Fundraising to help friends
This past summer a group of friends came together to successfully raise money for a friend needing an important operation to address her Multiple Sclerosis (M.S.) symptoms. Many of you have probably heard about about the Liberation procedure. It’s an operation that clears blocked arteries and has shown some success in alleviating a variety of M.S. symptoms in some patients.
You probably also know that the procedure –a simple angioplasty commonly performed on heart patients– has raised a lot of debate in the medical and M.S. communities. The procedure is unavailable in North America because it is new and untested. As a result, M.S. sufferers around the world have been going to countries like Poland, India and Costa Rica and paying thousands of dollars for treatment.
The article that follows is one that a couple of us involved in the campaign developed to let people know how they could raise funds on behalf of their friends who need this, or any other, kind of help. We’re not endorsing the procedure. But we can say that it has helped our friend, Diana Matheson, and several other people we know.
If you want to know more about the campaign and the procedure, you can start by visiting the website we created: http://helpdiana.ca/
How you can raise the money for your own Liberation Procedure
Our fundraising efforts were very successful. In three weeks from the official launch of the campaign we raised c/”>Lose Exercise to $18,000.
This article describes how we did it and how you can too. Please feel free to copy and adapt any of our ideas, content or website code to launch your own fundraising effort.
And spread the word. Tell anyone who¿s interested about this project so they can learn how to do this for their friends with M.S., or any other cause that would benefit from a similar approach.
The keys to fundraising
It starts with passion, connections and a bit of nerve. We were able to raise $18, 000 in three weeks because we really wanted to help our friend Diana. Everyone in our core group asked everyone we know to make a contribution.
It helped that many of us – including Diana – have a large network of friends and associates and a long history of work in social causes.
It takes work to contact everyone you can think of to help out. It takes nerve to ask them in the first place. And it takes more nerve to follow up.
Our group included some professional fundraisers. They know that asking, asking persuasively, and asking again pays off.
But remember, there are people all over the world with little fundraising experience who have raised significant sums of money for causes they care about. They can do this because they are passionate. You can do the same for your friend with M.S. or another disease. We hope that the positive impact will be as great for them as it has been in our campaign for Diana.
How to get started:
Get a core group of five, six or more friends together and divide up the tasks. Those include:
Make sure everyone in the core group fully understands the procedure.
This may seem obvious, but knowledge and commitment are vital to successful fundraising. There is a small risk involved in the procedure, as well as a certain amount of controversy. Everyone needs to be well-informed and unified before going forward.
Make sure your friend is comfortable with this kind of campaign.
The campaign needs to be public in order for it to be successful. It is quite possible that your friend with M.S. will be uncomfortable with the idea of you asking for money on their behalf. They may be embarrassed, they may not like asking for help, or they may have any number of other reasons to feel uncomfortable.
Your friend may need to be encouraged to take this step and to be reminded that people care and want to give tangible help.
An unanticipated outcome of our campaign was that it turned out to be an excellent community-building effort. Diana said it made her realize that she wasn’t as isolated as she thought. The emotional benefits from this can be significant, and long-lasting, both for the person with M.S. and the volunteer team.
Make a timeline.
Our campaign took place very quickly. We had barely begun our planning when Diana discovered an opportunity to have the procedure done without a long wait. We had anticipated having several months to launch and complete our campaign, but because of the opportunity to have the procedure done quickly, our entire campaign took roughly six weeks from beginning to end.
Do some research on the Liberation Treatment because people will ask questions. There’s some information on our website http://helpdiana.ca. Use this as a starting point. There’s an informative CCSVI group on Facebook and a wealth of information on various internet sites.
Keep in mind that this procedure is not without some controversy. M.S. is a unique disease. Different people have different symptoms, severity, and rates of progression. As with other M.S. treatments, everyone responds differently to the Liberation Procedure.
Build a website.
A website is the most effective way to inform the greatest number of people cheaply and effectively. Feel free to use anything from our website: the code, the design, the content, and so on. We built our website using Drupal, which is a relatively easy program to use. WordPress is simpler and designed for the average user. We received donated time for this, and it didn’t take long to set up.
Make a Facebook page.
If you have a website you may not need or want to set up a Facebook page and vice versa. We chose to do both because it helped maximize the number of people we were able to make contact with. Some people may not subscribe to a website RSS feed but they will join a Facebook group to show support, receive regular updates and have the ability to make comments. If your friend with M.S. is on Facebook, this is even more useful.
Open a designated bank account for your campaign.
It’s very important to have transparency and protect all of your donors’ gifts. Have two people with signing authority.
Tell donors where and how to send money.
We used the home address of one of our core group. Some donors deposited directly to the bank account. We also set up a PayPal account to allow donors to pay with their credit cards online.
Set a fundraising target.
