Grassroots Fundraising Guide: 2 - The Planning Process

The Planning Process

Now that you’ve selected an event that suits your personality, comfort level, and community interest, it will be helpful to follow the steps below to make your event a success.

You’ll begin by setting your goals, and then expanding them into a plan. This will help organize the details you will need to keep track when you are setting up your event. Review this list often. You may find that you forgot something or want to change an element (example: cancel the DJ and recruit a local backyard band).

Planning and Commitment

The backbone of a successful fundraising activity or media event is the combination of planning and commitment.  Copying an activity that was successful for some other group does not provide you with a guarantee of similar success.  The planning and commitment of all those involved is critical to an event’s success.

Setting Goals

After you have determined your event, an essential key to ensure success is proper goal setting. Goals should be relevant, realistic and meaningful. You will find it easier to recruit your friends, keep them engaged for the duration of the fundraiser, and have them look forward to the next one.  For example, your goal may be to raise $5000 or secure 100 items for an auction.

Setting a realistic goal will help keep you focused and motivated.  Be careful to remember the difference between wishful thinking and realistic ambitions. Be honest when assessing how much money you can expect to raise for the Foundation and how long you think it will take to raise this amount of money. Unrealistic goals can lead to frustration and disillusionment, leaving both you and your friends disappointed.

If possible, do a little homework – contact the office to research previous efforts of other Foundation grassroots fundraisers, both in money raised and time taken. Be realistic in selecting the type of fundraiser you plan to do.  Choosing a fundraiser that is very involved and demands a lot of your time may not be the right choice for the first time.

If you have the time and resources, choosing a larger, more detailed event can be a fun and productive way to make a name for yourself, raise awareness about ichthyosis, and raise funds for the Foundation.  Overall, the bottom line is to choose a fundraiser that most people in your community can get excited about. 

Develop a Plan

Once the goal has been determined, it is time to develop a combination action plan/timeline. This plan will become your working guide for all the essential steps involved in your event.

First, check local community calendars to see what other events are scheduled one/two months before and after your date.  If a similar group is planning the same event near the same date, you may want to re-consider the date of your event.  It is much easier to change a date before you are knee-deep in planning, and then have to change everything else further on down the line.

To set your timeline, it usually helps to work backwards from the date of your event.  Carefully think when you are going to need things to get done and place them on the list. Larger events usually take more than 6 months of planning.  Smaller, simpler events can be successful with only a few weeks of planning.

A sample Timeline can be found here.  We’ve also included a Planning Calendar template to aid you with your event.   

Permits & Licenses

Depending on where you live and what fundraiser you have chosen to host, a permit may be required.  Most public events require the Foundation to be registered in the state. Contact the Foundation to see if your state is registered.  If not, the Foundation will work with the state to ensure the proper registration is filed.

Helpful Hints

Always remember, fundraising events can offer more than just a way to raise money. They offer ways of building recognition of our Foundation within your community. Events bring people together socially who have a shared belief or concern. These events can offer people a chance to develop new skills or a sense of achievement. Friendships are born of a common cause and businesses can network while giving back to your community.

Networking

Your goal is to connect FIRST and our mission to individuals and businesses that can help you achieve your goals. You will be raising ichthyosis awareness among others in your community.  Networking can be practiced at work, at social functions or anywhere you believe there is an opportunity to help spread the word.

Budgeting

Keeping up-front costs low reduces the risk and will help the profitability of the activity. Follow these few steps and it will be easy:

  • Make a list of exactly what you need.
  • Try to have as much as possible donated.
  • If you can't have it donated, then borrow or rent. Buy only when you have to. When renting or buying, make sure you check for best prices.
  • Be patient and don't be afraid to ask for special discounts, deals or treatment.

A sample Budget can be found here.

Asking for Donations

When personally asking for donations, look the part! Appearance counts. Your job is to help the potential donor feel good about helping our Foundation.

Don’t be afraid of hearing “no.” It is not a personal rejection. Simply move on to the next person.  Remember selling or canvassing can be seen as a numbers game —you will get so many 'no's to every 'yes'. Remind yourself every time you get a 'no' you are closer to a 'yes'.

Remember to emphasize the benefits to potential donor.

Only have those who really have a genuine interest in helping be involved in your fundraiser. It is very noticeable when people are not enjoying what they are doing and this will hurt your returns.

Before you approach a possible donor, practice your sales pitch with friends, family and other members.

Set some goals. These goals will aid in your success by keeping you on track and motivating you to keep working.

Incentives are a great way to improve your bottom line, either by enticing people to pull out their wallets or by motivating even slightly better performances from your volunteers. Examples include free tickets to your event, free raffle tickets, a complimentary luncheon after the event at an exclusive restaurant, etc.

Always remember to say "please" and "thank you."  These words can work wonders for both volunteers and donors. Nothing will turn away a volunteer more than feeling under-recognized or unappreciated. If you have a large group of volunteers helping you, single out and congratulate different people in front of their peers.

Let people clearly see how you are raising your funds and that they are going to the Foundation. Use the Ichthyosis Fact Sheet  as a tear-out for proof that their donations are being spent wisely and appropriately.

Celebrity Recruitment

Getting a celebrity to help out your cause can be a difficult task, but it could be worth your efforts if the rewards are high. 

First, do a little research to select a suitable celebrity who would be most receptive to your request. You don’t need to aim for a major television celebrity; local celebrities can work just as well, for instance, your regional newscaster, weatherman, radio personality, or sports player.  Since ichthyosis is rare, you may not be able to find a celebrity who has been directly affected by the disorder.  However, other factors such as an interest in health issues or body images may help your search.

