4 Steps To Fundraising Success
Imagine being handed a few resources, taught some best practices, and then pushed out into the world to try and raise £6,200 for charity with no option but to put on your best volunteer face and raise it by yourself.
When I was selected by Project Trust in August, that was my situation. I knew it would be difficult. I was already anticipating having to move across the world to India, become a volunteer teacher and take a break from thirteen years of fairly successful schooling. I was already thinking how hard that would be. I'd mention India and be told about Delhi Belly and homesickness and all the risks in taking a year out.
But none of that was as terrifying as the idea of fundraising my way.
Let me be honest, £6,200 is more money than I've ever had in my life, and before this year I'd never before tried to fundraise for anything. I'd been involved in fundraising, sure, but I was never the one organising and shaking hands and counting money. So raising £6,200 when you're inexperienced sounds crazy, but I was promised it was entirely doable. And nine months later, I can say with all certainty -it is.
Over the past nine months I've held bake sales, coffee mornings, a ceilidh and a race night. I've written to trusts and given out smartie tubes and given presentations. It was really, really, really hard. But for the first time in forever, I can see the fundraising finish line. I'm almost there. (Check my JustGiving page to see where I'm at- it's updated monthly!)
If you’re in a situation where you have to fundraise, whether it’s for charity, your job, or a sudden crisis situation, the ceiling is really as high as you can lift it. Fundraising, after all, is simply asking those who have money to give some of it to a party in need.
If you're future Project, and you're reading this in envy, I'm sorry. I used to do the same. But let’s be honest: you're not expected to find this easy. This is the first time you’re fundraising! You've probably read a bunch of great blogs, spoken to peers, watched interviews and started sending of fundraising requests. You're reading the updates of all the others and while you're mildly pleased for them, you also want to throw your laptop off a cliff because you're pretty sure they're all doing way way better than you are.
So, I'm still no expert, I've still got a long way to go and fundraising has been the bane of my life for the past year. But for anyone who needs it, here's a few points on how I've successfully raised a lot money in under a year, and how you can to.
1) Believe in what you’re selling. If you’re not 100% sold on what you’re raising money for, you’ll never be successful. I believe with my whole heart that my India project and Project Trust are worthy of the money I'm raising for them and that is what's gotten me through every confused stare or confrontational question. When people pointed out my expensive phone (which was, ahem, passed down from my brother) or asked why I couldn't just get my parents to pay for me (not exactly the point of 'fundraising' now is it?), I wasn’t fazed. I knew I was doing it for something that was worth any embarrassing or awkward moments it brought about.
2) View people as partners, not cash machines. You don’t want to use people for their money; you want them to invest in something that they, too, view as worthwhile! I wanted people to view our project as just that: our project. So many people have heard what I'm doing and brushed it off as raising money for me, and my little "holiday" in India. So from the moment someone had donated I've sent constant updates on how things are going, how important the work of Project Trust is, and the very important thank you cards and letters. Little things that go a long way in making donors feel they are included, something I'll continue doing when I'm overseas.
3) Hustle. There were days where I was exhausted from sending out letters to trusts just to hear nothing back, or hand out smartie tubes just to be told someone had lost theirs, or when every plan for a fundraiser fell through and I had to start from scratch. But each of those letters and smartie tubes and events was a potential income source. Raising money takes work. It’s constant smiles and quick answers, all in a reassuring, your-money-is-safe-with-me tone. It’s calling people two, three, four times to set up a meeting — and then having them cancel in a text message that morning. It’s answering the same question a million times and making it sound perpetually fresh. Prepare to be exhausted, but wow, it’ll feel good when you’re done!
4) Don't make the same mistakes as me. Some people will tell you mistakes are your blood, the feed to your improvement and success. Lessons learned. But mistakes in fundraising cost too much of your scarce resources including time, sleep and self-confidence, not to mention the money you're trying to raise. If you're anything like me, and new to this fundraising thing you will probably make one of the following mistakes (just to name a few):
1. seeking help when it’s (almost) too late
2. contacting any charitable trust you ever heard of
3. being unclear on what you want
4. pitching unprepared
5. not following up
You have to be straight. You have to say this is who I am and this is what I'm raising money for and this is why you should support it, and this is how I think you can do so. When they don't get back to you, you have to send a friendly email and double check they got your letter, or message. I've recently just received a very generous raffle prize because I'd written to the company's charity person and heard nothing, sent and email and handed in a leaflet and heard nothing, just to find out a while later that the charity person had left and no one had been appointed to take her place. I was given correct contact details and within the week I was asked to come in and collect raffle prizes.
You also have to ensure that those you're writing to would normally give to your cause. I've sent out letters that I've later realised were a waste of paper because a company or trust doesn't support gap years or teaching projects, maybe only medical ones or for people volunteering in Africa.
Remind people that if they can donate in person, it's better than donating via Just Giving. Just Giving take a cut for their services- so if someone can donate in person it's much more economic. I learned this the hard way when I lost £50 because a family friend sent in money using Just Giving instead of giving it to me directly to send to PT. This meant Just Giving took a cut of the money fundraised. Silly mistakes I shouldn't have made in the first place.
Fundraising doesn't have to be terrifying. All you have to do is ask — and spend a lot of time smiling!