5 Fundraising Fundamentals

There is no doubt that each one of us has a cause we hold dear to our hearts. Whether it’s working to eradicate puppy mills, increasing global literacy rates, or funding cancer research, the world can be an unforgiving place and there are endless causes that function to alleviate these hardships. One of the best ways to support these sorts of organizations is through fundraising. Unfortunately, this can be an arduous task that entails a lot of dedication. Luckily, there are some simple tips that can decrease the stress involved with supporting a cause you love.

My personal experience with fundraising started in college. During my Freshman year, I raised nearly $700 for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals through IlliniThon. My most recent fundraising endeavor was with the Chicago Walk to End Alzheimer’s in which my team partner and I raised nearly $600. While reaching these numbers took dedication, it was certainly worthwhile, which leads to my first tip.

1. Love Your Cause

If you are not invested in the cause you are working to raise money for, you can’t expect to convince others of its importance. Stick to your passions. If you love the mission of the National Park Foundation and want to support their environmental efforts, raising money is going to be fueled by your passions and knowledge of this organization. You will draw others to your cause and compel them to help, too. Stick to what you love.

2. Outreach

This part can feel a little awkward, but remember, you aren’t contacting grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, neighbors, and friends asking for money that you can use on Starbucks and Sephora - you’re reaching out for a charitable cause. Contact family and friends first. Be very polite and explain what you are raising money for thoroughly! Talk about why you are personally passionate for the cause and add links to the organization’s website in case your family and friends want more information. Mention that if they are unable to make a donation, it’s okay. Money can be tight sometimes and asking them to simply spread the word to co-workers or their own friends and family can be extremely beneficial in its own right. Of course, don’t forget to use social media to your advantage. Post on Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook regularly!

3. Get Creative & Incentivize

To raise money for both Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, I sold my art in exchange for donations. This included sketches of favorite Disney characters, hand-painted glasses, canvases and wood signs as well as calligraphy. While this was a lot of hard work, it did help me to surpass my fundraising goals. If you are less artistically inclined, giveaway baskets are a super cute idea to amass donations. A personal favorite of mine is the “Movie Night Basket." Grab a cute basket, popcorn, candy, and fuzzy socks from the Dollar Tree. Run to Target and check out the $5 movie section. Toss in some glass Coca-Colas for flair. Then, publicize that each $5 donation will be one name submission into a raffle drawing. The more people donate, the more likely they are to win your adorable basket! 

4. Gratitude

This might seem a little old school, but for those of us who are struggling college students, we know money doesn’t grow on trees. Donations of any amount are something to be thankful for. It shows there are people in your life who feel the same way about a cause as you do, or at the very least support your goals. Show your gratitude! Once you have finished fundraising, send thank-you cards to everyone who made a donation.

5. Support Your Cause  

The second you sign up to start fundraising, give yourself a head start! Donate to your cause. Even $5 will help you inch towards your goal. Besides, if you aren’t willing to donate to a cause, reaching out to others asking for their financial support would be a little hypocritical. Donate what you can and feel good about it! Sacrificing eating out for a night or getting a coffee is worth it to make a consequent impact on a cause you love.

While this list is not exhaustive and there are many other ways to become an effective fundraiser, these are some basic ways to help make the process simpler. Once you get started and meet your goals, you’ll quickly realize why fundraising starts with “fun!"