Although sources to fund electives have become more difficult to find, there are still opportunities to develop your elective fund through sponsorship. This is much easier to do the earlier you apply, not only because you have more time to make applications, but because awarding bodies often close their competitions and sources of funding relatively early in the academic year.
You can apply to as many sources as you want for funding. Some may only give you small amounts but every little helps and your funds can be made up from many different sources.
There are some medical organisations that run annual or semi-annual competitions for getting elective bursaries. Usually there are some criteria for eligibility, but it is always worth having a look, as the amounts and awards on offer can make a huge difference to your elective fund. See our article on bursaries and grants for a more complete list of the organisations that offer elective funding.
Other sources of elective funds
The current economic climate means that students need to be a little more ingenious when looking for sources of funding for their electives. It is still possible to raise money through local and charitable sources, but remember that you are more likely to get a positive reception from independent organisations if you offer something in return. This is easier than it sounds; for many people, exotic, international travel is still quite remote, and as a medic, you can show people a side of a culture that they would not otherwise see. This can be invaluable to local charitable organisations and activity groups, so offer a talk or presentation in return for sponsorship.
Consider some of the following options when searching for funds for your elective:
- Charities and public bodies
- Smaller local companies
- Your medical school or institution
- Your old school (if they have a lot of money)
- Local hospitals (many now have links to hospitals in developing countries)
- Fundraising through rotary clubs, local churches and other local institutions
- Personal contribution – you could use saving, birthday gifts or inheritance (if you have any when you go on your elective)
- Pharmaceutical companies
- Medical equipment companies (may offer equipment instead – this is often very useful to remote or poorly funded hospitals)
- Non-medical companies (who want to promote social responsibility)
- Own sources – some students rent out their rooms when away, or take the opportunity to clear out their wardrobes/belongings and hold a sale to raise money
Use your ingenuity
Students who take a bit of initiative when planning their elective not only give themselves a good addition to their CV, they can also contact previously untapped sources, which means they have additional opportunities to get those much needed funds. Do a bit of searching and thinking. Contact hospitals and companies, or even the local paper, and try and sell them your ideas; you could even write a blog or travel diary for your local paper.
Don’t be afraid to ask!
Very often, it is the student who is tenacious enough to ask who eventually gets the money that they need. With that in mind, when you are looking for sources of funding, don’t be afraid to ask people what is available. Find out if your institution offer grants, or if the hospital to which you are applying has funds available for students. Try as many places and avenues of enquiry as you can think of, the people you ask can only say no!
Tips on applying for funding
It is unlikely that any one organisation will agree to fund your entire elective so you need to be prepared to put together a package of funding from different sources. When applying for funding, it’s a good idea to consider and include the following information when writing letters or filling out application forms:
- Where you are going, why and for how long
- What you hope to give and gain from the experience
- Be specific – have the details worked out before you apply for funding
- Tailor your application to the funder rather than sending out one standard letter to all. Highlight to each funder the ways in which your application meets their criteria
- A budget breakdown including all costs and other funding sources (e.g. savings from part-time work, contributions from family, loans and money from other fundraising efforts including results of applications to other funders)
See our article on applying to charitable trusts for more detailed information.