Ideally students and public interest organizations be allowed to participate in the Alternative Careers Fair free of charge.

That leaves you with the tab for the guest speaker's fee (unless you can get a freebie or lowcost arrangement with a sympathetic activist, or get your campus speaker's bureau to sponsor the guest speaker's presentation; see Appendix J for some suggested speakers), as well as for printing costs, materials, advertising the forum, mail and phone costs in contacting groups to table at the fair and many other incidentals.

There are on-campus and off-campus support and funding sources that can provide you with money and/or in-kind help, such as office space and equipment, telephone and long-distance usage, printing and supplies.

On-campus resources


    The place to start your funding search is with student government. The projects funded by student government usually must be sponsored by an officially recognized student group on campus, so find a group through which you can make the request.

    There are usually specific procedures and deadlines for requesting funds through student governments. Contact your campus student government office to find out when the request is due, in what format and to whom it should be addressed. They will often refer you to an internal committee, and direct you to prepare a proposal and budget (for 'how tos,' consult the How to proceed section and Appendix K for a sample grant proposal and budget).

    The money controlled by student governments varies widely from school to school, but they may not fully fund projects. Count on funding closer to 50 percent of what you ask for, and do not assume that asking for less will bring you a better percentage of success.

    Stress in your request that charging students and social change groups a fee to attend should not be considered a way to finance the fair. One of the prime reasons for organizing an alternative careers fair is to bring area public interest organizations for whom campus visits to interview a few students are not financially feasible considering the costs of travel, time and the fees some schools charge to organizational recruiters.


    Campus career offices are experiencing increased student interest in and demand for programs and resources about social change careers. Most are responsive to the well-defined ideas and committed efforts of students to broaden and diversify career office services.

    Career office personnel are, then, natural allies. Write to and/or meet with the director of the career services office, proposing that the student group and the career office work together to organize the fair. Present the proposal and budget; discuss what portion of the funding and planning the career office can provide. Find out if they have considered a social change job fair in the past and, if yes, what kept them from holding one. If no, find out what they foresee to be the difficulties in putting on a fair single-handedly. If their problem is overburdened staff, offer committed people to do much of the legwork and organizing. If their reason is lack of funding, ask for in-kind support and pursue funding from other sources.

    Career offices are part of campus administration; consequently, their budgets are often determined a year in advance. Still, they are likely to have funds for as-yet-unplanned programs and services.

    Career offices are often part of established career planning networks or have contacts through which you can reach nearby campuses for their career offices' participation and sponsorship. Regional career office consortiums link campuses to share program ideas and sponsor student study-abroad programs, conferences and other events. If such a network doesn't already exist at your school, the career office might be willing to contact career placement colleagues on neighboring campuses to form a coalition to sponsor the fair.

    You can also ask for promotional help through their career services newsletter, the alumni magazine and administration publications; for help in locating social change groups and possible speakers through already established contacts, directories, databases, past events and alumni networks; and for other types of in-kind support such as computer and telephone usage, photocopying and office supplies.

    Your proposal for an alternative careers fair means energetic help for them in organizing an event that will satisfy a career planning need on campus and start or expand the dialogue between the career office and social change organizations. Their sponsorship will be credited by students with helping them find rewarding jobs, internships and volunteer opportunities.


    The President's Office usually has discretionary funds. Write a letter to her or him describing the fair, its educational and community value and requesting a defined amount of money. It is best to contact this office -- as with student government -- after you get the sponsorship of several student groups. Again, make the correspondence professional and describe the fair as an event with a strong direction, a purpose, a date, structure, a coordinator or coordinating team, supporters and specific financial needs. Follow up your letter with a telephone call and request an appointment to talk about your event in more detail.


    These too have funds available for special programs of interest to them or their departments. Tailor a letter and funding request to suit their interests if possible. When writing to the head of the Women's Studies department, for instance, you can point to the value of students applying their talents and energy to the work being done by women's advocacy, social service and support groups. A letter to the Dean of Students could address the benefits of the fair in boosting student activity in community service during and beyond their time on campus.


    The Chaplain's or Campus Ministry Office is still the source of many programs for students' community service. This office is likely to be involved with area soup kitchens, homeless shelters and charity drives. The office staff will know of church-based volunteer, service and mission groups and social service organizations that should be invited to table at the fair.

