Tips To Running A Successful Fundraising Campaign

By David Currier Major Donor Logistics Coordinator

A year and a half ago I was about to turn 30, starting a new decade of my life. In recent years I had decided to do something meaningful to me, something different for my birthday each year. I had been considering a variety of ideas in the months leading up to the big 3-0 but nothing had really grabbed my attention, nothing had that feel of excitement and of passion that all great ideas do.

One day in October 2013 I was leading a team of Global Village volunteers in the department of San Marcos here in Guatemala when the idea finally came to me…raise enough money to build 30 Habitat for Humanity smokeless stoves, one stove for each year I had been alive. Boom, I was sold.

The support received from friends, co-workers, family members and even strangers throughout the entire campaign was overwhelming. Not only did we raise enough money to build 30 stoves, we more than doubled it, bringing in nearly $8,000 to build a total of 62 Habitat stoves.

10698648_382556515202669_8893533553269082283_nAs with anything new there was a learning curve to pass along. Below are some good, general tips that helped contribute to my success and can help you if you are considering doing your own fundraiser.

1) What´s in a name?

It may seem like an insignificant decision to make, choosing a name, but nothing could be more important than your brand. The name for my campaign came to me instantly. 30 Stoves for 30 Years was an “ah-ha” moment. I heard it inside my head and I loved it for its simplicity, directness and catchiness. When choosing a name look for one that embodies what you are doing, that is attention grabbing and most importantly, feels good in your gut.

2) Use your network

With all the social media platforms in existence that we all know so well, raising funds is easier (and harder) than it has ever been before. Many campaigns find success from the smaller dollar donations, $5, $10, $20 that come from childhood friends, current and former colleagues and individuals from past experiences in our life. Look to these individuals as your donor base and then use that success to reach others. I created a Facebook page, invited all my friends, sent out e-mails and asked others to help me spread the word. Individuals from all different moments in my life contributed to my project, helped it get off to a great start and grabbed the attention of others I did not know as well who subsequently supported 30 Stoves.

3) The Hustle

If you want to be successful you have to put in the work and you have to want it. Simply having a great idea and putting it out for the masses to see will not get you where you want to be. This means being creative in your thinking, being open to opportunities that present themselves, using setbacks as learning moments and not being afraid to ask! As I mentioned above, my network helped me to reach the success that I did but not because of a passive approach. I was very determined and made frequent posts updating the progress of the fundraiser while at the same time asking others to join the cause. I also made personal appeals in person and directly asked individuals if they would be willing to help support others that were in need. People want to help out but at times they just don´t know it. Asking them directly and getting to that “yes” takes courage and determination. Don´t be afraid to work for it.

4) Be Personable

People like to support individuals who are friendly, honest and treat them well. You are asking individuals to support your cause with money that they have made sacrifices to earn. Oftentimes people will donate money not so much based on what the issue is but based on how the individual treats them and their perception of that individual. Talk to potential donors not just about the campaign but about your personal life, your family, dreams and aspirations you have, hobbies that you pursue. You don´t have to put all your feelings out on the table but you making yourself more human makes others more likely to invest in you. And this is not just a one-way street. Take a genuine interest in the lives of your donors and get to know them as well. Even bigger things may come from this campaign than your monetary goal you have.


5) Lights, Camera, Action!

Explaining what the mission and goals are in words is important and good to do. But nothing beats a well composed video or photo that appeals to people´s senses. I used the fundraising website Indiegogo and included a video that showed the many negative effects of using an open flame stove and the myriad of benefits that would come from the family having a smokeless stove. The stat at the time that blew my mind was that Indiegogo fundraisers with a video raised 114% more than those without. 114%!Make sure to appeal to others through a great video or wonderful photographs showing what you are doing and why it is important.

6) Close the loop

No matter how much work one person puts in, there are always others that help the individual to be successful. It is always a team effort and everyone on the team deserves to be thanked and shown the rewards of their efforts. In my case this meant sending a personal thank you email to everyone who donated (yes, a personal email, to everyone), letting them know how grateful I was for contributing their hard-earned money to help improve the lives of complete strangers. This also meant visiting a majority of the families that partnered with 30 Stoves for 30 Years after their stoves had been built, taking photographs and showing the smiles, the faces and the families that would benefit from this team effort.

7) Enjoy the ride

The goal one has in mind is important and the purpose is the focus but along the way you need to always enjoy the twists and turns, the journey that a project like this will take you on. I was moved by not only by the number of people that responded but also by who responded. Several individuals that I had never met and whom I did not know of contributed large sums of money to the cause.

I was also moved by the effect that my efforts had. Many individuals who saw what I was doing became interested in doing their own fundraiser for the same cause, further increasing the reach that 30 Stoves had.

And personally for me the most rewarding part of the entire campaign was seeing how excited the family members were, especially the women who do all the cooking. Many times the whole family gathered in often cramped kitchen areas and just stared at the stove, with a big smile on their face, them knowing that many of the struggles that they had experienced in the past were behind them.

