12 years ago, I did my first fundraiser for Beyond The 11th. It was founded by two American women, Susan Retik and Patti Quigley, who were widowed on 9/11. I thought it important to say they were “American” because Beyond The 11th’s mission is to aid widows in Afghanistan, one of the places I’ve heard several of my friends refer to as “the enemy.” Both Susan and Patti had the courage and foresight to see beyond the rhetoric surrounding the deaths of their husbands, and focus on a hard truth; Afghan women were byproducts of a horrible war-torn land, and amongst the poorest and most oppressed in the entire world.
Beyond The 11th’s big push every year is to ride bikes from NYC to Boston in honor of the flights and fallen victims of 9/11. I was moderately in shape, but I had never signed up for anything more than a lacrosse game at the time. So, I agreed to join them for the last 100 miles of their bike ride.
It was the best choice I had ever made, because it helped me discover one of my favorite passions in life: Fundracing.
noun – marrying the decision to do a fundraising project with an upcoming race or event.
Over the past three years, I’ve been able to fundraise over $150,000 for various charities with the support of amazing people and communities. Couple that with the exceptionally horrible mistakes I’ve made, and I have a few tips to stop you from making a complete fundracing ass out of yourself.
Fundracing is about personal connection, not money.
Making fundracing solely about the moolah is the biggest mistake we all make, yet is also the “Never feed them after midnight” rule from Gremlins.
I’m supporting St. Baldrick’s Foundation this year. Here’s why.
When I attended college, I became very close with a surrogate family after I lost my grandmother, the love of my life. I ate dinner with them most nights, slept over their house, told absolutely horrible jokes that they put up with, and became an unofficial member of their family. We were very close then, and even now, 20 years later and living on opposite coasts, we make it a point to keep in touch over all major events.
Such a major event started four years ago which would alter the course of the family’s history forever. His name was Carter Lolax… a beautiful son born on April 16, 2012. He loved doing things that most toddlers loved to do: riding on Dad’s tractor, run outside, dance to music (better than most humans, actually), and smile profusely in wonder of the world that he saw in front of him. The family’s joy of having him in the world was something you could feel when you were around them.
That joy always came with a very real fear that eventually turned to a living nightmare; Carter battled acute myeloid leukemia his entire life, eventually succumbing to it on January 21, 2014.
I’ll never forget the following week for as long as I live. There’s no other way to describe it other than a feeling of total sadness. Onto my point…
If you make a personal connection with your donors through your fundracing work, you have succeeded. Giving someone access to what’s in your heart is the key to many things in life, and fundracing is no different. More interesting than the cause you represent, people want to know who you are and what makes you tick. Oblige them, and you’ll find yourself to be happier and more successful in fundracing than you ever imagined.
As part of finding that personal connection, it’s always good to ask of a potential donor if they’ve been affected by the horrible effects of your cause. It starts off the conversation in a very personal way without asking for details that could make a donor uncomfortable.
Sometimes people will simply want to support a cause you’re supporting, and that’s completely wonderful. But never forget that by giving money to you, they’re supporting you and your fundraising efforts.
Also, a sub rule that I firmly believe in: if you can’t come up with at least three reasons that this fundracer is important to you, then consider supporting another cause. I have given a ton of advice to folks, and the first thing I ask: “Why are you supporting this group?” If they don’t have their answers ready, I usually suggest that they look elsewhere to put their efforts.
Set a realistic goal. And if you don’t hit your goal, it’s okay.
A good fundracing strategy takes years to develop. My first Beyond The 11th fundrace I viewed as a total disaster, attempting to hit $10,000.00, and only raising $1300. I vowed that my goals would be more realistic, and that I would change my approach. The next year, I set $3,000 as my benchmark, and I reached $3,500. Many of the people who gave money to me were people from the year before. That’s when the cow bell in my primitive brain went off; time is an important factor in developing a fundracing relationship with friends, family, and co-workers.
Matching gifts are a Fundracer’s best friend.
The secret to my success is finding donors who work for corporations with a matching gifts program. There are lots of companies that will match the amount of money donated by your donor. Every dollar you get from them nets $2 for the cause. You can find a search engine for companies with matching gifts here: https://www.matchinggifts.com/rit/
Giveaways and raffles make for better fundracing than asking for straight money.
You might know someone who knows someone who knows someone who’s famous or has something really cool or priceless that they’re willing to part with. Set up a raffle scenario in which you give away that thing in exchange for a donation to your cause. It’s a great way to generate interest, and rewards people to be good with an incentive.
It’s much more fun with a team of people.
This is the first time I’ve focused my efforts on asking others to help fundrace. It was the best decision I ever made; I don’t feel as if I’m working alone. I share stories with the folks on our team from a daily basis on how to better approach fundraising. As well, I have made new friends and have learned things about people I would never have known. Plus, I see our totals going up almost on a daily basis, and I’m not pushing as hard as I have in the past to achieve my personal goals.
Almost everything is better with a team of people. This year, we have almost 30 participants on our team shaving their head for St. Baldrick’s at World’s Toughest Mudder. And they are all amazing people, from a financial advisor in New York, to a multiple year winner of World’s Toughest Mudder.
It is absolutely rewarding for me to see a diverse group of people get together to raise money to end children’s cancer.
Carter would be flattered. I know his family is.