Wednesday, November 20, 2013

How-To: Fundraise Like a Pro

I started fundraising when I was seven years old.

My parents would sometimes take my sister and I to the local humane society to volunteer. We didn't do anything more than walk the dogs and pet the kitties but it made me feel important. Shortly after we started volunteering, I decided to take it upon myself to start collecting donations.

My family always had a couple of garage sales in the summer and at each one I sat with my little jar asking everyone who would come up to pay, "Would you like to help the animals at the humane society?" When you have pigtails and missing teeth you don't need to say much more than that to score a dollar in your jar. 

Soon the garage sales just weren't enough for me and I started walking door to door asking for donations. My adolescent cuteness helped me land donations for a year or two but once I got older and my body started to go "under construction" as I like to call it, I had to change my approach. So Jake, our family's golden retriever, became my fundraising partner. If I wasn't cute at least he was!

Throughout my life I continued to be involved with clubs and activities that required me to fundraise. In college I realized that my lifelong hobby was my perfect career choice. I have worked in the nonprofit field now for over five years and my knack for fundraising has come in handy. Fundraising both on a professional and personal level has allowed me to make a difference and have experiences I couldn't have had on my own, but I know not everyone likes to ask for money. 

I wouldn't doubt that "fundraising" falls just under "public speaking" on the list of things that make people want to crawl up in a little ball and die. It is a daunting task but I truly believe it is one anyone can do. Whether you are looking to fundraise for a mission trip, a cause, or a personal project, here are a few tips to get you on your way to becoming a fundraising rockstar. 

Tip 1: Make sure you know exactly what you are raising money for

Sure. You know that you are raising money for summer camp or for disaster relief or whatever it may be, but people are most likely going to have some questions before they hand over the cash. Nail down a few sentences about what you are doing and why you think it is important for them to donate to you. The more you know, the more you will impress your potential donors and score you the big bucks you want.

Tip 2: Have a product

A lot of fundraisers include the sale of some kind of product. Sometimes it is cookies, candy, bracelets, etc, but sometimes you aren't given anything to sell. This is where you can get creative. Here are a few ideas that I have found helpful:

  • "Sell" your limbs to people. This works great if you are fundraising as a part of an athletic event. For a donation people can have you write their name, business, etc on your skin for the race. (P.S. Don't offer this to you immature friends, trust me)
  • Give a service. Offer to mow their lawn, babysit, or wash their car. Sometimes donations don't come free but a little hard work show you are passionate and it can secure some big donations.
  • Write a letter. This is great to reach family and friends who are far away. Posting on Facebook isn't personal. Going the extra mile with a letter adds a personal touch that will connect with people on a deeper level. Include a return envelope with a stamp on it to help potential donors be more likely to give. 
  • Create your own product. Hop on Pinterest and find a fun craft you can create for minimal cost. Think jewelry, christmas ornaments or household decorations. If your are fundraising as a group this is a really fun activity to do together.

Tip 3: Market your product 

Social media rules the world. Use this to your advantage. Tell people all about your fundraiser on all of your profiles and market your product. Pictures are good but videos are great. Getting creative will get you more views, which means more donations. Set up an online giving page on a free website like GoFundMe.com. Only a small percentage of your donation goes to the website and it will allow those you connect with on social media to make their donation securely online. 

Tip 4: Ask the right people

Some people, no matter how much they like you, aren't going to be interested in donating. Think about the people in your life who are very generous or who might be personally connected to the cause you are raising money for. Ask them first. This will keep you from getting discouraged by being turned down. It is also good to ask those who donate to share the cause with friends. If they were kind enough to donate, chances are they have kind friends too. 

Tip 4: Thank donors 

Don't wait until your fundraiser is over. Send "Thank You" cards or personally call or visit people who give to you within a few days of receiving their donation. This shows genuine gratitude and will help you if you come back to the same donors again for future fundraisers. 


So whether you are fundraising for a personal adventure like a mission trip or a summer camp or you are looking to do your part to help bring aid to the Philippines or other desperate areas of our world, I hope these tips will get you on your way becoming a rockstar fundraiser. Remember that if you believe in yourself others will too and together we can do some pretty dang incredible things. 



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