To learn more about David’s project visit the 30 Stoves for 30 Years Facebook page

To follow the rest of David’s photographic adventures, visit David Currier Photography’s Facebook page

Voluntourism: 5 pieces of advice after 5 years of working with volunteers

Primeros Pasos-7 [800x600]By Julia RaoDirector of International Donor Relations

If you haven’t heard this word before you probably will hear it a few days from now, casually in conversation or on the radio. At least this usually happens to me whenever I learn something new. The word voluntourism, beyond being important because it is now a word in the Oxford dictionary, is relevant because it defines a new, increasingly common trend of people who volunteer as a form of travel. Some people may find this counter intuitive, why on earth would you work on your time off? Why would you put yourself into an unfamiliar, potentially difficult spot when you could be taking the much needed vacation you deserve? I think the answers to this are plenty and varied but I from my experience, personal and professional, I think I found a common thread, it’s about learning that begins by entering into the unknown.

The comfort zone is a place, situation, circumstance, or person that bring us comfort and familiarity. It is known and for that we love it and hold on to it dearly. The only problem with the comfort zone is that it is, in and of itself, a place where little growth or learning can be done because we already understand it back and front. And this can be a good thing for a time, but the longer we stay in the proverbial comfort zone the less we can learn, the more rigid we become and the harder it becomes to escape.

So when people come down to Guatemala (an unknown country) to build a home (never having built a block home) for a family (whom they never met) they are not just leaving their comfort zone, they are running, jumping and/or sticking their tongue out at it. This is NOT a bad thing because it will be there when you get back. Although maybe a little less familiar than before, but hey, all the more reason to continue trying new things and learning something new.

Whenever I pick up volunteers at the airport I always see wide eyes; sometimes people are bubbling over with excitement, sometimes people are overwhelmed into silence and others are just nervous and ready to get on the bus. Once we are settled in is when the questions start. Sometimes these questions are impossible to answer like; who owns that horse, why is that guy walking on top of that bus or how do 5 people fit onto 1 moto? But I love the questions themselves, albeit sometimes unanswerable, because it shows the natural human desire of inquisitiveness. It is this intrinsic quality which makes humans great. It is what allows us to evolve as individuals, families, societies and countries. How do you think we found out cheese was the best thing ever…curiosity to taste that moldy milk forgotten outside!

That is not to say all curiosity is a good things. I mean, finger in a light socket, not so smart. But I think for the sake of this discussion, when people are eager to help and learn this is a positive combo.

That said, I think voluntourists, as foreigners with good intentions still must be aware that of a few essential things that will enhance their learning experience and their interactions on their journey to help others and improve the world.  Here are five essential attributes for successful volunteering that I have learned, sometimes the hard way, from the last 5 years living abroad.

1) Humility.

I put this as number one on the list because it really is the most important quality for a person to have if they want to a) be truly open to learning from others, and b) meet someone without prejudice or assumptions about your differences.

I think the best example of this is our interactions with kids. There is so much to learn from children but the assumption is that the older the wiser/smarter/more able etc. This prevents us from even thinking about being humble to the fact that we actually have a lot that we can learn from children. Next time you are with a child, watch how they become enrapt in a task, watch how they laugh wholeheartedly or play without care that they might fall. I think that these are all teachable moments for adults. Yet it takes humility to be able to recognize and appreciate this.


2) Leave your ego at home.

In other words- BE OPEN. I think we all have a concept of who we are and have our list of likes and dislikes. This can be really limiting when you are traveling and encounter new options and situations. When you forget who you are supposed to be it opens you up to a world of new ways of being and most importantly new relationships and experiences. When you travel things are inevitably going to be strange, different and at times uncomfortable but it is how we react to this which will either make it great or disastrous.

3) Listen.

Again, an essential part of learning is to stop and listen. Even if you are teaching or an expert, if you are trying to help someone out you must be open to hearing their needs. Telling someone what they need is counterproductive if you haven’t taken the time to learn the ins and outs of the situation. So be open to hear stories, ask lots of questions and don’t assume that as the “helper” you don’t have something to learn.

4) Enjoy the ride. IMG_2227 [800x600]

The best thing you can remember as a volunteer is that NO you are not going change the world in a week or a month. However, what you can do is be loving and giving and try and make someone smile. And it is those little things that accumulate and grow and are paid forward, which eventually (if you are an optimist) will change our world for the better. Manage your expectations about how much you can do and how much change you will see and focus on the details of the small things you can do. The best way to achieve that is to be flexible. If it rains, if someone is late, if your shovel breaks just accept it and do your small part.

The BEST time I have ever had on a worksite was when our steel cutter broke, essential bringing our operation to a halt. What we ended up doing was amazing. We found a soccer ball, put on some music, danced, sang and played with the kids. It really are these type of moments that stay with people. It’s not what we say or do but how we make others feel that will resonate.

