One of the things I enjoy doing for you as a reader of my blog is to give away free content. So, for the next couple weeks I am going to be posting chapter five of my book, A Day of Hope: Leading Volunteers to Make a Difference in Your Community.
I hope you enjoy it.
Building Momentum with Fundraising
I’ve worked hard up to this point to equip you with the information you need to get A Day of Hope up and running. Hopefully you’ve learned some good things and I’ve helped you to generate some ideas on what it looks like to lead this effort and to help people in need.
As we dig a little deeper, we’ll go through what you need to know to actually “do” the project for A Day of Hope. This chapter and the final chapter will deal more with the actual activities of A Day of Hope and I’ll teach you everything I know about fundraising and making all the pieces come together.
If there’s one area where I feel that I can really pour everything I’ve got into you, it’s the area of fundraising. My professional job (where I actually get paid) is at the United Way of Stanislaus County where I work every day as a fundraiser. We fundraise from local businesses and individuals to support local programs that serve people in need.
When I teach someone about fundraising, I’m able to offer two perspectives. One is from a large, well run organization with a large staff of people. I’m also able to offer more grassroots advice from the perspective of A Day of Hope, which has no staff and no administrative support.
I think fundraising is like mixing water colors. Do you remember using water colors when you were a kid? You got about six different colors, a cup of water, and a brush. Even though you and your friend both had the exact same colors, brush, and water, you both ended up with different colors. You still painted something that looked nice (at least that’s what your parents told you), but it looked different from your friend’s painting because he added his own unique perspective to it. Fundraising is similar to water colors because there are a few key ingredients that everyone has but once you mix those ingredients with your own personal style, it will look very different.
Fundraising is tough. Most people cringe at the idea of asking someone for money, so if that’s you, don’t worry; you’re like most people. I fundraise professionally, and I still get a little nervous when I have to a call someone to ask for money. Sometimes I ask someone to donate and I am 99.9 percent sure he will donate. Then he says, “No” without even considering the idea of donating to A Day of Hope. On the flip side, I might ask people and be certain they won’t (either because they don’t have the money or don’t seem interested in helping people in need), but they surprise me and make a large donation. Fundraising is full of these little surprises, which is what makes it fun and exciting.
In my view, fundraising is like any other sport, skill, or ability. There’s a process you have to go through as you start it:
- Everyone starts out as a rookie with no experience.
- The first time you try it, you’re terrible like everyone else.
- With practice you start to notice that you’re improving.
- Some people find that they are naturally a little better than others.
- You’ll be nervous the first few times that you try it.
One of the main principles I operate from in my fundraising is that I only want people to donate if they actually want to donate. I never try to force people, coerce them, or put pressure on them to donate. People already have enough of that from sales people, bosses at work, and spouses. They don’t need one more person putting pressure on them to do something they really don’t want to do. Hence, I always communicate to them that we’re looking to raise funds to help people in need, and if they’d like to help us in our work, we’d be grateful for their support.
A couple years ago I called the owner of a local Christian book store about bringing him some information on a seminar I was doing at my church. When I called him, I accidentally informed him that I was working at United Way (it was just habitual since I was at work when I called him). When I announced that I worked at United Way, he immediately interrupted me and replied, “I don’t give donations over the phone.” The reason I was calling him was to bring him some information on a seminar I was helping with at a church, but he immediately thought I was calling to try to convince him to donate to United Way. It was a learning experience for me because I realized that other people try to fundraise in a forceful way.
I want everyone who donates to A Day of Hope to feel that it’s a joyous experience. When people make a donation they are giving away part of their hard earned money, and it should be satisfying for them to see that it goes to a good, honorable cause. So try to talk to people about donating to A Day of Hope because they want to, not just because you want them to.