If you’re struggling with coming up with camp fundraisers (or any fund raising) each year, and spending way too much time on fundraising, and it’s taking time away from ministry, then you too will benefit from the 5 foundational fundraising techniques.
It’s spring, which I don’t know about you, but for us, it typically means we’re gearing up to start fundraising for students to go to camp. Also at Axiom, it’s the season of our biggest fundraising drive, our Spring Pledge Drive.
We opened Axiom in 2007, umm yea we opened a nonprofit right before a major economic decline… that’s not ideal timing!
In 2006 and 2007 we raised over 100,000 for startup funds and our first year of operating. In 2008, our income dropped 30% and in 2009 income dropped 50%, and remained there in 2010.
Those first three years were a struggle! In 2011 and 2012 yes, the economy started recovering, but also our strategy for fund raising developed into a system. Because of that strategy, we’ve been able to have fully funded budgets for the past 5 years.
All this to say we’ve learned a lot about fundraising!
Unfortunately, we learned a lot of it the hard way!
Either way raising over $100,000 annually from an already low-income community is hard, but it’s been made easier by avoiding these 5 fundraising foundations.
1) Avoid One and Done Fundraising
The idea of one and done fundraising is alluring. However, typically it doesn’t bring the amount of income you’re hoping for. Have you spent the evening set up in front of your towns pizza place, and if customers just bring your stupid flier in they’ll donate 10% of profits? You spend hours sitting in front, spend time rushing around parking lots sliding fliers under car window blades, you told parents of your youth group, and had an announcement the Sunday before. Surely this is an easy score! Then you get the check from the pizza place two weeks later and it’s... $200. Seriously, you probably spent $50 of your own money that night on pizza for the kids that sat out there with you…
General advertising says it takes 6 to stick, it takes hearing the information or opportunity 6times before it reregisters in someone’s head to actually do it.
You probably tried you best to get info out in multiple ways and that’s great! But that still doesn’t mean that the people you're reaching are interested in eating pizza or available to go.
But if you spend the same time and energy doing a repeat event like the pizza example, you will increase the number of times they’ll hear the info and you’ll increase people’s opportunity to support you.
If the big corporate pizza chain is willing to do a one-time Tuesday night youth fundraiser, then is there another local business that is willing do to the same but a week long? Or are they willing to do it every Tuesday in the month of May? Or are they willing to do it the first Tuesday of every month throughout the year?
We have an amazing local business called Righteous Burger who over the past few years hosts a weeklong fundraiser for the students wanting to go to camp. For the whole week, they donate a percent of profits to our youth group. It’s amazing and so generous! And you know what it does? It allows us to push this one place for an entire week, some people go back multiple times a week, and because they hear the information all week long they’re more likely to make it a point to go at least once.
We just turned that measly $200 one night thing, and with very little extra work, made a fundraiser that sends about 10 kids to camp each year. The time-consuming work would have already been done for a one-night event, making the flier, printing materials, getting table stuff together, posting reminders etc. but instead of spending that time on a one and done an event, we’re investing that time in a larger 5-day event.
Figure out the work you’re already going to do, and find a way to increase opportunities for participation from your community, and increase time and ways people are going to hear about the event.
2) Make an Annual Fundraising Strategy
Stop recreating the wheel,
Each year do you sit down with your volunteer and students and say “let’s brainstorm camp fundraising”? You hear the same list of bake sale, car wash, sell candy bars and so on… each year you’re going to fundraise for camp, there’s no reason to put admin time into making new fundraisers each year.
Instead, find three (or however many your need, I doubt its more than three) fundraisers and stick to it year after year. Axiom sites raise the majority of their budget from 2 big fundraisers a year, our Spring Pledge Drive, and Fall Benefit Dinner. This to say, you can probably pull off 2-3 properly done fundraisers and be set for camp.
The benefit of setting annual fundraisers is threefold.
1) you don’t have to spend countless office hours making the plan each year!
You make the plan, the promotional materials, fill the volunteer roles once! Then the next year you adjust the plan to make improvements, change dates and maybe a picture of last year's promotional materials, and fill the same roles you filled last year.
2) you get to improve instead of create
If you’ve already done the fundraiser once or twice then you spend your admin time making improvements on an already proven strategy. Instead of just throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.
