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Fundraising tips Fundraising tips
by Joseph Gatt
2020-08-21 09:02:27
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To be honest, I used to dread fundraising, and the word fundraising itself. There's a reason for that, and I think many of you share my background.

I come from a background where I grew up in foster homes. And when I asked my foster parents for pocket money, I'd get a deluge of questions that would investigate every penny spent.

fund001_400So I couldn't just ask for 20 bucks and be left alone and secretly take that hot girl out on a date. I'd ask for 20 bucks and say I'd be meeting a friend and having a sandwich, and I'd get three bucks, or in some cases, nothing.

Not to mention all the argument scenes with my foster parents, which ended up in me getting absolutely no pocket money at all.

Then I worked with the French and the Koreans who tend to believe that one minor mistake, and you don't deserve your paycheck. I've slammed a lot of doors in heated arguments in France and Korea over people questioning whether I deserved the money they were paying me.

So, for a very long time, I refused to get involved in anything related to fundraising. Asking for money used to play that scene in my head where I'd be denied cash and would have to stay home, with all the embarrassment that involves when it came to my reputation.

So here are the fundraising tips.

Tip number 1:

Before you go out and ask for funds, you need to answer these three questions:

What problem are you going to solve with the money?
How are you going to use the money to solve the problem?
How many people are going to be impacted by your solutions?

Tip number 2:

The biggest mistake I've seen in fundraising is the following:

“hi, my name is John Doe. I don't want to work a regular job and I want to work on my own personal problem that serves nobody and helps nobody and that nobody cares about. But I want you to sign me a check so I can pay my bills and “shirk” (pretend to work) on this project that no one cares about.”

You ain't getting no funds for that buddy!

Tip number 3:

Other big mistake: Asking for short-term funds when you need long-term funds. Or asking for long-term funds when you are going to use them for short-term needs.

So you do you fundraise when you have a 10 year project? A 40 year project? A one-year project?

You want to fundraise for shot-term needs, but keep the donors informed of the long-term goals and aspirations of the project.

For example, if you want to “fight desertification” you want to fundraise by asking for funds to “purchase trees for this month/this year” and explain that in the long run you intend to create a green belt over 40 years, and that this action would prevent that area from becoming a desert.

Tip number 4: Fundraising taboos

In France, it's OK to publicly fundraise to help the poor and the weak. But if you want to fundraise for a political campaign or for a school vacation project, you're going to have to do that super-duper discreetly.

So in France, fundraise publicly to help the poor. But if you want rich high school kids to help pay for their trip to the Barbados, you want to communicate exclusively via mail, and if possible, keep the mail anonymous of “collective.” And don't let anyone see the mail other than the recipients.

Fundraising for artistic projects is usually acceptable in the United States (although fundraising for the arts is notoriously hard) but in many countries, people are gong to tell you “our priority is to feed the hungry, not entertain the rich.”

Tip number 5: Fundraising etiquette

In Korea and Japan, you only find out that you owe them money when you show up at the event, that turns out being a fundraiser. That is you're invited to a dinner/event, show up at the entrance, and asked to “give me 100 bucks.” But to be fair, fundraisers rarely ask for more than 30 bucks in Japan and Korea, and in some rare cases, you'll be asked for 100 bucks. In some cases it's only 10 bucks.

Point is in Korea and Japan your invitation card won't mention that the event costs 100 bucks to attend.

In the United States, people like to beg for funds by saying that those are “tax-deductible” meaning that you take the donation out of your income when you file your taxes.

In Europe, it tends to be considered rude to publicly ask for funds. Fundraising is usually done privately, in the privacy of a CEO's office or some big name's office. But Europeans tend to be generous when being asked for funds, especially when it comes to helping people in dire need. And in Europe CEOs don't just donate money, they tend to also donate logistics, food, or anything the NGO or association will ask for.

But in Europe names are important, and you need connections to meet CEOs. You can't just go knock at a CEO's door and expect to receive a check.

Final tip: Fundraising involves a little bit of branding

People tend to donate to the big names. If you're John Doe asking for funds to buy a scooter, chances are you're not getting anything.

So the advice I would give to the “small” NGOs and charities who desperately need funds for excellent causes, would be to network (or perhaps merge) with the big names.

People will usually donate to Oxfam or Save the Children or the World Wildlife Fund or Greenpeace or Amnesty International.

But if you're an NGO that helps the needy get cheap surgery, that's a great cause, but you're going to have to work with big names.

Notes on Accountability

Some NGOs were high-profile scams. In France, the “Association for Research against Cancer” turned out being a huge financial mess involving all sorts of luxuries, financial investments of funds, gambling with funds, investing funds, and other things NGOs really shouldn't be worrying about.

The problem with all fundraisers is that, unless the fundraising is done for the short-term (as in elections) people tend to play with the money they collect from donations.

That is I've been to NGO and Association “Business meetings” (why they call those business meetings I have no idea) and those business meetings were mostly about how to play with the donated money to make more money.

This is a real dilemma for NGOs, charities, associations and non-for-profits: do you constantly fundraise for short-term goals (with the risk that CEOs get tired of giving you money) or do you collect big donation checks and then place the money in the financial market, hoping to make interests and dividends, when you could technically lose it all.

My advice would be: focus on the mission.

Problem is, a lot of charities hire employees, and those employees often have salaries and need their jobs.

But when you lose focus on the mission and make your priority saving jobs or putting more money in the coffer, that's never good in the long run.

Final problem when it comes to fundraising: most people don't really want to stay informed about your activities. Most people don't care what you do with the donations. But, out of the blue, someone could want to investigate and see what you're doing with the donations, or perhaps order an audit or something. So always be prepared for detailed, meticulous financial audits.

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