Making Fundraising Successful and Fun

Think about the very first time you asked your parents for money so you could go to the movie/concert/you fill in the blank and they said you had to find your own money. You could have approached a solution in one of these four ways: Throw a tantrum, tell your friends your parents are mean and not go, beg your grandma for money, or finally, learn how to make your own money. The first three are of course easier to do but I found that learning how to make money, fundraising for myself, was much more rewarding and self-fulfilling. I have also found that fundraising for a cause is even more rewarding yet but it is also challenging, which makes it even more fulfilling. I have a couple tips for you that might help!

My name is Nicholas Campion-Liemandt and I am a senior from a high school in Minnesota. I ran my first fundraiser when I was in 3rd grade for a dog shelter and have been trying to improve my strategy ever since I brought that jar full of change and dollar bills into the shelter. If you have ever organized a service project or started a program, you probably realized you had to do fundraising first. Then when you tried fundraising, you realized what a pain it is and how disheartening it can be. Am I right? I am here to tell that fundraising does NOT have to be difficult, it CAN be fun, AND you get the rewarding feeling of helping a cause you believe in. Don't believe me? Well, let's talk about how you can do it.

The first step is to have a goal in mind. Once you have a goal you are ready to start fundraising! I always follow this process when planning my fundraising campaigns:

  • Set a fundraising goal: Set the amount of money you wish to raise during your campaign.
    Let's say your goal is to raise enough money to go to the National Service Learning Conference– a very respectable goal I must say!
  • Create and follow a timeline for your fundraising campaign: Every goal has a start and end date. Chart out smaller goals within your timeframe to help ensure you are on our way to meeting your goal.  
    To reach your goal in time, let's say January 1st is your deadline. That means I need to have my plan in place by the end of the week. I would take the next steps and put a "due date" by it. If it helps, pretend your teacher assigned it and it's a project that will not receive credit if late.
  • Create positions for those involved with set responsibilities:  Form a team and give everyone responsibilities throughout the campaign. Write these down and record when they are met.
    When I form my team, I make sure to have people on my team whose strengths are my weaknesses. For example, if I need art for my campaign, I do not want the stick figures that I would be drawing, so I go find an artist.
  • Know your audience and do your research: Research whom you will be partnering with and who you will be inviting to your events.  It is important to know your audience. That way you can create and maintain solid relationships with your funders.
    If your raising money to go to a service-learning conference, make sure your not soliciting funding from a someone who supports service, leadership, or youth development. Asking Shady Oaks Retirement Home is probably not your best bet. Unless, you are selling a homemade bingo game....
  • Find volunteers and partners: Form a reliable group of volunteers that will help you meet all your fundraising needs.  Create separate goals, timelines, and responsibilities for them as well.
    You will need people other than your team to make this happen! If you are organizing a pancake breakfast, finding volunteers to cook pancakes is a must. So is partnering with a school who will let you use their kitchen.
  • Publicize your campaign heavily: Use various mediums of communication to promote your fundraising campaign.  Examples include: Social media (after all, it’s free), print ads, press releases, articles, interviews, word of mouth, etc.
    Create an event on Facebook telling people about your benefit concert and invite them to attend. Nothing will beat you telling your friends or getting on your school's PA system but hey, social media is free and if it brings in "just" $10.00, that's $10.00 less you need to raise.  Also, use a story. People hear so many stats and numbers that they become irrelevant. Pick ONE child you are trying to save; a picture would not hurt either.
  • Create a system to record and manage money: Create and monitor a system to manage the funds you raise. Assign 1-2 people to be in charge of recording and watching the funds.
    If you have an ongoing project, make sure you are counting the money that comes in from your bake sales, silent auctions, car washes, etc.
  • Follow up with donors to thank them for their contribution: It is extremely important to thank your donors for their contributions. Make sure to get each donor’s contact information so you can follow up with him or her.

You CAN fundraise and it can BE fun! I promise you, when you look at the children's faces that you just donated money to buy Christmas presents to or walk in the door of NLSC, you will have an unbelievable feeling of satisfaction. Good luck to you and your campaign! If you have any questions or would like help with your plan, please email me at nick@youthrive.net and I'll be more than happy to help!

Nicholas Campion-Liemandt is a high school senior and Marketing Specialist for Youthrive as well as chair of the Cabinet, their youth advisory board. Youthrive is a partner with National Youth Leadership Council for the 2012 National Service-Learning Conference.