by Mindy Schroeder, Vice President HDSA San Diego Chapter
Most people hate asking for money
It’s true. You probably get requests for money all the time and you think “Ugh, I can’t give any more.” Or, “If I wanted to give money to that group I would have given money to that group.” From a fundraising perspective, the direct ask is probably the most effective at getting people to donate. But it’s not the only way to get donations. So what do you do if you don’t want to directly ask people?
First, remember your story - and write it
If you’re raising money for HDSA, chances are you have a story. You don’t have to be at risk for HD, be HD positive, or be a caregiver to have a story. Joy Park, the top fundraiser at the SD Team Hope walk a few years back, is not directly affected. But she IS close with the Schroeder family who is. She networked at her place of employment and ended up raising nearly $4000 by telling everyone what she was doing, who she was supporting and why it’s important. So think about YOUR story. Why do YOU care. And when you are fundraising, make sure you tell people this part. Think about it - you are more likely to donate to a friend’s cause when you know that they have a personal connection, right? Once you’ve got it in your head, write it down to be used on your fundraising page, in emails, or just have it in mind when you’re talking to people.
Second, set your goal, and then reset it later
Most people underestimate what they can raise. If you’re new to fundraising and unsure, you might want to start with a lower goal. $500 is a relatively easy goal to reach. You’ll need ten $50 donations to get there ($50 is a reasonable donation amount). Once you’ve reached your goal, raise it!
Third, give to yourself - make your first donation
The first donation sets the stage for what others will give. If you go to a fundraising page and see that everyone is giving $25, your are less likely to give more than that. If you can afford it, make an anonymous donation to yourself of $100. If that’s too much, think of who you know that can give that much and ask that person to make the first donation (maybe it’s your Mom, or your best friend, or your Uncle). If $100 is too much for anyone on your list, make the highest donation you can afford.
Fourth, share your story
Sharing your story can take many forms, but the very first place you should share it is on your fundraising page. When you set up a donor page, you are able to add pictures and write your own message. The standard language is ok, but it’s what you have to say that people care about. And once it’s up, it’s up. You don’t have to repeat it all that much.
Fifth, make the ask (whether directly or indirectly)
Now that you’ve written your story, set up your page, set your goal, and made your first donation, it’s time to start asking for contributions from others.
You don’t have to walk up to people and say “Hi, I’m fundraising for HDSA, here’s my story, will you give me $100?” - although it’s actually a highly effective way of doing it! But being less “in your face” about it can really payoff.
Here are some avenues:
- Email - Email is great because, unlike social media where posts can be missed, it sits in a person’s inbox until they decide to do something with it. Also, the person doesn’t have to actually turn you down when they get the email. They can just ignore it, which sounds counterintuitive to fundraising, but can actually be a good thing. Psychologically, it allows the person to make a decision about donating without feeling pressured. And, they can go back to it a while later if they decide to give and the link is always available to them.
Be sure to tell people in your email right away that you are fundraising. Trying to hide it makes people annoyed. When you come right out and say what you want from the start, then people will make a very quick decision. Here’s a sample email that went out from a participant that was using their birthday to fundraise:
Subject: Help me reach my 4K fundraising goal
Friends and Family,
In less than a week, it will be my birthday and I will be halfway to 90. Boy does time fly! It seems like I was just graduating college. So much has happened since then. And, as you all no doubt know by now, the single most influential event in my life was the diagnosis of my Dad when we found out that he had Huntington's disease.
I wish I could explain to you all what that did to me - how it turned my life on a dime, flipped it upside down, and nearly destroyed me. What ultimately started to pull me out of it was being able to do something about it - namely running and raising money for HDSA.
Next month will mark the 6th year in a row that I will run the SD Half in memory of my Dad. And, the 4th in a row that I'll be running in honor of my brother, Tim Schroeder, who also has this terrible disease. I'm hoping that you all will support my fundraising efforts, once again, in lieu of birthday gifts.
Things are just things. They are nice to have, but they don't make a difference. When you donate to HDSA, you feed my soul, and that helps me to feel like my family is loved and supported. My goal is $4000. I've raised $1000 so far. If you'd like to donate, you can do so here: [insert donation link]
Thank you to everyone who read this email, and thank you to everyone who has donated in the past. I love you for it!
- Snail Mail - Snail mail (i.e. send a letter in the US Mail) is less ideal than email. It costs more, takes more time to send out, and it requires that the person on the other end take more action. However, it can be very effective for individuals who are not comfortable with technology or for people who just love getting something sent to them that shows you made an effort. The key to a successful snail mail campaign is to make it as easy on the recipient to give as possible. You would still follow the elements above for the ask. In addition, you should provide already addressed envelopes with postage.
