Here is some fundraising advice from Howard Freeman, author of Making a Difference 2.0: The Ultimate Guide to Online Charitable Giving. Check out part II here.
2. “DO NOT ‘TRY.’ EITHER ‘DO’ OR ‘DO NOT.’ THERE IS NO ‘TRY.’ Even though my wife fell asleep during “The Empire Strikes Back,” these words of Yoda’s stuck with me about raising money during LBL. You have to decide to be “all in.” Giving this a half-hearted effort will result in even less than 50% results. Like a friend of mine said when I was learning to surf and got scared of bigger waves, “You have to decide to commit to the take-off.”
Here are a few things I did to get and then stay committed:
- After the hour-long presentation I heard in Spring 2010 with Hugh Evans here in NYC, I did a couple easy things. If you haven’t already, then do these first: “Like” the GPP Facebook page, sign up on their mailing list, and consider signing any relevant online petition. These steps get your heart and head involved, and also now that Facebook has timeline, your friends will see the info in a way that might draw them in.
- Later, after committing to do the event in May 2011, I watched the videos of everyone from Gillian Zinser to a guy who lived in his car in Austin for five days. I attached myself to this community in body, mind and spirit, because that helped me ask more often and more sincerely, and it also helped when I felt particularly hungry. (An important reminder: this exercise is not so much about us feeling hungry or empathic toward the world’s poor. It’s about our privilege giving us the opportunity to build awareness and raise a lot of money in order to eradicate the problem of extreme poverty.)
3. PLAY HARD, AND STAY IN THE GAME. Once you’ve gotten over your fear, once you’ve committed, then play hard until the buzzer. Here are some things I did:
- Created a LBL Campaign Facebook banner. (This was before timeline, so I don’t know the equivalent in 2012.)
- Make the first donation. (Can’t ask others to do what you haven’t done yourself.)
- When someone makes a gift, you’ll be auto-notified by an email from GPP. I dropped what I was doing and wrote a thank-you email to the donor. Or in some cases I even called. It’s excellent stewardship and also good karma.
- When someone writes you with a question, concern, or gripe, answer it immediately. This, too, is good stewardship. Earlier, I mentioned how we fear rejection. I was incredibly shy growing up, and I still hate asking for money, so when I emailed my entire list, I felt I was putting myself out there to get slammed. One co-worker complained in an email to me about why I was doing this. (“Isn’t it arrogant to try to act poor for a week?”) Hugh Evans was at that time rebutting a GOOD Magazine piece on the same topic. I referred my colleague to the rebuttal, and I tried to be uncharacteristically polite. He didn’t make a donation, but we remained on great terms after the event. To my recollection, I did not receive one general complaint from more than 1,200 people in my email list. Who is going to complain about your wanting to help people who live on less than $1.50 a day?!
- At the end of two days of fundraising, our team was #1 out of more than 3,000 U.S. teams, and we completed the campaign in that position. I played off this first-place spot during the week and to the end of the fundraising stage (about two weeks later) in order to raise more money, and I increased my goal along the way, passing the second one as well. My son’s karate teacher calls this “friendly competition.” As long as you’re doing things in the right spirit, a healthy sense of competition can only help the larger effort.
- I made YouTube videos each night and circulated them to supporters and select potential donors.
- I sent daily email updates to supporters during the fast itself through the LBL email system, which made it easy to send to all or send to those who had donated since a certain date. It also branded the emails as LBL, so that supporters would feel they were part of something bigger.
- I mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: I made sure to personally thank supporters immediately after receiving notice of their gifts (GPP allowed us to insert our email address so that we would get gift alerts). Remember, the way you go about fundraising will reflect on GPP and its partners as well, so practice good stewardship of your donors’ gifts.
- I thanked supporters multiple times and told them what food I had bought with the money and about my culinary skills (or lack thereof). I kept it all lighthearted, so they’d keep reading. Every third or so message I told them about the work of GPP and encouraged them to click over to the GPP website to learn more. By the end of the campaign, one of my supporters said he was persuaded to take his whole family of five through the experience!
- I asked supporters to share the campaign with their friends via social media and email.
- I used and perhaps overused Facebook and Twitter (and the #LBLUSA hashtag). I received only a handful of gifts from people who weren’t my friends, but I was pulling out all the stops and didn’t mind if this was considered a bit aggressive. Frankly, I was willing to look like an idiot to get more money to help the cause.
- I was into it 100%. Online and offline.
- To underscore one thing I learned more than anything: I have an amazing community of friends, family and coworkers. I relied on that community to come through for the cause, and they overwhelmingly did.
- So I’ll make you this promise: trust the power of the community you’ve developed over the years, ask them to help in tangible ways, and you’ll be amazed at the results and also walk away later feeling even more gratitude that they’re in your life.
Check out Howard's book Making a Difference 2.0 here