A few years ago I decided to undertake a fundraising project: the American Stroke Association’s Train to End Stroke program. Not only would I be doing a good deed, but I would also be going to Hawaii!

I didn’t think that fundraising would be that difficult. Since this was my first foray into fundraising I learned many things from some pros, but most things I learned the hard way. I was resourceful at finding good fundraising opportunities but not on actually implementing them.

Here are some things I learned:

Don’t expect your fundraising letter to do all of the work for you. Unless you have friends and family with money, you’re probably going to have to do some other types of fundraising.

An event at a bar or nightclub isn’t guaranteed success from the regulars who frequent the place. You may set up a concert or dance at a popular bar or club and think that the venue will draw enough people to make you a decent chunk of money. Think again. Usually you will only get week nights, when the club’s business is slow. Publicity is key. An announcement in the paper, fliers, a raffle, and word of mouth weren’t enough, I learned. Endorsements, sponsors, and radio ads are all better ways of promoting an event.

Businesses are more than happy to donate items or tickets to your cause but not money. Even talking to managers doesn’t usually net a monetary donation.

You can use the business’ gifts as raffle or door prizes. You may be able to auction the item online as well. You can make or cards to hand out with the auction’s information for family, co-workers, and friends to increase the auction’s hits.

Some local sports teams will have special game nights with part of ticket proceeds going to your organization. I had a special game night arranged with the local baseball team.

Some of the more successful things I tried involved more human power than I could provide. You’ll have to ask for help from family, friends, or co-workers for the following suggestions.

Street corner fundraising:
Contact your local police station to get permission for a date and time to fundraise at a street intersection. Then all you’ll need are some helpers and some containers. Within a few hours you can raise a $100 or more. A couple of the girls in my group raised over $400 in four hours doing this.

Have a car wash: You’ll need several people to help out with this, but it’s worth it. Some stores will match the amount you raise when you have the car wash in their parking lot; just call around to businesses before you choose which one to hold your car wash at. I have a friend that raised $500 at a car wash.

Bake sale: If you can find a good spot to hold a bake sale you can make a decent amount. Friends and family are invaluable for bake sales as well, unless you want to spend all day baking goodies alone and then sitting at a store, school, or business by yourself selling them.

Although I ended up falling short of my fundraising goal, I learned lots about promotion, fundraising, and publicity during my experience with the Train to End Stroke program. I also enjoyed the team training atmosphere the program provided.

About the Author: Laura Munion is a freelance writer and copyeditor. She is also an advocate for children with special needs and the mother of twin daughters who have autism.

Posted on 27 June 2006

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