Fundraising - Phase 2 - The Guts

After deciding to run the New York City Marathon to benefit Action For Healthy Kids and properly preparing myself (Phase 1), I actually did get to the real task of fundraising.

In phase 1, I was basically asking myself "How will the the world be different when I am done?" (On an existential level. To observers, it looked a lot like procrastination) Once you can see that new world, it is time for Phase 2. 

Phase 2 of any major project is all about doing the physical acts that facilitate getting oneself to ones to the goal. If this person were you and you were going sledding, you'd be putting on your snowpants. Going to the park? You'll be packing your lunch in Phase 2. 

(But this isn't about phases. It's about fundraising. Maybe I'll do an exposition on the Phase System someday. For those wondering, there are 3 phases. Back to work...)

Disclaimer: This post will be a bit more "instructional" than my usual narratives.

Let's look at that checklist from the previous post... 

  • Get the website in order
  • Setup the Team Fundraising Page
  • Write the initial request letter

That looks exhausting. Let's go run.

Chase Corporate Challenge. Surprisingly well for a few days after a trail marathon.

Okay, now we've left Phase 1 for good. No going back.

Team Fundraising Page

The first thing to tackle is that Team Fundraising Page. Just use the email from the charity, log in and fill out information, right? Yeah... that's simple.

I say Nay Nay! You cannot treat it as simple. That Team Fundraising page is the equivalent of your store. It needs to be a pleasant experience. People have to know why they are putting down their hard earned money and it has to be an easy and, to the extent possible, enjoyable experience. I have no hard numbers, but anecdotally, I bet a lot of donations are lost because the "buying experience" is not what the donor expected.

Bare minimum requirements: 

  • Personalize the page. Donors are visiting this page because they were asked to do so by you. They should see you when they get there.
  • Test the page out yourself. Use the page in multiple ways (multiple browsers, screen sizes, etc...) to make sure you understand the experience of your donors. This will allow you to answer questions and resolve any difficulties. You should know the page and know how to work it well. You'd be a sad panda if you found out someone wanted to donate but didn't because they couldn't find the donate button or were creeped out by the payment process.
  While extremely adorable, sad panda is not an effective fundraiser. He has no pockets!

While extremely adorable, sad panda is not an effective fundraiser. He has no pockets!


  • Make the experience entertaining. Provide something that is only available by going to your donation page. Maybe it is a funny anecdote or pictures of you. At a minimum the message should be a continuation of or similar to your request letter, but not the identical.

Extra Bonus:

  • Take screenshots of your donation process and make them available to potential donors. It is sometimes helpful to let people know what to expect and what a successful donation looks like. 
  • Have an alternative for people who cannot or do not want to contribute online. Be willing to accept and process their payments in whatever way is comfortable for them. 

Initial Request Letter

Now that you have a store and you have a list of potential customers, time to write a letter.

You did make a list of people to whom you intended to send your letter, right? You should do that. And when you are making that list, think of ways to group the people you are asking. For instance, you might have groups like:

* Close family
* Extended family
* Close Friends
* Running Friends
* Facebook Friends
* Business Owners
* General Public

Back to the letter... 
Your letter let's people know that your campaign is open for business. It is time for your store to advertise.

It is convenient and economical to send the same generic letter to everyone. You can get your letter out faster therefore getting more donations.

BAH! Do you like impersonal junk mail? It is more thoughtful and meaningful (to both you and your donors) if you acknowledge your relationship to the recipient in your request. 

Sending an individualized request to each of earlier defined groups may sound like a lot of work, but in reality, it isn't. And if it is, so what. But... it isn't.

A basic strategy would have a pretty standard message about why you are running and your fundraising goal as your "General Public" message. Then you can personalize for each group by appending to that message a note with regards to why that group might be interested in supporting you.

For example, you might offer business owners the chance to have their logo on your fundraising page, but you wouldn't offer that to your Grandma (unless of course, she was a business owner.) And on the other side, you may want to recount a personal anecdote to your close family regarding how they always encouraged you to run around the park during family picnics. This allows you to keep you requests personal as well as concise. It's a small distinction, but during my experience I have found that it is the appreciation of little things that have mattered most.

Bonus Anecdote: I created a custom letter for my co-workers because my company had a Matching Gifts program. So in my letter to co-workers, I included a link to the Matching Gifts site and step-by-step instructions on how to use the program. I also took time to contact the coordinators of the program to make that I knew all of the steps to ensure a successful match and to make them aware of what I was doing. I am absolutely certain that the few hours I spent on this process are directly responsible for hundreds of dollars in donations.

Pfew... that was exhausting. We've earned a trail run. 

 Lucien Morin Park. Single track during a humid thunderstorm. Yes, this is a "reward"

Lucien Morin Park. Single track during a humid thunderstorm. Yes, this is a "reward"

If you've stuck around this long, you must be a fundraiser or a marathoner. So now for the gravy...

Personal Website

Considered "whimsical folly" for many people, a personal website can be a game changer for the serious Fundraiser. If the Team Fundraising site is your store and the letter is your advertisement, then your personal website is the value-add. It is what makes you and your campaign into the Craft Beer, the Artisanal Cheese, the Locally-Sourced Produce, or the Hand-Knitted scarf of fundraising.
Pictures, stories, (and in my case training logs and race reports) all personalized by contribute to telling the story of you and your fundraising journey. 
In the past, websites were technical feats achieved only by a magical cabal of Technologists whispering secret incantations to manifest the dark clouds of the internet. But today, there are many ways to easily whip up a site that looks quite professional without a single line of code (like the site you are reading right now.)
If this is something you are interested in, but doubt your abilities to utter magical phrases or are concerned about getting lost in the nebulous world of the HTTPs, I'd be happy to consult with you. Just drop me a line using the "contact me" button on the main page of the site.

With that, we've built our foundation and assembled our tools. Consider this the main body of Phase 2. Next up... getting stuck in Phase 2 and the eventual glory of Phase 3.

(I know, I know, "Get to the end already", hey... if you think reading these articles is time consuming, try running a marathon!)