Ever since the day I decided to raise money for Lisa King I have been swamped with emails from other women asking me my tips on how to run a successful charity fundraiser online. Most of these emails are from women who are trying to raise awareness and money for a friend in need and some are from women who are trying to raise money for themselves.
Every time I read these emails my heart breaks. There is so much sorrow and suffering happening in homes around the world and I try my best to reply according to what I believe will help them the most. As this has become a little time consuming on my part I have decided to write a blog post about it so I can simply send them a link with my advice and tips.
Now, I am not an expert at charity fundraising that is for sure and helping out the King Family was the first and probably the last time I will ever do such an event. I also am a big believer that the only reason we raised so much money for the King family was because of the wonderful, kind people that they are and it had absolutely nothing to do with me. People donated money because of them and I played a very small role in the whole process.
With that in mind I will share with you the steps that I took to make the fundraiser happen. This may come across as blunt and uncaring but if you are going to set out to raise money you need to use wisdom and think about how to best touch the hearts of people so they will donate money.
1. Act immediately: As soon as I heard that Lisa has lost her husband so quickly after losing her son, I did not wait for permission from anyone, I acted immediately and set up a fundraising page. I kind of went with the act now and seek forgiveness later factor. Maybe not the smartest move but I knew many people would be shocked to hear the news of Lisa and would want to do something to help immediately. I gave them an opportunity to do something right away while they were feeling many different emotions.
2. Quickly educate yourself: I immediately started making phone calls to my bank, Paypal and other charity run organisations to seek out the best and easiest way to raise money. I asked a lot of questions about fees involved, permits and permissions to raise money. You do not need a license or permit to raise money for a friend in need here in Australia and you do not need to register as a charity organisation to make it happen. What you do need to be aware of is that most sites that allow you to raise money charge a fee. They take a percentage of the money raised and you often do not get the money transferred into the designated bank account until the end of each month. The money is not immediately available in most cases.
3. Make it visual: In deciding what platform to host the fundraiser for the King family, I decided to go with 'My Cause' instead of Paypal because you can set up a fundraising page and can clearly see how much money is being raised. I wanted to have a visual page (also include a visual image if possible so people can connect to the person or people involved) where people could see how much money was being donated and a chance to be supportive in helping me achieve my fundraising goal. It worked really well and I felt that people loved checking in on how much money we had raised and I even found myself glued to the fundraising page watching the tally raise daily. 'My Cause' does have fees involved and I have to mention that I found the customer service terrible and very insensitive. I may have had words with them!
4. Tell a story: If you are raising money for a friend or family member in need, tell the story of why you are seeking help and what the money is need for. People will want to know why they should donate money and what their money will be used for. Be upfront, be bold and be honest. The more specific the better. Do not be afraid to add emotion to your story. Sad but true - if you can make people cry, people will donate more money and the more tragic the story, the more success you will have.
5. Set a fundraising goal: Set a realistic fundraising goal amount you want to achieve according to the charity needs you have. My first goal I set for the King Family was $10,000. I really felt that with the amount of readers I have on my blog that I surely would be able to raise $10,000 over the time period of a month to help them out to pay for headstones. Imagine my shock when I reached that goal over the first two days! People will also donate more money when they can see what the total amount is and if you have a goal that you want to reach. They will also put in a few extra dollars to round it off etc. to help you reach that goal if you have a visual page for your charity needs. Remember you can change the fundraising goal at anytime. I kept increasing mine as the days went by and my last goal I put in was for $45,000. We came close on the fundraising page and finished at $44,694.
6. Have a variety of choices available to donate: When raising money for charity it is important to remember that not everyone likes to donate money, especially in a public way and not everyone is in a position to do so. When setting up the charity fundraiser for Lisa King I set up a visual fundraising page, a private bank account for anonymous donations and also included a postal address to give people the option of sending gifts. All three choices worked really well and I only ever shared what amount we raised on the fundraising page and kept the other two options private with what was donated and received.
6. Use social media: If you are going to have a successful charity fundraiser online you need to use social media to get the word out. If you have a blog, write a blog post like Deb to help Trish and ask people to share it. If it is a long term fundraiser, set up a separate blog like Bree. I was lucky that I already had a facebook page and twitter account that I could use to spread the message. It is worth the effort to set up a separate facebook page or twitter account to help raise awareness. If you are also going to be holding a facebook auction I highly recommend setting up a separate page. With twitter people can easily retweet your message and spread the word and with facebook people can easily hit the share button and share your message. Do not be afraid to ask people to help share it for you. People love to be involved in helping others and will often spread your fundraiser faster than you possibly could. Also contact your local paper and see if they can do an article for you to help spread your fundraising goal and be careful to share the right links as I find they always get it wrong! When using social media remember to try not to spam people with your charity fundraiser no matter how desperate you feel because nobody likes to feel pressured to donate.
7. Be grateful: Always, always remember to be grateful for any donation that you receive. Hardly anyone really has any spare cash to donate to charity these days and so keep in mind that any donation you receive has come at a great sacrifice to the people who gave it. Most donations you will find will come from women who are often struggling as mother's at home or at work to support their own families but are prepared to go without to help someone else. They donate because the story has touched their hearts and any money donated should be seen and used as special and sacred money.
Continue to share your thanks and appreciation all through the fundraising journey.
I am still amazed, thankful and blown away by the support we received for the King family. My heart was touched by the many sacrifices people made to donate and the amount of support we received to help them. For me now, I made the difficult decision to not support any charity fundraising. I receive at least 5 emails a week from women asking me to support them. I read every heartbreaking story and try to help where I can but I don't share them on my facebook page or blog. It is too hard for me to decide who to support so I chose to support none. I have received many hate emails over this calling me selfish and many other words I won't mention but I know that these women are often dealing with great stress and don't know where else to turn. I have already seen my readers give so much I simply can't ask them to donate any more. I hope people understand why I have had to come to this decision but I am often happy to help in any other way I can. I hope this blog post will be a good start.