Fundraising Ideas That Work

How to raise $500 to $5000 quickly for your school, church, sports, or public service charity.

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How to motivate others to help

Philip Copitch, Ph.D.

Working with volunteers is similar to working with paid staff. Obviously, volunteers do not get a paycheck, but they do get ‘paid’. Their payment is in hard to measure things like companionship, feelings of self worth, their desire to care for others. Even in the world of paid jobs, once the basic bills are covered, employee loyalty does not come from their desire to get a paycheck. It comes from intangibles such as feelings of responsibility, care for coworkers and camaraderie, and the pride one gets for doing a job well.

Volunteerism is all about the storyfundraising idea fishing clip art

When someone volunteers for say, a school fundraiser or a church clean up crew, they do so because the story of the charity counts to them. Most of the stuff volunteers do in this country aren’t really things they want to do. What they want is to help the cause of the charity. So while cleaning up after an event is necessary, it is the charity’s story that is the motivating factor.

For years I ran a charity that brought care to physically and sexually abuse children. Often loving people would contact me asking if they could help. It was common for a caring soul to say, “I love children, I would love to read to the children and let them know that they are loved.” To which I would gently explain, “The children in our care need specially trained doctors and counselors. Where we really need help is in raising money to keep our doors open.” Often the caring person would breath a sigh of relief and say, “Oh good, I don’t know how you can do what you do. Doesn’t it just make you want to cry everyday?”

When organizing a volunteer fundraiser it is best to make sure the volunteer’s skills fit the job.

Connecting the right volunteer with the right job

Organizing volunteers can easily become a full time job. Depending on the type of volunteer you need, the volunteer support system is a huge responsibility.

Even for small, well established fundraisers like Girl Scout cookie sales, the repeated phone calls and emails can eat up a lot of time.

Before you can connect a volunteer to a job, it is important to carefully define the job. I recommend taking the time to put it in writing. Usually a paragraph is enough, with a few bullet points if needed. By organizing your thoughts this way, you will often find that you quickly limit your pool of volunteers, hopefully steering you to the best volunteer for the job.

For example, in the Messy Room fundraiser, the job description might look like the following. Note that I am starting with the “story” of why this volunteer position is important.

Volunteer mover needed

The 7th grade class is planning a Messy Room fundraiser to earn money for the 7th grade field trip. Every student has to pay for their portion of the trip, but some of the students are not able to. This fundraiser is to make sure that every 7th grader gets to go on the field trip.

Need: 1 or 2 strong volunteers with a truck and a dolly to bring bedroom furniture and boxes of clothing and nicknacks to the school. The cargo will be loaned by families of the 7th grade. Date of the event is xx/xx/xx during back to school night from 6:30 to 9 PM. Set up time: 5:30 to 6:15 PM.

As you write the “job description” you most likely start to think of good candidates for the position. In two small paragraphs you have your “sales pitch” that will help you ask for help.

How to ask for

When it comes to getting helpers there really is only one gold standard. Ask someone face to face. This is really uncomfortable for most of us… but it is by far the best way.

The second best way is to advertise your needs in newsletters, at meetings, and through social media. In both situations keep the request short and sweet. Start with the story of why you need the help and then thumbnail your needs.

Over the years, I have found that busy people make the best volunteers. Busy people tend to be well organized and are good at task completion. Both of these tendencies are brilliant personal characteristics in volunteers.

The straight poop

I cannot overstate the importance of telling your cause’s story. The “story” of your cause is the internal motivator that helps people stay motivated. Please allow me to illustrate this internal motivation.

When I was a new father I changed a lot of diapers…for years. I did it because that is how I saw myself as a daddy. I saw myself as a parent who took care of my children. That was my internal story. A lot of my self worth come from being a good and loving father. All that being said, I haven’t changed a diaper in many years. I have no “story” in my mind that motivates me to change diapers any longer. I work with families everyday, but I do not change diapers. That is the power of story.

We all are motivated by the stories that make up our understanding and feelings of our lives.

The story of your charity’s needs is the fuel that motivates others to ‘do’, even if they are things they would rather not do. We humans love, learn, grow, and change by the power of stories.

Lots of people want to help, all you need to do is ask

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics about 64.5 million people volunteered through, or for, an organization at least once between September 2011 and September 2012. (Read the stats)

So what we can take from this is that there are people out there looking to help your charity. All they need is someone to explain your cause and ask.

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