Thursday, February 12, 2009

Community Fundraisers: When Your Donors Approach You With Ideas To Raise Money

My conversation with Lon started a bit differently, we were talking about technology and then I learned about the Community Fundraisers created by donors. Wow! What nonprofit wouldn't want a dedicated corps of people spontaneously offering to do events for it? Great ideas! Bunnie

Community Fundraisers: When Your Donors Approach You With Ideas To Raise Money

By Lon S. Cohen, Director of Communications
The ALS Association Greater New York Chapter

Some of our more successful fundraising enterprises last year were the ones that our donors created and produced themselves. Interestingly, many people approach us about a fully formulated idea that they plan to implement on their own. We’ve had a bunch of people run marathons in memory of a relative who died from ALS, a few Golf Outings, a few dinners at local restaurants, happy hours, one Manhattan art auction and a lemonade stand. Some people go as far as establishing their own web pages and collecting donations through one of a number of create-your-own fundraising sites to run their event, though we do offer the ability to accept donations online through our own systems, if needed.

The best part is that they do most or all the work for us. What we do is provide them with informational material if they need it, promotion by putting the event up on our calendars, our website, our social networking sites, our blog and into our email newsletter. If the event is big enough, I also build a page or a mini-site for their event on a special section of our website called Community Fundraisers. This helps promote their efforts, puts their name in "lights" so to speak as a thank you and also encourages others to do the same by example. We also commit staff to attend the function as visitors, for moral support or as full fledged volunteers. I have personally spent afternoons riding around a golf course photographing golfers, signing up people for auctions and serving drinks—anything to help them, help us!

So far it's worked fantastically. Since last year our community fundraisers—which I define as money raising events produced by others for the benefit of our organization—have increased dramatically, raising literally hundreds of thousands of dollars. It benefits us greatly in that the grassroots are helping raise awareness and money without our need to divert too much needed resources from our larger organization events like the six Walks to Defeat ALS that we hold every year and our Annual Lou Gehrig Sports Awards banquet dinner. More importantly, these volunteers are more than happy to do it for us.

In most but not all of the cases a venue donates their space and time to our cause. In as much as it is possible, organizers of these events try to get everything else donated, including drinks, food, auction items, etc. Sometimes when overhead is costly, the fundraisers can get things at cost in the very least. If not, someone may be willing to pick up the tab for certain things as their way of donating to the event.

Most of the time, organizers find the experience very rewarding and continue to host fundraisers annually, although a larger, more ambitious event can be exhausting for the promoter. We also find that the most successful events are the ones that people do much of the planning well in advance and have commitments in place from venues, donors and attendees even before announcing it to the public. For individuals to put on an event we suggest they start small and make it something fun that they would like doing anyway, like these marathons and happy hours. My best advice for potential community fundraisers is not to get in over your head with a hugely ambitious plan as that may lead to frustration and really divert from the good intentions of the original idea.

Contact Lon at the ALS Association

1 comment:

  1. Times have changed from when people used to send gifts, cookies, candy and other donation items to their favorite nonprofits to help them in their social mission. With the advent of Internet and online fundraising, supporters are more inclined to making monetary donations to provide liberty to nonprofits to use the funds in their own way to accomplish the mission they set out to achieve with their nonprofit.