Many people with M.S. have restricted financial resources. Aim high so you make sure that everything is covered. Your costs should include sending a companion to help the person with M.S. in the country where the operation will be conducted. Many other countries don’t have the same levels of accessibility that we do in North America. That can range from inaccessible curbs and building entrances to inaccessible cabs and public transit. Other costs could include post-procedure rehabilitation (we feel this is very important for Diana), food, housing, and transportation. Part of our goal was to raise enough money to minimize any stresses for our friend.
Make a list of people to ask.
Our campaign brought in gifts from about 118 people. Some of them didn’t know Diana, including one or two people who made gifts of $500. They did this because they received e-mails from one of the core volunteers.
When you find people who are particularly keen on the campaign, ask them if they would be willing to ask their friends.
Someone who had not seen Diana in about 20 years got involved and raised a couple of thousand dollars. You never know who cares until you ask.
How to ask.
Here are some of the fundamental principles that will help you meet your goals.
Never pressure anyone to make a gift. Some people choose not to give. That’s perfectly okay. No hard feelings.
The most lucrative way to ask for money is to do it in person: “Will you make a donation of $100 or $500 so that my friend with M.S. can get a procedure that may significantly improve her life?” This simple “ask” has an enormously high success rate. A specific amount always helps. If you need $18,000, your acquaintances or friends who have a lot of money need to be asked for higher dollar amounts just to ensure that you reach your goal.
The best way to get a gift is a face-to-face meeting. However this can take a lot of time and therefore should generally be reserved for the people who can make a really significant sized gift. Other excellent fundraising methods include calling people, sending them a letter, or e-mailing them. These methods are easier and faster because they are less personal and time intense. They don’t work as well, but they can still generate a good deal of revenue.
We sent e-mails out to hundreds of friends and business associates who we thought would be interested in helping, had the capacity to give, or knew Diana. It worked very well. If you get enough names to contact through e-mail, mail or phone you will reach your target. It’s a simple numbers game. We also went back and contacted people Diana has worked with over the last 25 years. Many of them gave generously.
Ask for specific amounts, and large amounts. If you ask 50 people for $500 you might get a few who actually give $500, which makes getting to the goal much easier. If you ask 50 people for $10 it will take a lot longer to reach your goal – and you probably never will.
Keep in mind that giving is something that people are hardwired to do. Research proves this. Human beings like to help others, and we relish the opportunity to help people we care about. Looked at another way, it’s a gift from the person with M.S. to allow others to help her or him.
We know that Diana’s donors were extremely happy that their gifts allowed her to receive the treatment and provided a chance for an easier life. It was a small investment that has made a big difference.
When you ask someone for money, remember that you are giving them an opportunity to do something positive and feel good as well.
It’s always good to do follow-ups because – even with the best of intentions – people pass over their emails or forget them. If you have the time, write personal letters. They’re better than e-mails.
Stories on people going for – or having had – the Liberation Procedure are both topical and of human interest. A story on your campaign can help your efforts and it will also raise the issue of the treatment and encourage discussion.
Other fundraising tips.
We had two individuals so committed to making sure that Diana had this operation that they said they would make up the difference if we fell short of the fundraising goal. Someone in your circle may be willing to offer similar backing.
Keep people informed.
Post updates on the website as to how the campaign is going. We had a scrolling list of donors on our site just like those for major cancer charity events. It’s a simple function to include. If you would like a document on how to build this tool on your site, send us an email.
Send emails to as many donors as possible keeping them informed about the fundraising efforts. Some members of our core group also sent emails to their contacts during Diana’s time in Poland and after her return to keep them informed about the progress.
Special events versus asking people for money.
When many people think of doing fundraising they think of a special event. Generally speaking, events don’t make a lot of money. They take a lot of time to organize and aren¿t the most effective way to raise money. We are not saying don’t do them, but remember the vast majority of income to charities globally comes from asking individuals for a gift – special events raise a very small percentage of non-profit income overall. They can also take an enormous amount of work.
Minimize the stress on your friend with M.S.
Unless your friend specifically wants to be involved in the effort, it’s best to not include them in the nuts and bolts of the campaign which include communications amongst the core group, fundraising progress, or problems. Diana indicated that she was happy to not have to handle cheques or discuss the campaign with potential donors.
Dealing with a chronic disease can take a lot of energy. Working on a fundraising campaign of which you are the focus can quickly deplete that energy further. It takes a lot of work and there may be anxiety about not meeting goals and so on.
On the helpdiana website you’ll see a final report. Diana also took a net book computer and reported back to the core group of friends raising the money while she was there. A companion could also write these reports in lieu of your friend with M.S.
Let them know how their money was spent.
For more information about this campaign visit the website http://helpdiana.ca/
Finally, here are some of the people who were involved in this campaign for Diana Matheson: Harvey McKinnon of Harvey McKinnon and Associates and a professional fundraiser; Shirley Ross, a nurse and union activist; Bill Tieleman of West Star Communications, a communications consultant and political commentator; Kris Klaasen of Working Design, a communications designer; Nancy McRitchie, Executive Director of Kiwassa Neighbourhood House and Roxanne Cave of Ten Thousand Villages.