Fundraising 101

The evening news is littered with stories about people that raised amazing funds for a neat idea. It might be a movie concept, an invention, or a social cause. But when you hear their story and what they accomplished, you might scratch your head over the steps that it would take to go from a great idea to a successful execution. But don’t fear. Below is some basic, introductory information to plug the gaps in your knowledge of raising funds.



If you don’t know what you want to accomplish today, how much will you get done? Not much. So, take the time to write out the mission statement for your cause or idea. This will be as essential as a compass is to a ship. The clearer the direction your mission points in, the easier it will be to reach your milestones along the way and finally your destination.


When people hear “fundraising,” what is the first need that comes to mind? Money! And, sure, your idea or cause is going to need plenty of that. But, what else is needed? Do you need volunteers to set up a fundraising event? Can an associate of yours give a motivating speech to event attendees? Will a creative friend be available to assist with the designing of printed materials or web pages? The time and energy people could donate can be worth more than gold by the time all is said and done.


Have you ever bought Girl Scout cookies or donated toward a cause? Who was it that asked you to help out? Was it someone close to you or was it someone you just met? Likely, you had some sort of strong connection to the person asking for your help. They were probably related to you or related to a close connection of yours. So, the same would be true of your fundraising efforts. Start with those who are close to you and work your way out.

Give thought to how much you think each person might give. You don’t want to ask for too much. The more specific and reasonable you can be in your request, the better the chances that the other person will meet or beat the amount you mention.

You could even get more specific with your research and find out the causes close to the hearts of those around you. For example, if your fundraising cause helps dogs, reach out to your associates that love animals.

One word of advice: Write down everyone you know. You may not reach out to everyone right away, but you may be surprised who gives and who doesn’t. Don’t speak for others. Let them determine if they can help.


Location. Location. Location. That’s right. Where you seek out donations can play a big part in your success rate.

Some people like to be wined and dined. Perhaps for them, you can plan a charitable event where food, drink, and entertainment will be provided.

Or maybe your audience likes to be woo’d on their own time. Can you bring a motivating pitch or presentation to their home or workplace?

Do your potential donors have a tendency to be athletic? What about a marathon or another sports-based event?

What if your audience is more online and less face-to-face? Could a resource like or be a better venue to collect their support?


If you want to know how not to move others to give, just watch a child ask their parent for something. “MOM! I need this.” “No, you don’t.” Swift. Quick. Powerful. And an end to the idea of any further negotiation.

Now, picture that same child explaining how the special something they have requested can benefit both them and others. Maybe they throw in a couple personal experiences and a video representing the pain they would experience without their requested item. How quickly will mom or dad say ‘no’ to that?

So, take the time to determine how best to approach each candidate. One person may respond to the heart-wrenching story of how an ill beneficiary overcame many obstacles to get where they are today. Another person may respond to numbers, statistics, and graphs. Whatever touches their heart is where you should start.


You were taught manners—Please!’ ‘Thank you!’ ‘Yes, sir!’—so show those manners! Thank those that gave money. Thank those that didn’t give money. Thank those that volunteered at events. Thank those who applied their skill to support your mission. Give awards to those top donors. Yes, just thank everyone! It will go a long way. They’ll remember it the next time you come around requesting help.

Taking the time upfront to plan out your cause and how to raise funds for it is essential to your cause’s success. Be sure to include others in the research phase. Value their input, because you can’t think of everything. With the right planning and execution, you might just find yourself to be the next fundraiser being interview on the evening news. Then others can be the ones scratching their head and saying, ‘How’d they do that?’


Photo credit: Matthew Anderson / CC SA 2.0

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