I’m training for a 26.2-mile, full marathon. And, not just any marathon; the longest-running, most prestigious marathon in the world. The Boston Marathon.
That’s not the hardest part of this process.
While you patiently endure the build up of miles, carefully determine the amount of fluids and electrolytes to replenish and figure out what kind of attire to wear that doesn’t chafe, bunch or annoy, it’s still not as hard as asking people to donate…over, and over, and over again. No one wants to be part of the NFL (“No Friends Left”) club after continuously asking for support.
So, how do you fund-raise and not give up when you have a lofty goal? Here’s what I’ve learned/am learning:
1. Don’t Take It Personally. I’ve had many businesses and vendors reject my requests for donations for our raffle. I’ve received dead air in response from some of my closest friends and even some family to my request for monetary donations or participation in activities.
You can’t take it personally.
Just like sales, it could be the timing. It could be their finances. Who knows. Bottom line: they aren’t rejecting you; the answer is likely “not right now.” Which, admittedly, is hard to swallow when your fundraising is within a finite amount of time.
2. Keep Moving. The only way to fail is to stop. When something feels like it isn’t moving, find a way around the obstacle. So that golf course wouldn’t donate a package for your raffle? Ask another one. And another one. And another one. Eventually, someone will give; someone will believe in your cause and it might surprise you how quickly they say “yes” to your request.
3. Stay Focused on the Present. The goal may be overwhelming (to the tune of, perhaps, $6,500?). The goal’s timeline may seem unreasonable or impossible. Keep your eyes on the task you need to accomplish in the moment. Have a garage sale coming up? Focus on the best donations you can get for the garage sale. Your raffle is on the horizon? Organize all of the prizes and put the pedal to the metal and keep asking for donations at every turn. I’ve kept a small stack of letters in my bag to hand out whenever I have the opportunity to ask for donations.
4. Take a Break. This might seem counter to point No. 2, but listen. Sometimes, you need a little breathing room from pushing yourself to regain the perspective and refreshment you need to keep going. So, take a weekend off. Don’t make a sign. Don’t email a person about a prize. Just focus on one or two activities that bring you joy and help you to relax. In a lot of ways, fundraising (especially large amounts), is like a second, or third, or fourth job. Don’t worry; it’ll all be there for you after you’re done.
5. Reflect. It’s easy to get stuck in the weeds of the present or the goal, but remember WHY you’re doing what you’re doing. Maybe it’s to support research for a cause you really believe in. Maybe it’s to send kids to Africa to build a school. Regardless, remember the value of accomplishing your end goal and why you chose to embark on the journey in the first place. Put pictures of the people your cause represents where you can view them; maybe it’s your bedroom, your bathroom or at your office. Take a moment every day to just reflect on this worthy cause and remember how your efforts will translate. It will reinvigorate your passion and help you focus on your “why” in a way that will fuel you through the tough times.
6. Follow Up. Keep a list and be meticulous. Your note or message may have been lost in the shuffle or that person who said they’d love to donate, but never did, possibly forgot. Don’t be afraid to follow up with that person or that business to gently say, “Hi, I just wanted to follow up with you on that conversation we had/the request I submitted…”
7. Celebrate! When you have a big fundraising goal, sometimes a donation feels like a pebble in a lake. Simply celebrate! It’s another step towards hitting your goal; it’s another person’s life you’re going to impact.
Take a deep breath and stick with it!