in and taken out.

Other Frugal Traveling Tips

Consider not staying at the hotel where the conference is going to be held.  Planning to stay somewhere off-site may make getting to the conference everyday a little more difficult, but easier on your wallet.  These savings and frugal actions can add up and increase your ability of attending the conference with minimal out of pocket casualties.

Here are a couple of suggested frugal traveling options:

  • Air BnB: Getting a group together to book an Air BnB would be a much cheaper accommodation option than paying hotel rates.  Also staying in an Air BnB could add a twist to your DC experience and potentially be a really FUN option!
  • Use CCL Community:  Looking to get a group together or maybe joining another group to share accommodations?  CCL Community has an online forum where volunteers can pre-coordinate accommodations!  CCL Community Conference Forum
  • Hostels: Not going with a group, but still considering other budget conscious options, there are nearby hostels previous student attendees have utilized as great alternative accommodations: HostelWorld DC
  • Public Transportation:  The DC area has a fabulous metro that is cheaper than a cab and easily accessible:

Driving Apps:  Uber/Lyft are transportation apps available for use in the DC area.

Taylor Krause is assistant to Citizens’ Climate Lobby Executive Director Mark Reynolds.

Steve Valk
Steve Valk is Communications Coordinator for Citizens' Climate Lobby. Steve joined the CCL staff in 2009 after a 30-year career with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter at @valklimate.