Girl scout cookies, wrapping paper, and canned food are some of the staples one can find in fundraising efforts in virtually any community across the country. Regardless of “how” you drive forward with fundraising, you’re helping those in need and can achieve a level of personal and/or organizational fulfillment unparalleled in other endeavors. Rather than debating the pros and cons of selling candy vs. candles, I’ll outline some approaches one can take to fundraising in general to help you create the most compelling campaign possible!
1.) Choose a cause close to home: While any fundraising effort is noble in its own right, it can be much more effective to be specific when picking a cause for your fundraising effort. People are more inclined to pitch in when they are bound to see some sort of resolution or closure for their contributions. They actually feel like they are making an impact rather than donating and never understanding where their donation actually went. Instead of choosing a national cancer research organization, choose the research center at a nearby university. Please don’t get me wrong – these larger, national organizations are doing absolutely great work and are definitely due recognition and funding, but it’s the ‘little guys’ that really need the local help in order to stay afloat and actually make an impact. They simply don’t have as many resources to pull donations and support from, so the help they do get is that much more important. Help your donors literally see the fruit of their labor by choosing a local cause.
2.) Be explicit with the “why”: As humans, we all feel for those in need, whether it be the sick, the homeless, the hungry, the poor, or sweet little animals. But you can do your cause a favor by making it more personal for everyone involved. What I mean is choose a cause that you can tell a specific story around. For instance maybe it’s a community member that was affected by a disease or a family member that is currently in need of support. Stories are a means by which you can create a true connection with your donor pool rather than relying on sheer human empathy. It helps everyone understand why you chose the cause you did, why they should consider joining your cause, and why they should spread your message to their friends and family.
3.) ‘Activate’ your Efforts: Fundraising can be really easy (but not necessarily effective), if you simply blast out a blurb in a weekly newsletter or leave up a donation site for a few weeks, but you’ll be more successful (and ultimately more fulfilled), if you do something that actively engages your potential audience. Plan a fundraising kickoff party or sell tickets through WePay to campaign conclusion dinner. Anything that can get people to interact with the cause is a good thing and helps donors feel like they are truly making a difference. One thing we did while I was in school was held a Sunday afternoon firefighter-themed barbecue to conclude our efforts to raise money for the Berkeley Fire Department. It was a great time and brought everyone together that had contributed to our cause in the preceding weeks, not to mention it gave everyone an excuse to break out their suspenders and hard hats.
Fundraising is something I thoroughly enjoy, both organizing and contributing to, and I’ll do my best to stay active in this realm in the future. That said, it has been harder to participate once I left college. I think this is true of many people who are just trying to get on with their daily lives. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start making some waves in your community!