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.
As 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