The Courage to Fundraise

My name is Matt Reimer and for two months now I have been a preparing volunteer for YCI’s project in Tanzania starting in May of 2010. Before the experience starts though, there’s a lot to be done and fundraising is certainly not the least of these concerns.

My general fundraising strategy is pretty simple: eyeballs = $$$. Early on in my fundraising campaign I sat down with my friend Alana who does fundraising for a living. We sat down to an omelete and several cups of coffee as she discussed the finer points of fundraising while I nodded naively and scribbled notes on the back of a napkin. “Get it to go viral,” she said. “Once friends of friends are in the picture your life will get so much easier.”

In today’s world of viral videos and viral marketing how hard could “going viral” be? Very! That is, unless you’re a sneezing panda. Sociologists are still arguing about that special “thing” that makes some memes successful, so unless you’re a kitten on a Rhoomba you’re on your own. The solution? Try everything, including (but not limited to) websites, blogs and Facebook groups. If I were a braver man I would make a YouTube video.

A Screenshot of Matt’s Fundraising Site

Which brings me to another important point: courage. I quickly realized that when asking for a donation I often tend to come off as apologetic; often to avoid confrontation and missing possible donors in the process. The single hardest thing about fundraising for me so far is getting up the guts to ask. After doing it a few times though, I realized that I had everything to gain and the worst thing anyone could say was no. Taking one such chance led me to a group in Vancouver called FreeGeek that could furnish YCI with an ongoing donation of laptops. Another got me a subsidized deal for printing costs of promotional materials.

Another thing I’ve learned from my time in India is that it can be valuable to give people a sense of getting something for their hard-earned donating dollar. That could be in the form of a thank-you note (which you should ALWAYS write anyway), the option to purchase “Km to Tanzania” or a small physical gift of some kind. It can also be in the form of a shared experience or vicarious living.

I have many friends who’ve heard what I’m doing and say things like “Wow, that sounds amazing. I wish I could do that, but. . .” Those people will hang on your every tweeted word and if there’s a little button beside the site that says “Hey, want to help me write more stories like this?” Well, that can’t hurt.

So far things are going well and I’m quite optimistic about raising the rest of the amount in time for the project. In the meantime, I’m hoping to keep mattreimer.com up to date with preparations for the trip as well as my experiences once I get there. So kwaheri for now and I hope to see some of you in Tanzania!

Matt Reimer, YCI Preparing Volunteer

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