When I signed up to raise $9,000 for the Discover Outdoors Foundation, I figured it was going to be work, but I didn’t realize how much. Fundraising is hard. Really, really hard. And it takes more time and effort than you think. A few things I learned:
1. This will be a focused commitment.
You’re fooling yourself if you think people will simply hand over money. They will, but it’s because they love you and/or believe in YOU. You’re going to need all of them — and more — to champion your cause.
Your goal will not happen by itself. Set realistic expectations regarding what you and your team are capable of. It helps to set deadlines with an actionable timeline to make sure you’re on track. Think of it as a battle strategy. You don’t go to war without considering what makes sense first.
2. You have to have tough skin.
You will hear “no.”
When you do, you can let it sting, but you can’t let it stop you. You have to get over rejection.
Most of the time, you will hear nothing. You may need to ask once, twice, three times before someone is receptive to your message. People are busy. Your email may not be on their priority list. They may read your email and think it’s not for them (really). Yes, there is a fine line between sending too many emails and not enough, but you can’t be afraid to find it.
One surprising thing I discovered: some people are jealous. It’s weird, but when you’re doing a good thing and feel energetic and are helping others, there are people who are reminded of what they are not doing and what their life isn’t. Ignore them.
You will find a small group of people who want to see you succeed. They will champion your cause, be your biggest fans. You will need them; they will become your lifeblood. In the moments you want to quit, get carried away by their enthusiasm.
3. Get creative.
The majority of people won’t care. These are the folks you have to work to convert. In order to do so, you can’t say the same thing over and over. You have to mix it up, tell a new story, highlight a new angle, emphasize progress. Keep newsflashes relevant and share updates on not only your fundraising efforts but also the cause you’re supporting.
Research and use the tool that works best for you (Causes, Indiegogo, Kickstarter, Crowdrise). Your social media channels can amplify your efforts, but don’t restrict your creativity to one particular platform. Take it offline through events: happy hours, bake-offs, MYO pizza parties, lawn mowing services…
4. Get personal.
You can’t be afraid to bring your own story into the equation. What is your relationship to the project? Why are you committed? By sharing your enthusiasm, folks will better be able to relate to your efforts and will want to support you in your work. And every new person you meet? Tell them about your project. Mention your fundraising when asked about your work. People feel more inclined to support excitement and passion they witness firsthand.
Your personal story is a good part of what draws in a potential donor. Think of yourself as a magnet.
5. It is not possible to say thank you enough.
People are going out of their way to listen to your message, learn about your cause, and ultimately, choose to back your work. This is not a little thing and deserves much recognition.
Thank each and every individual for their support as many ways as you can (once is probably not enough). Gratitude will keep the momentum behind your project strong. When someone feels recognized and cherished, they will feel more inclined to share your cause with their networks.
6. Build a team.
If you do it right, fundraising is an opportunity to build community, not just raise money. People want to feel part of something. They want to feel connected to you and your success. Involve them throughout the journey and make sure they feel part of the ride. When you win, you win as a team. Go get ’em!