Quote for inspriation:
Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.
- Thomas Edison
I recently sat down with E.C., a member of a Wis. figure skating club and a fundraising goddess. I’m serious. This woman wrangled a scooter from a local car dealership for a raffle. E.C. has mad skills.
I have no skills. When people mention fundraising, I try to change the subject. What started as an interview turned into Ice Mom’s crash course in fundraising. E.C. told me that I had just three weeks to get items for a Basic Skills Competition and I’d better hit the streets right away.
So, I did. People have a way of doing whatever E.C. tells them to do. She’s intense.
Ice Dad drafted the donations letter. You can have it, too. Just change the yellow bits.
I e-mailed the donations letter to a bunch of businesses and hand-delivered it to others. E.C. says hand delivering it is best. “Make it a point to hand-deliver the letter,” she said. “And then follow-up two or three weeks later. [Businesses] are more likely to donate if they remember your face.”
I was pretty nervous when I went to the first couple of businesses, but people were pretty nice. The way I started to look at it was: this is great promotion for their business and people are likely to visit their establishment as a result.
Here’s what I got:
- Two $50 gift certificates from a sporting goods shop
- A Packers signed football
- A Longaberger basket
- Tickets for four to a water park
- Two six-packs of local beer, plus t-shirts and glasses (adults-only raffle item)
Not bad for a bunch of e-mails and a bit of effort. I had only three weeks and I’ve slacked off the last two. E.C. starts the fundraising months before the event. “I always say you can’t start too far out from the event,” E.C. said.
“I usually start five to six months out," she said. "For our small ice show I raised $3,200. That’s just cash donations. For our test session I get major sponsors and get their names out there.” E.C.’s club uses the donated money to pay for transporting, feeding, and housing test session judges.
E.C.’s Eleven Fundraising Tips
- Believe that you can get funds, raffle items, etc. You can. [Ice Mom: if I can do it, it can’t be that hard.]
- Offer recognition. Make sure that you include donor business cards in participant gift bags, post their names in the rink, announce their gift over the loudspeaker, and include them on event promotional materials (t-shirts, programs, radio announcements). Keep recognizing them in other events. “All year round we recognized the car dealer at every event,” E.C. said. “We announced their business and said that we wanted to thank our past supporters.”
- Spread it around. “You can’t just keep going to the same businesses for every event,” E.C. said. “You have to mix it up.”
- Think big. Don’t be afraid to ask for a big-screen T.V. from a local appliance store or a scooter from a car dealership. E.C. lives in a small town of under 20,000 residents. She’s fearless, yeah, but look at what she’s raised for the club.
- Go for the non-traditional donors. E.C. took a picture of smiling skaters, all of whom wore braces. She sent the photo to the orthodontist for a donation. Of course, he ponied up. “Look at who benefits from your children and approach them,” E.C. said.
- Ask the little guys. Sometimes a coffee shop might be able to give just a bag of roasted beans. That’s great. Bundle it in a basket with the $10 manicure gift certificate and the $5 bakery certificate. Call it a pampering day basket and raffle it off.
- Ask the independent sales reps. Mary Kay, Pampered Chef, Longaberger, and other at-home sales associates often like to make baskets for these events. Put their cards in the gift bags.
- Go through the local yellow pages. “I went through it page-by-page and started my business list that I keep as an Excel file,” she said.
- No money? How about a service? “The local UPS store wouldn’t give us a cash donation, but they printed our flyers for free,” E.C. said.
- Go in person. It’s harder to say no to a real person in front of you, she said. E.C. prints out 200 letters and takes a day off work to deliver them all. The ones she doesn’t see in person, she e-mails.
- Give back. Club members should give back to the community. Organize a pet toy drive for the local pet shelter. Skaters can take to the ice if they bring a chew toy or cat nip mouse. Over Winter Break, skaters can shovel sidewalks for the elderly. Call the media and make sure the community sees that money spent on skating does more than reduce ice fees.
E.C.’s goldmine for donations: state or local sports teams, water parks, hotels, bed & breakfasts, golf courses, wineries, mom-and-pop shops, independent sales reps., hospitals, and medical professionals.
I dipped my toe in the water for fundraising and it wasn’t as scary as I’d thought. Be bold and fearless and you might be as successful as E.C.
Did I mention that E.C. lives in a town with a population of 20,000? If E.C. can do it, we all can do it.