 5) Finally, Better than Nothing is NOT the way to view your voluntary work.

This is a pervasive thought that I think is the most destructive perspective a volunteer can have. Setting the bar at zero is not fair for the people you are trying to help. And yes, sometime that idea is true. I’ve taught in schools where if I wasn’t there, there would be no classes, no lunches that day. However that is not an excuse not to do your best. Being a volunteer is hard. There is no pay, and little incentives, and sometimes no thanks but if you always try your best you can walk away from the experience with the comforting thought that you didn’t just do better than nothing but rather you did everything within your capacity to help another person. And that in and of itself should suffice as incentive. Plus if you believe in Karma, this right effort will come back to you down the line when you need help.

GT Week 6: What Is Home?

During week 6 of our Giving Tuesday campaign we discussed what we believe it means to have a home.

With a housing deficit in Guatemala of over 1.8 million homes, we work hard to provide houses for families across Guatemala because we at Habitat for Humanity Guatemala believe that everyone deserves to have a decent home.

WEEK6-01WEEK6-05 WEEK6-02 WEEK6-04WEEK6-03

GT Week 5: Smokless Stoves

During week 5 of our Giving Tuesday campaign we discussed the need for smokeless stoves in Guatemala.

Guatemalan families that cook over open fires are constantly breathing in smoke and consuming great amounts of firewood. Most affected are Guatemala’s most vulnerable populations because only the poorest families utilize this cooking method with women and small children, who spend more time in the home, as the ones suffering most from chronic respiratory problems and burns.   Starting in 2011, Habitat Guatemala established the project Small Change, Giant Leap with the goal of installing 17,000 smokeless stoves in five years. The stoves are built from adobe blocks with a pipe to carry out the harmful smoke. The multiple-burner metal stove top allows women to dedicate more time to other tasks and to income generation. These improved stoves have other advantages too, including an easy-to-learn assembly process, and faster cooking times that can reduce firewood use by up to 50%.

week5-01 week5-02
week5-03 week5-04 week5-05

World Toilet Day

Today is a day to celebrate the ability to use a sanitary toilet — and to make a commitment to bringing toilets to all those who do not have one. Today, there are 2.5 billion people who are toiletless.

Only 54% of Guatemalans have access to proper sanitation services. The remainder of the population uses poorly constructed latrines or nothing at all.  

Juana Olimpia Sanun Muxtay-3

Sanitation is a clear issue considering that an estimated 85% of waste water is left untreated and often just dumped into local water sources. As part of our Clean Water Project, Habitat Guatemala’s sanitary latrines reduce contamination, while our classes educate families on maintaining healthy homes and good hygienic practices.

You can learn more about our Clean Water Project below:

You can help. Give a sanitary latrine today.

2015 Calendars For Sale!

buycal-01back-01Thanks to your amazing photos that you submitted to our competition, our 2015 calendar is filled with beautiful images from your experiences! For only $15 you can ensure that each day next year is filled with joy.

Please place your order by e-mailing with the desired number.

Thank you!

GT Week 4: Water Filters & Community Gardens

For the fourth week of our Giving Tuesday campaign we are talking about our water filters and community gardens projects.  With these programs we home to assist Guatemalan families who live in extreme poverty.

Water Filters

Over four million Guatemalans living in rural areas do not have access to potable water. And while five of the top twenty causes of death can be related to water contamination, only 3% of the population regularly uses water filters. It’s for this reason that Habitat Guatemala started the Clean Water Project, giving families in extreme poverty access to clean drinking water, and consequently, healthier lives.

Only 54% of Guatemalans have access to proper sanitation services. The remainder of the population uses poorly constructed latrines or nothing at all.

Community Gardens

Guatemala has the fourth highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world and the highest in Latin America—reaching up to 69% in poor, rural, indigenous areas. The problem, however, is not due to a lack of calories, but rather a deficiency in essential vitamins and nutrients that come from balanced diets.

To combat this dire situation, Habitat Guatemala uses community gardens to teach families about improved gardening techniques, vegetable varieties, water management and nutrition which they can then put into practice in their own family gardens.






GT Week 3: Housing Communities

For the third week of our Giving Tuesday campaign we are talking about our housing communities and their ability to provide families who do not own land, with access to land rights.

Our partner families receive low-interest loans to purchase a plot of land and to build their home, while we facilitate access to utilities and services that help promote the growth of a harmonious community. Many families in Guatemala lack the resources to find and attain tenure to land on which they could build a home. To remedy this problem, Habitat Guatemala invests in tracts of land large enough to build new communities of 20 to 100 houses and develops the infrastructure and public areas necessary to create a thriving neighborhood.

To learn more, see the images below:

week3housingcommunities-01 week3housingcommunities-02 week3housingcommunities-03 week3housingcommunities-04week3housingcommunities-05