With Boston’s Light the Night walk just a couple of weeks away, it’s time for members of our Harvard Humanists team to ramp up their fundraising for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society! So, how do you actually go about doing this whole fundraising thing? Here are some tips based on my own experience fundraising for a bunch of different events, organizations, and causes.
1. Nowadays, a ton of fundraising happens totally online. Use the power of your social networks for good! Post donation page links on Facebook, Twitter, and any other web space you’ve got access to. Repost it once or twice a week, with a different “hook” each time. The “hook” can be almost anything – a question to grab the reader’s attention, a fact about cancer, a brief anecdote illustrating the importance of LLS’s work, or a personal reflection on why this cause matters to you.
2. Online announcements are great, but they will never replace individual contact. People will pay more attention when you ask them personally to donate than when you post a general announcement asking anyone and everyone for their money. I know it sounds awkward, but I promise that directly asking someone for money is not nearly as scary to do as to plan to do, so the best thing you can do is just do it. Send individual, personalized emails to the friends and family members you think might be interested in supporting your cause. Mass emails are cool too, but they do not replace individual ones. You can save a bit of time by reusing a lot of text (with basic info about the walk, leukemia and lymphoma, the Stiefel Freethought Foundation matching offer, etc.) and just filling in a few unique things for each person. The more you write out yourself and the less you copy and paste canned text from the LLS website, the more effective your emails will be. And you should also think seriously about picking up the phone and/or talking to people in person – in real life – about why this cause is important to you and why they should support it too.
3. Personalize the cause as much as possible (this applies to all types of fundraising you will do, no matter what the medium). People will pay more attention, care more, and give more when they can tell that this cause really matters to YOU. If you know somebody who has been personally affected by cancer, mention them specifically by name. If you have a story or thought relating to the cause that can make it stand out to people and make cancer about more than statistics, share it. The more of yourself that you can put into your fundraising appeals, the more seriously people will take it.
4. Make a clear and specific ask. Studies show that a psychological phenomenon called the “anchoring effect” influences fundraising: the amount that people give is positively correlated with the amount you ask f or. So don’t be afraid to ask for a bigger number than you think you’ll actually get; hearing a specific (and big) number encourages people to think in terms of big numbers. If you think someone might give you $10 or $20, ask for $100, and you might end up getting $25 or $50. Use your judgment, but be bold – there are really very few risks associated with asking for a big number. I’ve never had somebody be offended that I asked for more than they could give. (Of course, there are times when asking for a small number can be more effective – e.g. whenever I am fundraising among college students, I usually ask for $5 or $10 and emphasize that a lot of small gifts add up. This is another great time to mention the matching offer!)
5. Always, always, always thank your donors. Whether somebody is giving you $1 or $1,000, they are valuable supporters of our cause. It sounds trite but it’s completely true that every dollar counts. Make sure you make your donors feel happy and proud of their decision to support you. When you login to the Light the Night website, you can track your fundraising, see all donations you’ve received, and even email your donors directly from the website. Anybody who’s donated to you through the fundraising page should be automatically added to your address book on the site. In general, I try to check my page every day and make sure to send an individual email to thank each new donor within 24 hours. But when you do it is much less important than that it gets done, so if you notice a donation you missed a while back, you should still email the donor to thank them (and just apologize for the delay). If the donor is somebody you communicate regularly with in person and/or on the phone, it’s also a good idea to quickly thank them again the next time you talk to them.
6. Finally, don’t be afraid to get creative! Think about how you can harness your individual skills, interests, and resources for fundraising purposes. For example, one of our team members, Dan Masterson, is a (very talented) musician, so he had the awesome idea to host a live online benefit concert! He’ll be doing a 30-minute concert on October 3 at 7:35 pm – and he’ll be taking requests! You can buy tickets (and hear the concert when it happens) here.
If you have any other fundraising tips, ideas, or experiences to share, please leave a comment! Now get out there and CRUSH CANCER!