I’m getting really excited for the upcoming March of Dimes (MOD) March for Babies (MFB). Last year, the walk was a few days after Owen was discharged from a long string of hospital admissions. I wasn’t in my best place, but the walk really re-energized me. It felt so good to be surrounded by people who understood my life in that moment. To see thousands of people joined together to help raise awareness and funds for prematurity made me feel so much less lonely in our journey and filled me with hope.
While this year, I’m in a much better place (work in process). I still look forward to spending the day with other preemie families. I’ve also been more able to focus on the other important factor of the walk: Fundraising. For me, the fundraising is the hard part. Clearly I’m a passionate preemie supporter, but it still is not easy for me to ask for money from people. To be honest, I kind of hate it. We Midwesterners were just not raised to ask for things.
But here’s the thing, I’ve had to get over myself. This cause is too important to not do some asking. As my post pointed out yesterday, prematurity is a big deal. It takes money to find solutions so families of the future don’t have to feel the pain that 1:9 births feels today. So, I’ve started asking. First I tried Facebook and a blog that mentioned my walk. I got one donation from that effort…from SINGAPORE (ANRC readers are awesome and they live everywhere)! Then I tried a more “desperate” sounding Facebook approach and I got a few more. But, really, until I turned fundraising into something that was fun for me to do and made people accountable for donating, I didn’t have success. Having seen how a small tweak in approach can greatly impact success, I asked Caitln Haynes, Family Teams Specialist, from the Minneapolis MOD office to share the best practices that she sees in raising funds. Here are some of the highlights from our discussion earlier this week.
Make it Personal:
- Share your story. There aren’t many things more personal than babies. Especially babies that have fought so hard and have touched everyone who knew their story. Give specific examples of how the MOD has made your child’s life better.
- Instead of the mass email, try sending individual emails. You can tweak the message to what you think will be most motivating to each individual and it lets the person know that you are specifically asking them for support. A personal appeal holds each recipient accountable rather than giving the impression that you can get the funds elsewhere.
- Even better than a personal email, try a letter in the mail. Include some pictures of how far your baby has come, or some stories of how you have been celebrating the life of a child that may have passed. If it’s a form letter, I always add a handwritten personal message on the bottom.
- Don’t forget businesses to whom you have a relationship and have been loyal. In the past, I’ve received donations from the woman who I bought Mary Kay make up from. One Minnesota family gets a check from their garbage company every year. Business love it when you share with friends and family that you donated and often have a specific budget planned for donations each year. You never know who will support you, unless you ask.
Give Reminders: I think a lot of us think, “I don’t want to bug anyone by asking again”. However, in truth, you’re likely giving a needed reminder and not bugging them at all. Life is busy and I need reminders on just about everything (ask anyone who sends me an email). Not responding doesn’t mean that I don’t WANT to respond (or donate) it means that I have forgotten. Reminders are okay.
- Two reminders a month is very reasonable.
- Give updates on how your fundraising is going.
- If you have a child who has benefited from MOD efforts (all kids have) share a recent update on how that child is doing.
- Give a shout out to those who have donated already. It’s a great way to thank them for their support and to give a little peer pressure to those that are on the fence.
- Also, don’t stop asking after the walk. Last year I received several donations when I shared this post about my walk. You accounts stay open through the fall, but you’ll need to ask your local office when your incentive for t-shirts or gift cards ends. In Minnesota the 2013 t-shirt deadline is May 31 and the Gift Card Incentive is June 30.
Create Incentives: People like to feel like they are getting something for their donation and incentives, are a great way to stretch people to give just a little more than they may have planned. Incentives do not have cost you any money, do what works well for you. Here are some ideas that have been successful.
- Thank you letter from your child who has benefited from MOD for every donation of $10 or more
- A pan of your world famous cinnamon rolls for every donation of $50 or more.
- Be willing to embarrass yourself (Like I did here)
- Raffle your services; mowing the yard, walking the dog, cleaning their house, delivering a homemade dinner.
- Ask a local business to donate a prize to be raffled.
Create a Sense of Urgency: Help turn good intentions into action by creating deadlines. Deadlines work especially well when tied to incentives. You can have a few round of incentives to keep the energy going. National Public Radio is the best at this approach to fundraising. They have a new goal and new incentive almost every hour throughout a campaign. If the first incentive doesn’t appeal to one person, the next incentive might. Also, if the incentive is good enough, some people may donate more than once.
Have a Party: There is no better way to get people to feel part of the mission than having them to a party supporting March of Dimes. Parties can be big or small – whatever fits your personality, budget and timing.
- Host a chili night. It could even be a chili cook off (hint: then you don’t supply all the food)
- Have a build your own pizza party and step it up by giving small prizes for most creative, best tasting, or other fun themes.
- Reach out to a local restaurant to see if they will host a night for your walk. Ask the store manager if you can get a percent of proceeds from a shift or day and let them know you’ll be sending a lot of business their way. Davanni’s Pizza, Applebees and Noodles and Company are all companies that have worked with walk teams in the past.
- Host a home sales party and ask the sales rep to donate proceeds to the walk. Arbonne, Scentsy and Thirty-One are all great examples.
Work with your regional MOD Office: The March of Dimes wants to help you make the most of your fundraising and they have a lot of great materials. From your local office you can get any of the following:
- Form letters for personal donations or corporate sponsorship
- Custom fliers that you can personalize with your own images and messages that have the MOD look and feel.
- Brochures to include in letters or to have available at events.
- Balloons and Banners to decorate your events.
- In person or over the phone, fundraising coaching and planning sessions. Hear about best practices in your local area and get coached on how to make the ask.
Need a great example to inspire you? I’ve been watching this family’s efforts on Facebook and mom, Sarah, has shared the tactics team Haulin’ it For Henry has used to raise $6800 so far this year and a combined total of more than $10,000 in their two years walking in MFB. I love their adorable logo, don’t you?
1. My sister came up with an awesome idea this year to make “team sponsors”. We asked people to donate $100 online to become a sponsor. With their sponsorship we would put their name or company logo on the back of our team shirts and they would get 1 free shirt and team bracelet too. (We had been shooting for 15-20 sponsors which would have been 1/2 of our fundraising goal…..we ended up getting 33!).
2. We were given a HUGE donation by one of Adam’s army buddies – he owns a resort on Leech Lake in Walker, MN. He donated a package vacation worth $1,100! We decided to do a silent auction with the package and ended up raising $810! (Last year we did a silent auction for tickets in the Legends Club at the Twins Game and raised $250.)
3. We ordered team bracelets and team shirts. This one is kind of tricky though. The shirts are not a big money maker unless you can hit the price breaks on the shirts. Our bracelets though ended up being a great idea. We ordered 200 bracelets for only $117 (making them each .59). We decided to sell them for $5 which means for every bracelet we sell we donate $4.41 out of the $5!