For my first marathon, I decided to raise money for Girls on the Run – DC. I had months to collect money so I didn’t expect it to be a problem. I still haven’t reached my goal, but I do think I am getting the hang of how to ask for donations.
Here are some simple tips based on what I learned during my fundraising experience:
- Believe in your cause, plain and simple. Whether you outright plan to run for a charity that supports research for an illness that took the life of a loved one or you registered late and your only way to run an event is to do it for charity, take some time to sit down and think about how your fundraising will help change lives. Watch videos of real people impacted by your charity. It will be easier to ask for donations and much more genuine.
- Ask early but don’t expect much. I started mentioning my marathon training and donating to GOTR 3 months ago. Did many people donate? No. But as you get closer to race day, chances are good that a little light bulb will go off in your friends’ and family’s minds when you post it to Facebook and they think, “Oh yeah, I meant to do that back in January.”
- Make it easy to donate. While most people will happily donate online with a credit card, make sure you know how to handle cash donations and who donors need to make checks to.
- Think outside the box or computer monitor or wherever. Some other Solemates running for GOTR-DC organized special happy hours at local restaurants with a “suggested donation” in lieu of a cover charge. Another idea: Consider baking a tray of cookies to bring into work and leave a donation jar with a note about the cause.
- Prepare a canned speech without it sounding canned. I found myself on multiple occasions stumbling for words in my company’s lunchroom when someone asked me about my marathon. After enough times of feeling foolish, I finally sat down and physically wrote answers to simple questions like why I’m running the marathon, why I chose to do it for GOTR, the challenges of training, and a “plug” for donating. Taking the time to compose the sentences and read them a few times a week kept the information fresh so I could speak easily when the topic came up unexpectedly.
- Ask more than once and then again for good measure. Seriously, don’t give up right away and do not take silence as a no. Whether they’re in between paychecks or busy thinking about other responsiblities, people may not react right away because you simply caught them at a bad time. Don’t be afraid to casually bring it up again with a final appeal right before your race; the urgency may get them to finally act or their sitution may have changed.
- Be appropriate, especially at work. Check with HR before sending a mass email to your coworkers or posting flyers around the office to make sure you’re not violating rules or ruffling feathers.
- Make it personal in more ways than one. Posting the link on Facebook may be quick and easy but I received much better responses when I took the time to send individual emails or messages to friends and family. Take the time to write personal messages about your cause relating your cause directly to the potential donor. “This charity helps young girls your daughter’s age” is more impactful than “This charity helps 8-13 year old girls.”
- Thank people for donations more than once. After receiving donations, I followed up with a personal email or phone call. After my marathon, I plan on sitting down to write thank you notes to let them know how race day went. For me, nothing beats a handwritten note.
- Shamelessly plug your donation page. Okay, I just made this one up. But have you visited my donation page yet?
Do you have any other tips or success stories? I would love to hear them!