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5 ways to be a fundraising superstar


December 12, 2013 - If you need extra funds to study abroad, but have doubts about your ability to personally fundraise, KEEP READING.

We’re going to tell you the story of Anna and Eliot, two AFS students who have been profoundly successful in their fundraising efforts. They each managed to raise thousands of dollars to help maximize their experiences abroad, and they did it using simple strategies that anyone can pull off. Here’s what they did, at a glance:


Anna

Fundraising Project: Building and selling birdhouses
Amount raised: $4,000 +/-
Study abroad locale: Sweden, Year Program

Eliot

Fundraising Project: Email campaign
Amount raised: $6,200 +
Study abroad locale: Costa Rica, Semester Program

 
When Anna and Eliot shared the details of their fundraising experiences with us, it became clear that 5 key tactics determined their success. Here are those 5 easy things that will help you join Anna and Eliot in the club of fundraising superstars:


Create

The key to a successful fundraising campaign is to avoid simply asking for money. Your donors want something in return for their generosity, and the best gift you can give them is the opportunity to feel like they are a part of your success.

In order to do this, you need to create excitement surrounding your cause. Help donors understand the significance of this study abroad opportunity so that they can feel like their gift is having a real impact.

There are innumerable ways to do this. For example, Anna created birdhouses that demonstrated the blood, sweat and tears she was willing to put into making her study abroad dreams a reality.

Or, if you’re not the creative type, you can take pointers from Eliot. He created targeted virtual messages, which worked because they weren’t simply emails. They were carefully crafted communiqués that told his story, explained what he needed and why, and informed readers how they could help him. He allowed readers to feel like they were a part of his journey, rather than distant donors.

Bottom Line: People want to feel good about supporting you. Help them do that by creating buzz surrounding your cause and clearly demonstrating why it matters.  

 
Evolve

Guess what – we all make mistakes! And if this is your first time fundraising, you’ll definitely make one or two.

But this news isn’t nearly as dismal as it sounds, because making mistakes will actually make you more successful in the long run. When Eliot started his email campaign, he didn’t get as many positive responses as he’d hoped. One particularly negative response claimed he was, “being lazy,” and just trying to, “take a vacation.”

Fortunately, though, Eliot took a deep breath and decided to turn this setback into a learning opportunity. Based on the negative feedback, he rewrote his emails so that they better explained what AFS programs were and why he wanted to go abroad. This shift in strategy paid off - to the tune of $6,200+!

Bottom Line: Don’t be afraid to tweak and perfect your fundraising strategy. It’s never too late to make changes that will yield greater success. And as for those disappointing setbacks – try to see them as merely helpful road signs telling you that you need to go in a different direction.

 
Simplify

These days, everyone’s always “busy.” “School’s going well, thanks, but super busy!” “My weekend? It was pretty fun, but really busy.” Sound familiar?

This means you need to allow people to be “super busy” and still support you. The best way to do this is to simplify your message to potential donors.

Yes, you still need to adequately explain your cause and what it means to you. But you need to do it in two minutes or less, especially if you’re reaching out to strangers. People who don’t know you have no context for understanding the more nuanced aspects of your life and study abroad dreams. So spare them the details and cut to a chase that pulls on the heartstrings but is still easy for anyone to understand.

Bottom Line: You need a killer elevator speech (i.e. a speech you can give during the two minutes you spend in an elevator with someone). This is a challenging task, so start by writing down everything you’d want to tell potential donors. Then cut it down until you can say it out loud in 2 minutes or less. Practice saying it until it becomes second nature so that you can always nail it, even if you get nervous.

 
Persevere

Basically, don’t give up!

Assuming you give yourself many months to fundraise (which you should), it’s going to be a long and challenging process. You may find that, in the beginning, you have enough optimism and energy to deal with setbacks and “evolve.” But as your energy wanes, it can be tempting to let things slip.

Resist that temptation, however, and you will likely be rewarded. This is because the point at which you start running out of steam is often the point at which those “busy” people you never heard back from remember that nice young person they meant to support.

Bottom Line: If you communicate your cause well, most people will want to help you. They just might need a gentle reminder, so follow up with everyone you talk to, if possible. We all deserve a second chance to do the right thing, and potential donors are no exception.

 
Ask

Ask for help, that is. If you’re seriously considering studying abroad, you’re probably a brave, competent and determined individual. But that doesn’t mean you have to do everything on your own.

It’s always okay to ask for guidance, especially if you know people who have fundraising experience. Get as much information from as many sources as possible, and then use that insight to create a strategy that works for you and your cause.

You also shouldn’t hesitate to turn to family, friends or community members for support. Your primary “ask” is going to be for money. But you can also ask for any number of things that will help you succeed. For example, Anna asked her local lumberyard to give her discounted wood for the birdhouses, and they said yes! People’s generosity may surprise you.

Bottom Line: You never know until you ask. And it’s always okay to ask. The worst that can happen is that someone says no.