medical costsWhen a friend or loved one gets sick and is facing huge medical bills, the quickest and easiest way to raise money for them is through an online fundraising website.

Sites like GiveForward, Fundbunch and GoFundMe allow individuals to create customized pages where friends and family from across the world can contribute to help a loved one pay for their medical bills and out-of-pocket expenses associated with getting sick.

When combined with the viral power of social media tools like Facebook, these types of fundraising pages can raise upwards of $10,000, $20,000, or even $80,000 in a matter of weeks. Before getting started, however with any of these websites, it’s critically important to come up with an organized fundraising plan.

Through my work at GiveForward, I’ve seen many people raise funds online and have gathered some ideas about what works and what doesn’t. Since many people raising money for their loved one’s medical expenses are fundraising for the first time, I’ve outlined a step-by-step plan that will make it super-easy for you to reach your goal. If you are about to start a fundraising page for a friend or loved one, please take the next 20 minutes to read through the plan — I promise, it will make a HUGE difference in the overall success of your fundraiser.

Step 1: Build a Fundraising Team to Help Spread the Word

If you are thinking of raising money for a loved one, before you get started ask a few of your mutual friends if they would be want to help in the efforts to spread the word. With the assistance of a few friends all sending emails and Facebook messages out to their different networks your team will be able to reach out to 4-5 times as many potential donors as you could by yourself.

As the team leader or team captain, you will, of course, still be responsible for drafting the emails and coordinating the efforts, but your team members will be able to help you in spreading the word to a wider group of people.

Note — If you cannot get a group of friends to help with the efforts, don’t worry about it. Creating a team of friends is definitely helpful, but is not absolutely necessary to be successful.

Step 2: Kick Off Your Online Fundraiser With a Donation From Yourself

If you can afford to do so, the first thing you are going to want to do is set the tone for your fundraiser by donating yourself. Donate as much as you can afford, as this will show people how important this effort is to you and will set the tone for the rest of the fundraiser — if you set the bar high by donating a large amount, others will do the same.

Step 3: Get the Ball Rolling With Big Donations From Your Inner Circle.

After you donate yourself, the next step is to notify a handful of your closest friends and family (your inner circle) and ask them to make large donations (e.g. $100-$500 each) to get the ball rolling. Getting off to a good start is the single greatest thing you can do to make sure you reach your goal.

The reason this is important is because of the law of monkey see, monkey do. (Yes, we know, it’s a very scientific name). Simply stated, when people visit your fundraising page, the first things they do after reading the description is check out the donor list to see who has given and what the average donation size is. Then, they donate a similar amount. If they see that their friends or colleagues are donating between $100 and $500 then they will likely donate between $100 and $500 as well.

On the other hand, if they check out your donor list and see that most people are donating between $10-$20, then they’ll probably donate between $10-$20 too. Seeding your fundraiser page with large donations from friends and family at the outset is probably the most important thing you can do to ensure a successful fundraiser, so we really want to stress how important this step is.

Once your friends and family in your innermost circle have donated, rinse and repeat by reaching out to your next closest group of friends (e.g. 5-10 college friends or high school friends). Do this until a large number of your close friends and family have donated. Then, and only then should you move on to step 4.

The fundraising team for Nicole Hobson, who needed funds for medical costs related to breast cancer treatment, got big donations from their inner circle first. By the time extended friends and family saw the fundraiser, the family had already raised close to $3000. This made the newcomers who were seeing it for the first time much more inclined to donate, as they could see that the fundraiser already had a lot of momentum. In total, the family raised over $25,000 in just one week.

Step 4. Reach out on Facebook

Almost all online fundraisers that raise $10,000+ do so because of Facebook. This is probably the second most important tip we can give you. Facebook is an amazing tool and just helps spread the word more quickly.

To spread the word on Facebook, you will want to set up a group for your friend or loved one. Invite all your friends to join the group and be sure to ask them to ask their friends to join the group as well. Ask some of your close friends to become administrators of the group and have them invite everyone they know to join the group and donate as well

Once you have the group set up you can use it to send people updates about your friend or loved one’s health status or simply include news about what is going on in their life. You can use these updates as an opportunity to ask for contributions by including a link to your online fundraising page in of all the messages.

Here is an example of Facebook group that worked really well for a fundraisier raising money for a child with Leukemia: The Miss Madison Facebook Fan Club

Step 5: Be Persistent

Once you have built a large enough Facebook group (and/or email list), continue to ask people to donate. The key is to be persistent! Not everyone will donate the first time you ask, but if you keep asking, most people will eventually come around.

Also, it’s important to remember that sending requests for donations is a two-way street. You want people to be eager to receive your email or Facebook message, not to delete it or dump it in the trash right when they get it.

A great way to keep your donor base engaged is to start your emails or Facebook messages with a “thank you” and then give updates about your friend’s health, progress, etc. whenever you are asking for donations. Another way to keep people engaged is to start off your emails with updates about the progress of the fundraiser (e.g. “WooHoo! We just hit 20% of our fundraising goal today! Thanks so much!!! You guys rock!!)

Step 6. Finish Your Fundraiser with a Bang.

To help maximize the amount of money you raise for your cause, you’ll want to make sure you reach out to all your procrastinating amigos and family members in the final days before your fundraiser ends. Here’s what we suggest you do to finish your fundraiser with a surge of donations:

(1) Three to four days before your fundraiser ends, send a mass email or a Facebook message to all your contacts, encouraging them to make one last push before the deadline.

(2) To spice it up a bit, if your fundraiser is ending on January 13, ask them to donate $13 on that day or if it is ending on February 5th, ask for $5 on the 5th. People will usually give more than the amount you ask for, so don’t worry if your fundraiser ends on the 2nd or 3rd of the month. If you want, however, you can ask for $20 instead of $2 or $30 instead of $3, or alternatively ask for donations ending in the number (e.g. $2, $12, $22, $52, $102)

(3) Lastly, make sure to send a friendly reminder email on the morning of the last day to remind them to donate.

Final thoughts

Okay, that’s it! One last note, before you get started – typically, the very first thing most people want to do after they create their online fundraising page is send out a mass email to all their friends and family. I know this seems like it would make the most sense, but it is actually the last thing you want to do.

Avoid the temptation to use this “shotgun” approach! Instead, stick to this step-by-step plan and I promise that you will raise WAY more money.

Also see Raising Money for Individuals with Health Conditions for offline fundraising ideas.

Posted on 26 May 2010

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