When I got the news that I had been selected to be a YCI Communications Innovator in Zanzibar, Tanzania during the winter 2012, I was ecstatic. However, like most volunteers, my main concern was money. How would I get enough to cover my volunteer experience? I have worked for many years in Public Relations and Marketing roles, but was the first time I had to ask people for money for one of my own projects. Would they support me? I wondered.
Using Social Media and online tools, it was pretty easy to reach a wide audience of potential donors. It takes a bit of organization and some creativity, but anyone can build a good campaign that lets people know what your intentions are, gets them excited and willing to help you out and is a good way to educate people about development issues. Here are some tips that worked for me:
- Research and create a list of potential donors. Think of immediate and extended family members, friends, past and present employers and colleagues, teachers and students if you are in school, business contacts, clients, and customers or people you interact with daily if you have a job, as well as community groups. Your Facebook Friends List is a good place to get ideas – a quick glance through this list will remind you that your network is actually bigger than you realize. I also included some community groups that I wanted to target, such as groups I volunteer with or volunteered with in the past, my city council, my Member of Parliament and my Member of the Legislative Assembly. Take the time to write down all the names you come up with – this is important because it will make you think of ways to reach these people. For example, I knew my friends could be reached through Facebook, emails or in person contact, while some family members such as aunts and uncles would probably prefer a phone call. You can also use this list to track donations as they come in and know who to remind to donate later on in your campaign.
- Get connected. A website is a great way to let people know about your volunteer project. Having an address to give people for more information also helps when soliciting donations – they can read up about your project and donate on their own time. In my case, my entire campaign revolved around a blog: http://nathalieinafrica.wordpress.com. Blogging platforms like wordpress.com or blogger.com are very easy to use and can let you create professional looking websites in a snap, especially if you plan on blogging or posting photos later on from the field. If you are uncomfortable using websites, take full advantage of YCI’s TIG fundraising page each volunteer receives and have all the relevant information you want to share with your potential donors on there. Your site should also talk about any events, special draws or contests you are organizing in regards to your fundraising. My website included a short biography, information on my project and why I wanted to participate as well as a section telling people how to donate to my fundraising campaign. Upon donating to help me in my endeavors, most people came back to track my progress or read about my adventures.
- Decide how you want to receive donations and make sure this is clearly explained on your website. Links to your YCI TIG fundraising page should be clearly indicated for online donations. Giving people the option of also sending in donations by mail or in person via cash or cheque is a good idea and works well for family members and businesses or community groups who tend to prefer this method – so let them know how to reach you and where to send the money. Keep in mind many people feel intimidated when they are asked for money not because they do not want to give, but because they are unsure what amount to give or feel like you expect large donations. It’s good to suggest amounts and reassure them than ANY amount will be well received and helps out a great deal. You can motivate people by enticing them to buy a kilometer for a certain amount of money or find another virtual good. For example, people always enjoy living vicariously through your experiences, so $20 could buy them a postcard (make sure you send each donor a postcard though!), a picture of you in front of known landmark, a promise to get them to learn words in the local language upon your return, etc.
- Spread the word. Make sure to tell everyone on your contact list about your campaign and to visit your website. Use different tools to reach different audiences. For my friends, I created a Facebook Event called Fundraising Campaign: Nathalie’s Volunteer Project in Tanzania, then invited EVERYONE in my Facebook friends list to join the event, from which they were directed to my website. For my extended family members, I wrote an email with links to my website and sent it to them, following up with a phone call or visit. For businesses and community groups, I wrote a formal letter using the YCI letter template, included links to my website, and either emailed the letter or sent an actual hard copy by mail. My best marketing tool by far though was a business card I made using a free MS Publisher template. My business card featured my blog address on it and the tagline Donate and follow my adventures. For an entire month, I carried these cards with me everywhere and gave them out to people I would meet – at grocery stores, at parties, at work events, etc. The cards also served as little reminders to people to visit my website once I was in Tanzania and read my blog.
- Monitor your donations. It’s important to keep track of your donations as they come in and promptly thank your donors. I sent each donor a thank you card immediately upon receiving their donations and noted down their name and address so that I would remember to send them a postcard from the field. Finally, I reminded each person and business or group on my list who had not given at least once about my campaign – up until the last minute. Sometimes people just need a little boost! One reminder was enough for me as I did not want to pester, and often times that is all people need.
- Diversify. Organizing events, draws and contests are a great way to complement your fundraising campaign and reach a broader audience. They can also serve as fun ways to educate people about development issues. Thanks to the generosity of some local businesses and the help of my colleagues, I was able to put together a draw for gift certificates donated to my campaign. We sold tickets for 5$ a piece and brought in a few hundred dollars.
When you fundraise, you have to get over that whole idea that “nobody will donate” or that you are “bugging people”. When you believe in and are excited about your project and travel plans, it will show. You just need to channel that energy and enthusiasm in your campaign and you may well end up being surprised and very touched by the generosity of those around you.
-Nathalie Landry, Youth Innovator, Tanzania 2012
Nathalie shared her fundraising experience with us for this blog, but you can read all about her whole experience on her personal blog, Nathalie In Africa. For more fundraising tips from our previous volunteers, check out the Fundraising section of our blog.