    The Chaplain's Office might also be able to suggest speakers for the fair whose work is noted in the community, and contact them on your behalf. Finally, office staff may be able to provide labor or in-kind help.


    Many schools have offices to facilitate combined campus and community projects or student volunteerism to meet social service needs in the community. They are usually called community services or community relations offices. See if yours can help you defray costs and locate likely sponsors and participants.

    Contact the COOL (Campus Outreach Opportunity League) and Campus Compact networks described in the "Organization Contact Committee" section to locate their member organizations in your area.


    Student organizations on campus and at neighboring schools can provide labor, in-kind support and sometimes funding for the event.


    These sometimes have programming funds that they can make available to support your event.


    Alumni offices may be able to provide funds or put you in contact with alumni who are active in the social change field.


    Senior classes often raise funds to devote to a campus activity. Since the graduating class is the group concentrating most on the job search, it is very likely that a social change career fair will be of interest.


    For help in arranging a video show or series and a speaker for the fair, try contacting the film and lecture committees on campus. They may be willing to help you plan and pay for those aspects of your event.

  • For more funding and sponsor ideas, talk to your professors and to fellow student organizers. Professors are likely to know what colleagues, departments and programs have discretionary money to spend. Student organizers know what sources have been helpful in the past.

Off-campus resources


    Alternative Careers Fairs seek to bring talented and energetic people into the public interest job force, so they bolster advocacy and services for a region's underrepresented and powerless populations. Alternative and regional foundations may therefore be interested in funding your efforts. Guides such as the Grant Seekers Guide [Third Revised Edition, 1989, by the National Network of Grantmakers, Washington, D.C.; (202) 726-6613] are indexed by geographic priorities.

    You will need to submit a grant proposal and budget to be eligible for funds. For help in preparing a grant proposal, consult your school's development office for advice and resources; talk to public interest groups and nonprofit technical assistance centers, which have extensive experience in proposal writing; look in the library under "grants," "fundraising," "foundations" and "philanthropy" for guides to seeking foundation money.

    Research state and regional foundations, their deadlines, grant limitations and areas of interest. Libraries have foundation directories, and The Foundation Center, with reference libraries in New York, Cleveland, Washington DC and San Francisco, also has affiliated collections of information philanthropic organizations in each state. Consult the indexes of the Grant Seekers Guide for state foundation directory listings and Foundation Center libraries, or call The Foundation Center at (212) 620-4230 for this information.

How to proceed

Some on-campus committees, departments, offices and most foundations have specific procedures and deadlines for funding requests. Find out what these are, and order your fundraising efforts to meet deadlines and more involved request procedures.

Before you approach these groups for money, have a budget and funding request ready (Appendix K). Be realistic in your estimations, break down the total sum into figures for each activity or expense, and explain why each is needed (telephone costs go toward contacting social change groups, obtaining resources and arranging for a speaker, the printing cost figure covers posters, fair programs and literature; the postage allotment pays for two mailings of X number of pieces to participating organizations). On-campus groups will also be more inclined to offer in-kind support if they are presented with your well-stated needs.

In puffing together the budget, leave nothing out. Telephone charges, office supplies, photocopying, printing, postage, advertising, fair materials for attendees (the public interest questionnaire booklet, for example), refreshments at the event, speakers' fees, speakers' travel, meals and accommodations, decorations, video and film rental fees, meeting space rental if on-campus facilities are not available, etc. Appendixes A and J should help you estimate the costs of a speaker and those for video and film rental.

Prepare a written description of the careers fair, including its purpose and aim, its cosponsors, how many students you estimate will attend, how many public interest groups will be represented, what will be offered at the fair in the way of materials and a proposed schedule (day, time, breakdown into separate events, i.e. speeches, tabling, films, forums, receptions).

First contact the groups with whom you or your co-organizers have already established relationships. Then make appointments with other hopeful funding sources. Meeting with them in person will allow you to tailor your request to their interests, explain the project in more detail, answer their questions and relate what portion of your request you would like them to provide. Tell them what or how much other funding sources are contributing. People often gain confidence in projects through the expressed confidence of others, i.e. the promise of funds, space and services to the fair by their colleagues.

Ask all your sponsors, funders and volunteers along the way for their ideas in shaping the fair, i.e. what groups should be invited, which speakers they would most like to hear, what other organizations and individuals should be approached for help. Thank them promptly in writing for their support, keep them engaged in the planning process and acknowledge their support in the fair's program.