3) your community will come to expect it
When your community is able to expect a fundraiser they’re able to support it better, and you’ll have to do less promotion. They already understand the idea, they know what it's going to do for kids, and all you have to do is communicate specifics.
In the same fundraiser as Righteous Burger above, because that fundraiser is successful for us, and because it’s successful for Righteous Burger (good press, and huge community support), they’ve allowed us to do this week-long fundraiser year after year.
3) Do Things That Are Your Style
Find fundraisers that align with the style of your community and youth group. For some fundraisers, there isn’t a lot of styles. But try to do at least one that is generally fun for the students participating. Is your group artistic? Do an art auction. Is your group talented? Do a talent show. Is your group not talented but rambunctious and fun? Capitalize on that energy.
Axiom does a fundraiser each Christmas that is true to our Axiom culture. (I will admit it is hard to pull off the first year) It’s called gorilla Christmas Caroling. We get a group of kids together for 4 nights in a row, and we dress up with our ugliest Christmas garb, and we carol to donors and congregation members (who are good spirited and fun like us). But, we don’t carol in the traditional sense, because we tried that once and it was awkward and boring. Instead, we all sing different Christmas Carols as loud and off key as possible. We bring bells and drums and dance like fools. It’s hilarious our rambunctious group of trouble makers, showing up on your doorstep and surprising you with the worst production you’ve ever seen. Here’s the trick we tell them for $5 we’ll stop singing, but for $10 they can send us to someone else. Most people give us $10 and send us to their favorite (or least favorite) neighbor, coworker, friend, and… pastor!
Each night we end the night back at Axiom with cookie and cocoa and stories of the terrified little girl, or the little boy that didn’t want to be rude and said that we’re really good!
Do things that your kids will enjoy, that express that nature of your group to others and that people want to talk about. One of our pastors… he talks about it all year long. I can run into him in April and he still has something to say about our beautiful singing.
4) Tell Your Story
If people don’t know why they’re supporting rather than it’s for camp if they can’t identify the impact their support has then you’ve lost a big opportunity.
Yes, the nice old ladies at your church want to help kids go to camp. But if you leave it at that you’ve lost the heart warming feeling people get when they help someone out. Share the story of your students or your ministry.
Story’s are compelling, people remember stories and the feelings they get from stories.
If Susan sponsored a kid to go to camp, great.
If you sent her a thank you card awesome.
But if you sent her a card, with a picture of the kid she sponsored covered in mud from one of the many messy camp games, and a note from that kid about what camp was like, or a note from you about what you saw happen in that kid's life at camp, then Susie is going to sign up right away next time you ask her to sponsor a kid.
Also if they get to participate in the story in a way other than just writing a check that would be awesome. Like would she want to write in an extra $5 and you’ll make that kid a snack bag and she can write a note or does she also want to drive kids?
She’ll remember the direct impact she had, she’ll see the joy in the kids face, and she’ll work to do that again.
Tell your story, let the people supporting you be the hero. More on storytelling and being the hero in the resources section.
5) Make a Clear Ask
Don’t be afraid to come out and ask for exactly what you want or need. Set a clear goal, communicate that goal (at least 6 times), and speak directly into what you want them to do to help you achieve that goal.
Eat at Righteous Burger May 5-9
Sponsor a Kid for Camp
Sign up to Donate Monthly to Axiom
Don’t cap their generosity. A lot of people say thinks like for $5 a month you get a kid to camp!
If you ask for $5 you’ll get $5 from someone that could do $25, $50, or even $100.
Say what your goal is and encourage people to do what they can. Tell people even $5 makes a difference, we can all be a part of the goal! But don’t set a low standard for participation. Do levels of support that have a wide range, don’t just throw out one standard that everyone can achieve. Yea everyone can do $5 a month, but some can do much more, but they won’t if you don’t ask them.
Podcast: Building a Story Brand with Donald Miller (on itunes and google play)
Specifically these episodes
- Sept. 6th 2017 How to tell people what you do in 3 easy steps.
- August 1 2016- #11 to Cast Vision so People Listen.
- April 10 2016- #5 How to Make Your Call to Action Irrespirable
- March 27 2016 #3 How to Be the Guide and Attract More Customers.