If possible, connect with someone who knows a celebrity or knows someone who knows a celebrity.  You can simplify your request with a face-to-face meeting and you have stronger chances of receiving a favorable response. If you know someone who is affected by ichthyosis, particularly a child, bring him or her with you to your appointment.  Most people have difficulty saying ‘no’ to a child.

If you don’t know anyone who knows the celebrity you choose, or is connected with his/her employer, you could write a letter directly to the celebrity. Start with a statement or summary clearly stating your request. Be specific and detailed.  Tell them why you chose this particular person. It will let the celebrity know that he/she was specifically targeted and well thought out, not just a mass direct mail campaign. 

Be sure to introduce the Foundation, state our mission, and tell them why you are planning this fundraiser.  Be honest and accurate, and do not apologize for the Foundation being small or ichthyosis being rare —this may work in our favor. Be sure to mention that FIRST is a federally recognized 501(c)3 non-profit organization. When you send your letter, you want it to stand out so write it on special paper, use an eye-catching color, or use an odd shaped envelope.

Consider including a list of our Board members and their professional affiliations too.   There could be a chance that the celebrity or one of their associates knows or works with one of these affiliations. Any connection will help.

Within a few days of sending the letter, follow-up with a personal phone call to the celebrity.  This will demonstrate credibility and commitment to the project.  Don’t get discouraged if they don’t return your call.  It may take a few tries before you successfully connect with them.

Generating Community Interest

What do I need to make my event successful? To answer this question, you need to follow these two simple rules: 1) Look at what others have done and, 2) Ask a lot of people a lot of questions.

Simply start by answering these basic questions of who, what, when, where, why and how. Who did it? What did they do? When did they do it? Where did they do it? Why did they do it?

Once you have these answers to these general questions, you may want to record answers to more detailed questions such as: Who did what? Why did they do it when they did it? Why was it held where it was? Was the weather or other community events involved? When doing market research, remember there is no such thing as a stupid question!

By collecting this information you can then devise your own event that is different and hopefully better. You may gain a better idea of what to mimic and what to leave out. You may discover a niche in your area or an idea that no one else thought about. You will also gain a better understanding of what you have to provide to make it work in regards to volunteers, donations, and other details that can make or break your fundraiser.

Contacting Sponsors

The first contact with a possible sponsor is critical. Your instincts will tell you if the relationship is worth pursuing.  Remember, there is no point in spinning your wheels trying to secure sponsorship from someone who is uninterested.  Your time is valuable and you need to spend it productively.

There are three kinds of sponsorship.  A successful event usually uses a combination of all three. You can secure sponsorship for mostly everything relating to your event.

  1. In–Kind Sponsorship – This type of sponsorship is when a company or individual provides a service or good for your event.  For example, if you are planning a walk-a-thon, you need bottles of water for the walkers.  Contact a local supermarket or convenience store and request enough bottles of water for your projected audience.  Most companies are happy to provide a product or service for a worthy event.  Always remember to recognize them appropriately at the event and in the media.
  1. Event Sponsorship – This type of sponsorship is when a company or individual provides money to cover a particular expense of the event.  For example, you want to provide T-shirts to every walker at your walk-athon.  Since you have asked every T-shirt company to donate the shirts but have been unsuccessful, you approach another company to provide the money to buy the T-shirts. In exchange you will have their logo screened on the T-shirt for recognition.
  1. Unrestricted Sponsorship – This type of sponsorship is when a company or individual provides money with no restriction on its purpose.  You can use this money for anything you may need to buy related to the event.  This money becomes very useful when you have exhausted all in-kind or sponsorship donations for a necessary element of your event (i.e. port-a-potties for a walk-a-thon). You can use this money to purchase the necessary items or service.

Make sure the contact information you leave behind with a possible donor is accurate. You may want to provide several options for these donors, if you are not always readily accessible.

One of the most important rules in securing sponsorship is to follow-up to all requests.  If the potential donor requires more information, be sure to provide it for them in a timely fashion. If the request is related to a donation, consider including a pre-stamped, self-addressed return envelope for convenience.  Contact the office for brochures or literature about ichthyosis to include in your solicitation. Always follow-up with a thank you letter with a real signature.

Remember to always follow-up with the possible donor within a week after your initial contact. It sends a strong message to the caller that they are valued.

For record-keeping use the Donation Form and the In-Kind Donation Form for all gifts/donations received for your event.

Unusual Donors

Local businesses are the ones who are approached most often by people raising money. Local businesses can only give so much, so the results may be negative or very small.  Consider other unusual sources for support.

Once you’ve decided what event you are hosting, brainstorm ideas of possible donors that are not in your local area, but could supply you with the items you desire. Ask your local businesses to provide the names and contact information of their suppliers.  They will appreciate not being asked for the donation and will probably be very helpful.  Armed with that information, contact these suppliers and ask for your donation.

Just because a possible donor is not located in your area does not automatically discount them from helping your event. There are many large, national and international companies that will consider helping you.  Many of these companies have policies to help out non-profits wherever possible.

Some additional places to access the names of unusual donors:

  • Your business telephone directory (yellow pages). This may involve a bit of time but finding the appropriate page and calling a list of companies can reap rich rewards.
  • As previously mentioned, approach local companies for names of their suppliers of products that you are interested in, then approach the suppliers directly. A referral by a local company can be a wonderful advantage and help you look good to the potential donor.
  • Keep your eyes open when walking through a shopping center or while driving around. Take a drive through an industrial park and see what companies are located there. You may find a company you did not know about and find a way to use their product in your fundraiser.

A wonderful example of utilizing unusual donations is a story about another non-profit including a face-lift in their auction. Not only was this unusual, it tapped into a business that does not normally receive requests for donations.  It improved their chances of a positive response. In addition, it added humor and surprise to their auction and attracted a lot of attention in their community. 

With a little imagination, detective work, and a desire to succeed you can find and acquire new donations for your event.

 



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