How to Create an Epic (and Successful) Fundraiser

It’s been a little more than two weeks since I traversed the state of Indiana on a skateboard and I feel safe in saying that it was a huge success. You can read about it at length in my last post, The Ride of My Life, so I’ll spare you most of the details. I will say that over $3,500 was raised for HIV/AIDS programs and I learned a great deal about planning a successful fundraiser. Now I’d like to share that knowledge, but before I do, I would be remiss if I didn’t begin with a small disclaimer. I’ve only done one Skate Across Indiana event, so the lessons I’ve learned are likely to change slightly as I go through the process of doing other events. So take what I say here with a grain of salt!

Make it Something Fascinating

I believe that every human being has a unique set of passions and interests that makes them capable of doing really interesting things. Throughout the process of creating and executing your event, remember that you are equipped to do something incredible. People naturally tend to pay a bit more attention to something they’ve either never seen before or don’t see regularly. When you combine the your intense passion with the sincere interest of others, success is much easier. I found that with Skate Across Indiana, it’s uniqueness made it relatively simple for me to stay excited and to get others to rally around the event.

Diversify Your Promotional Efforts

Some of the most iconic charitable (or at least socially-conscious) efforts of recent years like To Write Love on Her Arms, TOMS Shoes, or KONY 2012 built up considerable traction using social media almost exclusively and it’s easy to gravitate towards that methodology with your own event. Although I think using Facebook and Twitter are great tools for getting the word out, it behooves you to use additional forms of communication. Not everyone tweets, uses Facebook, or watches YouTube regularly (especially not people who have considerably fatter wallets than you do). So for Skate Across Indiana, I not only used Facebook and Twitter to spread the word, but I also wrote lots of emails and letters, dropped fliers off at local stores, and even attended local networking events to talk about it. I wholeheartedly recommend taking a multi-faceted approach like that.

Make it Easy to Contribute

One of the biggest mistakes people make with fundraisers and other events is that they have too many steps in the giving process. If you’re going to collect money through an online portal, here’s what you should have at the most: an information page with a give now button, a page to input basic billing and credit card info (don’t ask for too much!), and a confirmation page. If you have any more webpages, you’ll be shooting yourself in the foot in terms of the number of donations generated. Trust me on this one, I generate online transactions for a living.

Find Advocates

You may know a few people who would be happy to write a blog post about your fundraiser or tell their friends about it online. Use these people! I had 3 or 4 key contributors helping me spread the word about Skate Across Indiana. They did it completely out of the goodness of their own hearts too! If you don’t found anyone who will write about you, consider asking them if you can write a guest post about what you’re doing. Just about every blogger I know welcomes good content that they don’t have to write themselves.

Be Cool

If you’re going to pour hours into something, you might as well make it cooler than the underside of a pillow. Don’t let some added expenses or extra time requirements keep you from really trying to make your fundraiser something you’re proud of/think is cool. I’ll give you two examples from Skate Across Indiana where I tapped the “coolness” keg. One was getting a few shirts made for the event for me and my team. I did the design and I’m proud to wear the t-shirt around town and tell people what I did. I also had a special dry-fit shirt made just for the ride so that I could stay comfortable on my board. It was really just a small piece, but it was a huge morale boost for me. As an added bonus, people were taking pictures of the shirt’s big, bold lettering the whole way across the state.

I also used a special GPS tracking system that allowed people to see my progress on their smart phones or desktop computers. After the event was over, my dad told me that he had one of his golf buddies pull up the map on his phone. He said the guy was blown away by the technology and thought what I was doing was so cool. If you can create similar experiences like that for a casual observer, it goes along way. Don’t worry if you’re having trouble coming up with some ideas to make your event cool. You can always ask others for help in this department.

Just Do It

This should speak for itself, but at some point you have to stop planning and get going. I found that there are a million and one things you could spend time figuring out, but those are the very things that will ultimately keep you from going forward with your amazing fundraiser. Don’t go hurdling into the unknown without some planning, but don’t sweat the small stuff either. When in doubt, just do it.

I’ll end here by saying if you choose to use my suggestions as a resource, please let me know how your event went. I’d love to hear how you’ve done with your special fundraiser. Also, if you’re in the process of planning your event, let me know if you have any questions. Skate Across Indiana was an amazing event for me and I genuinely want to help you have a similar experience. God Bless!


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