UTM's Pumpkin Party before we unloaded them
As Side Events Chair for St. Jude Up Til Dawn, I’ve gotten into some predicaments. My goal is to help the teams participating in St Jude raise the $100 minumum to get into the finale event.
It goes like this:
Person A signs up into Team AwesomeSauce for Kids
Person A raises $100 dollars.
Team AwesomeSauce for Kids raises in $100/member for $600 total.
Finale event and Team AwesomeSauce for Kids dominates and stays up for good.
Now, the idea behind Side Events Chair is not to glibly raise money for St. Jude. You are responsible for Person A through Person Z raising their $100, for Team AwesomeSauce for Kids to Team Zebrahead Unite having $600.
So if you’re raising money and the end goal of that money is not going to an individual, then you’re not doing your job. So, that makes things a little tougher, but it does give you great options of personalizing things for your school.
First, find a way to personalize the idea to your school. If there’s a time-honored tradition of bake sales, so a bake sale with goods contributed from teams.
If you can get a hold of your school’s mascot and have him take pictures with teams, this spreads awareness but doesn’t raise teams money.
Also, don’t do it in the regular places. If your University Center is always full of organizations begging for money, don’t do it there. Go to the coffee shop or a college building that has an active lobby area. Ours is Gooch Hall where there’s benches and couches for people and a small food stand, so people are more likely to linger.
Second, don’t talk at people while fundraising. Talk to people. There’s a big difference.
When we were raising money through people donating to who they wanted to see get their head shaved, we didn’t ask passerby to “donate to who you want to get their head shaved!” We said, “Hey, which one of these people do you think will get their head shaved?”
Yeah, some people ignored us like they’ll ignore anyone, but a majority of people started stopping and guessing. Then, if their guy/gal didn’t look too hot with donations, they would drop a dollar in. One guy dropped one $10 in, then when I said “Hey, you know all this goes to St. Jude,” to his buddy, he dropped another $10 in.
For the best results, start a conversation. Don’t ask for money. If they ask, “What’s all this for?” You tell them, and show them how that money will be spent. For us, it’s about never allowing a family to pay a bill from St. Jude. For your organization, it may be different.
Start a conversation. No demands or pleas. If they don’t want to donate now, talk to them later when you’re outside of the role of fundraising and say, “Hey, I appreciate you stopping to talk to me anyway, even if you don’t donate. Everyone needs to know about St. Jude.”
Third, find unique ways to fundraise. Not only that, think of things that makes it easier for teams and individuals to participate. We’re giving away pumpkins for our teams to sell this week. We did all the hard work of finding farms willing to donate them to St. Jude, then loading them up (my job Sunday! That was fun!), unloading them, and then offering it to the teams.
We’ve received a great response so far and it’s something I’m looking forward to doing next October now. It’s simple, easy, and doesn’t require a ton of scheduling.
Also, give your teams license to do outside-of-the-box fundraisers.
One team has booked a table in the University Center and is doing “Cutest Pet Contest.” It’s not the same old bake sale, that’s for sure!
Fourth, either do something tremendously easy—like giving away pumpkins to sell—or a one-day event. Our first event was a Best [legs/arms/etc] contest. It was excruciating. We had twelve buckets, signs, and fliers that we had to trek every day to the University Center. Then trek them back home, then pick them up from whatever person, then do it all over again. And people decided to extend it another week.
So uncool. That next week, I wised up. I sent one category (we had four) a day, so then there were three buckets, one sign, and no fliers (we had given them all away). When we had twelve buckets, we raised an average of $25.00 a day. The second week—and we didn’t get to do Thursday because of complications—our average was $40 a day.
Not a big difference, but it was to the individuals and teams who had signed up who made more money. One guy raised his $75 of his $100 in those two weeks.
In total, to make your fundraising successful if you have a similar strategy as Up Til Dawn, you:
1. Personalize the idea during Homecoming/big event/etc.
2. Talk to people, not at them. If I hear you yelling across a crowded room about donating, I will stalk you and kick you in the shin. It won’t be hard. I’ll just follow the sound of your voice.
3. Don’t do a bake sale over and over. Do a contest, find sponsors to donate things you can sell, do a dance-off.
4. Do something either tremendously hands-off (teams sell pumpkins for you) OR do a big event in one day.
If I had to start this school year all over again, I would have followed those four principles and would’ve had it a heck of lot easier.