Here is a post from Howard Freeman, author of Making a Difference 2.0, who was the top Live Below the Line fundraiser from last year.
Though I’ve been in fundraising for almost seventeen years, I’d rarely asked for money from friends for a project I was personally (rather than professionally) involved in. When I did “Live Below the Line” in 2011, I therefore had little experience, and the prospect of raising the money was more daunting than the fast.
n 1986, I did a 15-mile walk-a-thon in New York City but signed up my sponsors to pledge by the mile “run.” I figured I’d raise more money. I stupidly ran the last ten miles in old sneakers and then couldn’t walk the next day. That was it—my personal fundraising one-off—until my next experience nearly twenty-five years later. This past year’s effort was transformative in my own way of looking at the issue of extreme poverty, because in addition to eating less for a week, I took the time to learn more. But it was also a time that focused me on the power of community, so much so that I wrote a book about how robust online giving can come only from strong community. Your personal community—I can’t stress this enough—are those family, friends and coworkers who will both support you financially and keep you encouraged.
Therefore, if you commit yourself to the fundraising part of this event, and if you will work hard at it for a couple weeks, you will strengthen that community by allowing them to partner with you, and you will reap a great reward in knowing that you’ve done a wonderful thing for people around the world who will never have the opportunity to thank you personally.
Yet there’s at least one big fat obstacle in the way: actually raising the money. So I was asked to share my story from last year, since our team was fortunate enough to end up in the #1 spot out of more than three thousand American teams. While there are certainly some “techniques” and strategies that I think worked—most being those that GPP gives all of us in their online guide—the one thing I credit our success to is the community of my friends, coworkers and family who contributed. Your community will support you if you let them know how important this effort is to you. Make this personal.
Leading up to Live Below the Line, I’ll be sharing my top tips on reaching your financial goal. Here is number 1:
1. “YOU DO NOT HAVE, BECAUSE YOU DO NOT ASK.” Having now done two micro-fundraising efforts; raised personal support from family and friends to go to graduate school; and spent 17 years in professional fundraising, mostly in major donor work—and also as the observant father of three sons who are too young to know better—I can say without hesitation that the #1 reason more people don’t raise more money is because they’re afraid to ask, so they don’t ask.
If you’ll notice, children are never afraid to ask for anything.
If we’re honest, our hesitation is that we might be too proud to put ourselves out there and get rejected. (Again, children are not proud.) My encouragement is this: assume for the moment the humility of the people whose plight you’re representing and speak to those with means to help. Poor people have a voice, but they don’t have the ear of those you do. Be that go-between connecting the voice with the ear. Trust that those who are reading your email or text, or listening to you on the phone or over coffee, are among those who care about you. They’re not suddenly going to hate you! And take consolation: it’s often harder for them to say “no” than for you to hear it. They will most likely simply not answer your message.
Here are some practical tips, which I feel are vital:
- Email your first message to your entire email list. The reason to do this is that once you start cherry-picking people to include, you will come across a lot more reasons to exclude. You’ll also waste a lot of time. EMAIL EVERYONE.
- Since you’re emailing everyone, plainly state that in your note. Last year’s LBL occurred during my birthday, so I opened with some quip about sharing my cake with 1.4 billion people, explained the project, and then added an ending like, “I'm bcc:ing my entire directory with this note (yes, it is somewhat impersonal...but it is for a good cause!), and it's likely I have never asked you personally to donate to an organization before. But I'm asking you to please consider it today.” BE OBVIOUS: YOU WANT AS MANY PEOPLE TO HELP AS POSSIBLE. This also underscores your passion about what you’re doing: you’re asking everyone you know.
- I think I emailed my entire list only twice, maybe three times. After that, I kept it more focused, did a lot of thanking, and did social media (covered later).
Check out Howard‘s book here