The Pyramid

So I was asked by VMGiving (follow them) that if I had any fundraising tips I should pass them on.

Get the opportunity for an extra bit of promotion for the National Autistic Society and help others? No problem.

I actually spent three years in grassroots fundraising for local candidates in Houston, Texas. (If you think charity fundraising is hard try politics!) Every year we would go through a training day of understanding how to break apart a fundraising goal and achieve it.

All fundraising starts with a goal. The goal for me is to run a marathon, and in doing so raise £1,250.00 for the National Autistic Society. £1,250.00 is a lot of money to me, almost an entire months salary. I’ve also got a time limit – my marathon is March 21st. So I’ve got seven weeks. Plus I’ve got to train.

Does this sound familiar?

Wanting to do two things very badly – run a marathon AND bring attention and funds to a personal cause – can cause a mental breakdown on one or both sides of your goal. This is why you should, right now, get a sheet of paper out and a pencil. Draw this:

This is your fundraising pyramid. It is designed for you to see your goal not as a large and daunting challenge, but as a means to an end.

Time to think.

  • Who are the kind of people you can ask for support? Friends? Family? Colleagues? Wealthy socialite pals? Who are they? List them out on the paper. If you run out of room go to another sheet, but list them out. These people are what we call a Fundraising Pool. They are the people who will determine the most and least amount of donations you can feasibly achieve.
  • Find the person you think can afford the most to donate, and the persons (plural!) you think can afford the least to donate. Be realistic and put yourselves in their shoes. During our training we would often role play to try to understand what it would be like to be them. That way you can set your range.

For example:
I have a business friend who has known about my running for years. He’s really supportive and has run a marathon himself. I feel confident I can ask him to donate £100.00 to my cause. On the flip side I have a ton of friends getting their college degrees. They don’t have lots of money but I bet if I ask, they’ll give up a pint or two for my cause. I could collect £5.00 from them, no problem.

So draw in your pyramid:
The top is now the highest goal you wish to get in donations, the bottom is what you hope to collect as your smallest donations. Because the £5.00 is on the bottom, and makes up the majority of what you hope to get, this is called your Fundraising Base.

Now think about your middle. Can you:

  • Collect £5 a week from some friends leading up to your marathon?
  • Get larger sponsorships like £1.00/mile = £26.20 or even higher?
  • Hold a bake sale, a raffle, or sell off old furniture or equipment?
  • Ask your company if they will match your fundraising goals, contribute, or help promote you?
  • Have a house party – where you make spaghetti and garlic bread (a la carbo loading) for all your friends for a suggested donation?
  • Bag groceries or help out in local businesses for tips to your cause?

A mixture of these can mean in my world anywhere from £10 – 50 in extra donations (plus some change to boot). So draw:

Now that you’ve gotten your amounts down you can start to break the weeks leading up to your marathon with achievable goals. Here are mine:

  • Hold a weekly baking raffle at £1/ticket. But … I let people know that if they sponsor me for £20.00 online, I will give them a coupon to have cookies baked for them whenever they ask plus 20 chances to win more baked goods! (This has worked well for me.)
  • My company lets me keep my collection tin out whenever I’m at work, plus they are letting me sell old chairs and desks we no longer use to directly fund the National Autistic Society. (See my largest donor – My awesome friends & colleagues)
  • I had a few business associates and friends that have no problem in giving large donations of £50 – 100. Thankfully many of them have done endurance races, so they know what I’m going through!
  • A week before my marathon I’m having a pasta party for £5/each. My desert is a much-loved brownie recipe and I’ll have more baked goods to give away. Overall a cheap night out for most of my friends.

Through a weekly no-fuss event (raffle), asking and keeping my collection tin at hand, and a pre-marathon spaghetti party I feel I can reach my goal and not feel overwhelmed by everything else. I’m not focused on the £1,250.00 – but the £1 that are often £5 in raffle tickets, the occasional desk or chair sale, and those individuals who step up and give £20 because they love my brownies and cookies.

They often say that when you train you should break up your mileage and build to your goal. The same is true for fundraising. Be flexible, creative, and play to your strengths. Don’t let a big number or big mileage get you down. Break it down and make it doable.

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