The first time I set out to raise money for a philanthropic organization, I was a sophomore at the University of Florida who wanted to participate in my college’s Dance Marathon event. I remember feeling extremely daunted by the minimum fundraising goal (funny—I don’t even recall what it was now). But thankfully, I looked at it as a challenge instead of a deterrent, and I quickly realized I was actually pretty good at getting people to donate to a good cause.
I’ve been involved in various philanthropic organizations since then (now, my fundraising efforts go toward Alzheimer’s research and caregiving). All said and done, I’ve raised more than $20,000 for various charities so far—and I’m just getting started.
It’s important to begin by asking yourself why you’re so committed to your cause so you can clearly communicate that to your network. I always emphasize how excited I am about the impact my fundraising efforts can have on others; it helps remind people where there money is actually going. Here are a few other tips I’ve picked up that have turned the task of asking for money—which could be awkward—into a really fun way to stay connected to something bigger than yourself.
1. Set a lofty goal
Don’t be afraid to go beyond the minimum amount required for your participation in the fundraiser. Yes, you should be realistic about what kind of money you can expect your friends and family to donate. But in my experience, people are more likely to give to your cause when you shoot for a goal that sounds very difficult—maybe even impossible. People want to be a part of helping you hit a challenging amount. Once, I raised nearly seven times the minimum fundraising requirement for an event, which made me realize I should have been more ambitious from the start.
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2. Give yourself deadlines for big benchmarks, and advertise them
It’s easier to chip away at the massive goal you set for yourself if you break it down and establish targets you can aim for along the way. Once you get close to a milestone number like $100 or $1,000, tell your friends and family how much you need to hit it. If you tell everyone that you’re $25 away from hitting $1,000, you’ll likely get many $25 donations, not just one.
3. Use social media wisely
Be smart about how you post: Never post a picture on Facebook or Twitter about your fundraising efforts without including a link to your direct donation page, and put the same link in your Instagram bio—you want to make it as easy as possible for people to support your cause.
And while you may annoy a few people by posting regularly on social media (I certainly have), don’t apologize for it. Own your excitement, and your dedication will result in more donations from people who see you’re serious about helping your charity.
4. Give forgetful friends a friendly nudge
We live in a hyper-connected world where people can find their attention snatched away by a text or a viral video at any moment—which means many people will promise to donate and then fail to follow up on it. I could have let at least $1,000 in donations slip by if I didn’t remind friends of the commitments they’d made to me.
Don’t be afraid to go back to the people who said they wanted to help your cause—chances are they just forgot. I’ve actually been thanked for reminding people to donate.
5. Give people some added incentive
This can come in many forms: Making brownies, pledging to dye your hair or offering to wear something ridiculous if you hit your goal. It’ll show dedication while wooing your friends to open their wallets.
6. Write thank you notes until your hand falls asleep
O.K., you don’t need to actually handwrite them. But you should say thank you to every single person who gives you a cent. Just as it takes dedication for you to raise the money, it takes dedication for them to make the donation—and you should acknowledge that. Post a thank you on Facebook, send a text, write an email, stick a postcard in the mail—just don’t forget to show your gratitude. The Emily Post Institute says that “thanks of any kind should be prompt,” and I agree.
7. Keep things in perspective
Don’t get mad at those who don’t give. They may have personal or financial reasons for not wanting to or not being able to contribute. No matter why they’re opting not to donate, remember that they’re still your friend—and part of maintaining your relationships as you fundraise is not losing sight of that fact.
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