If you’ve ever tried raising money for anything – a Kickstarter campaign, a small business, a non-profit, or your own squadron of attack dolphins – you’ve probably learned that it’s not always fun to ask people for money. It always helps to think of your request as “encouraging like-minded individuals to support a great cause” rather than “desperately begging reluctant people to shell out a few more bucks,” but that mental shift, while important, isn’t enough to get you the money you need. Alas, when people give something, they often want to get something in return. Isn’t that selfish? They should be ashamed of themselves.
But since most people aren’t ashamed of themselves, here are a few concrete ways you can turn your fundraising drive into something both profitable for you and fun for your backers.
Set A Goal, Then Publicize It
The goal of “raising money” is simply not specific enough to get people excited. (That’s the same reason I immediately fall asleep when people tell me they’re raising awareness. “So you just wanted me to be aware of this horrible situation, but you don’t actually have a plan to do anything about it? Great, thanks. I’m going to go cry in a corner now.”) So pick a specific dollar amount you think you can raise, and then up it by another 10-25%. Doing so will accomplish several things: it will give everyone something to strive for; it will force you to work harder than you would with an ill-defined fundraising goal; and it will open the door for all kinds of fun competition, which we’ll be talking about below.
Create As Much Competition As Possible
People like to feel like they’re a part of something; that’s the only way to explain why people get so caught up in sports rivalries when the athletes never cut their fans in on a portion of their multi-million dollar contracts. It’s also why there’s no better way to make people feel invested in your cause than by turning your backers into teammates. Having a specific goal will do this, as we’ve mentioned above, as will partnering with another organization and “competing” against them to see who can raise the most money. This will energize your most enthusiastic backers to lobby more aggressively on your behalf. In the end, everyone will win.
Incentivize Your Team To Push For Success
The popularity of Kickstarter campaigns has shown quite clearly that people not only enjoy feeling like part of a team but also getting something in return for donating. But how can you afford to give something to dozens or hundreds or thousands of people?
- Donate Your Expertise – If you’re raising money for a theater, you could give your top donor (or donor team) a private concert or theatrical performance for a fixed number of people; a business looking for investors could give not only a share in the company but also free access to whatever products and services you’ll be offering. These things should cost you a little time and almost no money.
- Donate An Experience – A.k.a. “Convince Other Business To Donate Their” See if a local hotel would be willing to donate a 2-night stay (or free passes to a local water park, or dinner for two at a local restaurant, or you get the idea) then turn around and offer those prizes to whoever raises the most money for your cause.
- Donate Your Pride – Naturally, this is my personal favorite. People freaking love watching other people do something foolish, absurd, embarrassing, or otherwise noteworthy. The options here are limitless and will depend on who you are and what makes sense to your donor base, but here are some ideas:
- Shaving your head, beard, or that iconic mustache you’ve had since 1971.
- Dyeing your hair bright pink, purple, green, orange, or all of the above.
- Agreeing to go bungee jumping, polar plunging, or any other crazy activity, especially if it’s well known that the experience will be nerve-wracking for you.
- Walking around town for a day wearing a ridiculous outfit (for example, a Santa outfit or inflatable sumo wrestling suit) and making a point to visit as many public places as possible.
- Having 25 crème pies thrown in your face (don’t forget to film it!).
- Wearing your arch rival’s sports jersey for an entire week.
- Singing karaoke in public, especially if you have a terrible singing voice.
- Participating in a mud wrestling tournament.
- Agreeing to go without coffee, cheesecake, or some other well-known staple of your diet for a week or a month.
Basically, the more work you’re willing to put into your fundraising operation, the more you’re going to get out of it. There are people who want to help you, but they’re also being solicited by any number of other businesses and charities. All other things being equal, the cause that is the most fun to support is going to win.
Need to see it in action? Check out my giving is fun video here!