- Social Media - Most people are on social media these days. If you don’t have any social media accounts, set one or more up and start asking for friends and followers. The trick to a social media campaign is a quick message. People don’t spend a lot of time reading your posts. So a short, to the point ask is best. Here’s an example:Next month will mark the 6th year in a row that I will run the SD Half in memory of my Dad. And, the 4th in a row that I'll be running in honor of my brother, Tim Schroeder, who also has this terrible disease. I'm hoping that you all will support my fundraising efforts, once again, in lieu of birthday gifts.
My goals is $4000, If you'd like to donate, you can do so here:
[insert donation link]
Thank you to everyone who read this post, and thank you to everyone who has donated in the past. I love you for it!
- Just talk about it - This means that you talk about Huntington’s disease - not just with regard to your fundraising efforts, or events, or what you want from people. It means you tell people about HD in general. The month of May is HD awareness month and there is the “Let’s Talk About HD” campaign on social media. Use that as an opportunity to raise awareness. This is not the time to ask for money (unless you happen to be participating in an event near the time frame). Rather, it’s just a time to educate.
When you talk about it, you are telling your story - the one you formulated at the outset. It’s important that when you share your story that you are not embellishing it. Be genuine. Be honest. Be real. The more you can talk about real life things, the better people will understand your particular situation. It’s often these informal conversations that result in a “how can I help” reponse. When that happens, you can ask for donations, ask for that person to sign up as a volunteer, or a walker, or any of a number of things. Find out what they WANT to do to help and then see if you can partner that person up with the opportunity. One participant was going to physical therapy for an injury and told the therapist that she was running for HDSA. Another patient overheard her, went to her wallet and donated $20. You never know where the donations will come from.
- Post a flier - Some places of work will allow you to post fliers. Make a flier version of your fundraising page. Include your goal. Put a goal “thermometer” on the flier and fill it up as you get donations. Tell people where to go to donate, or offer to send them the link.
- Putting a link in your signature - This is a passive way to solicit donations. It’s not as effective as some of the other suggestions above. But, from time to time, you’ll get a donation out of it. Put a short sentence at the bottom of your signature such as:
I'm running the SD Half Marathon in March to raise money for HDSA. Help me raise my $4,000 fundraising goal. [Insert donation link]
- Hosting a party - Some people like being social and using social events to raise money. If you have a special occasion, like a birthday, baby shower, or a holiday party, you can use it as a way to fundraise. Or you can just have a fundraising party. There are a number of ways you can raise money. Make games that involve “buying in,” collecting the money for HDSA. Maybe you host a Texas Hold Em tournament, for example. Or, uou can simply ask people to donate whatever they want when they come. One person I know did a “Septathalon” party where he committed to doing 7 different physical events (i.e. running, weight lifting, kayaking, cycling, etc) and asked people to sponsor him per event. Then, at the end he invited his donors to a celebration party. He raised $1000 that day. Be creative and think about what you like to do and what your friends like to do.
- Holding a raffle - One example of an easy raffle is a 50/50 raffle. Everyone puts in money and gets a raffle ticket. The winning raffle ticket gets half the total, and the other half goes to HDSA. You can also do a more traditional raffle. Get raffle items donated (ask for the 501c3 letter from HDA) and then sell raffle tickets for prizes. You can even make donations to your donor view drive the "ticket" by setting a price and assinging numbers to donors.
- Matching Donations - Ask anyone who donates if their company matches donations and then work with them to provide whatever the company needs to do it. One of the reasons are 2019 walk was so successful was that we received thousdans of dollars in matching gifts. Follow this link to see if a company matches gifts: https://hdsa.org/get-involved/matching-gifts-program/
Sixth, Follow Up
- Making the direct ask - If you’re bold, you can simply go up to people and say “Hi, I’m fundraising for HDSA and would like to know if you would be willing to donate $100?” The benefit of this kind of ask is that it let’s people know that you expect them to donate, and at what level. REMEMBER - nobody is going to come up to you and say “I have some extra money, do you have a cause I can give it to?” That never happens. YOU must approach others. How you do it, is up to you.
Most people need more than one “ask” - so don’t be afraid to send follow up emails, or ask if they received your request when you see them, or repost to social media on multiple occasions.
Seventh, say thank you and send updates
Every donation is important - whether $5 or $500. Make sure to thank your donors immediately and personally. Don’t rely on the generic thank you from the website. Letting your donors know you noticed will help encourage them to donate again. Then, from time to time, send a fundraising update letting them know how close to your goal you are. After the event, send them a note telling them about the event. And, when it comes up make sure to send updates about the HD community.
You CAN raise money, and you can do it relatively pain free!