As a community organizer, people look to you to get things done. You don’t want to let them down–no matter what you’re doing–and this goes double for fundraising. The outcome of your fundraising projects depends on your organization skills. Your fellow community members are depending on you to come through with your efforts, especially as they relate to their needs.
This seems like a lot of pressure, but don’t worry – You’ve got this! You wouldn’t be a community organizer if you couldn’t handle important activities like this. Still, even the most experienced of organizers can benefit from understanding their fundraising efforts – start to finish.
Know Your Why
There are countless reasons to use fundraising as a way to improve your community. Here are some examples that you might not have yet thought of, that would help strengthen your community:
- Build or improve a New Park or Playground – provide a safe and inviting place for children and families
- Create a Community Vegetable Garden – bring people together with a common hobby, and possibly even provide a meal for the community
- Help Someone with Medical Bills or Childcare Costs – make a difficult life event for a neighbor more bearable; they may return the favor some day
- Plant Trees or Flowers – make your town more vibrant with color
- To Build a Covering Over a Picnic Area – make an existing community resource usable more often, especially for inclement weather
- To Help Someone Recover from a Disaster – brighten someone’s life during dark times
- To Support Animal Rescue – teach kids and others the value of life in all forms
You need a clear purpose if you want people to get behind you. This isn’t like a school fundraiser where people help simply because it’s “for the kids.” Unless you’re fundraising for a park or something that really is for the kids, you might need to be ready to make a case for how your project will truly benefit the community as a whole, even if your projects seems like it might only help a few.
For example, a community garden isn’t just for people who like to grow vegetables. The benefit to others would be a space used for a peaceful activity, that might otherwise be developed or overrun with weeds or a dumping area for trash.
Chances are, you have some pretty good ideas for what’s most needed in your town. You’re likely involved in your community and know many of its residents. You’ve kept up with local news and know what interests people are talking about. Now you just have to have a clear vision of what the finished product will look like and how you can communicate that to the rest of your community.
Bring the Community Together
This is what you do best! You need to be united as a group if you want to achieve your fundraising goals. No matter how great you are, fundraising is one of those activities that cannot work without the involvement of many people – organizers, volunteers, and donors. When you host your first fundraising meeting have this information ready:
- Explanation for why the community needs your project and how it will benefit from it
- Presentation to show them exactly how much money you need to raise
- Fundraising Plan that will highlight goals and how people can pitch in
It helps to choose a simple fundraiser with a product that doesn’t require a hard sell. This is why merchant tickets and plastic discount cards are popular choices and used quite successfully for fundraising campaigns across the country. They give local businesses an opportunity to help your cause and draw attention to what they do with a special offer printed on your cards. Your fellow community members can both support your cause and enjoy a discount on the goods and services they buy anyway.
Give everyone an opportunity to help, and set goals as a group and as individuals. Merchant tickets and discount cards are easily combined with other fundraisers, like community garage sales and car washes, because you already have an active and captive audience.
Timing is Everything
Schools, clubs, sports teams, churches, and communities run fundraisers throughout the year, and all of them need to raise funds just as you do, but clearly for different things. Try not to compete with other local fundraisers, especially if you’re using the same products.
There’s no real “off-season” for fundraising, so you might call your area schools and churches and ask what they have planned for the next few months. If possible, start your fundraiser in between other area fundraisers so your community members aren’t getting inundated with too many requests.
Use Social Media
As of 2016, 79 percent of online adults used Facebook, making it one of several powerful social media tools for spreading your message. Here are just a few ways to use social media to boost your fundraiser and widen your circle of support:
- Start a Facebook group that people can join to stay updated on your fundraising efforts and the project at hand. It’s important to keep this updated, as this is where your followers will be expecting new information to appear.
- Share photos of your organizers and volunteers working hard, and connecting with donors. Seeing is believing, and compels others to join your cause.
- Make a short video that highlights your project and get a few people to talk about it in the video. Testimonials and first-person views add great value to these types of projects.
While the majority of funds raised will likely come directly from your community, don’t underestimate the willingness for participation by your friends and family in other parts of the country. How can they help from afar? The Done For You Fundraising packages feature discounts at more than 220,000 locations across the country, so people in or outside your town can still support you.
This goes beyond the “thanks” you say when someone buys the merchant tickets. There are so many people who rally to make a successful fundraiser, and they all deserve a moment of your attention.
Budget enough money to print some thank you postcards, and send them to:
- Every volunteer who sold tickets or worked at a fundraising event
- The businesses who donated a special offer for the merchant tickets or discount cards
- Everyone who donated, bought tickets, or attended your event
- Consider placing a thank you note in a local publication or printing a sign or banner to put at the site of that new park or anywhere your supporters are likely to see it
When you follow through with a heartfelt thank you, your supporters feel appreciated and are more likely to help with your next community fundraiser. A successful fundraiser accomplishes your goals, but also sets the stage for future fundraising projects.