Navigating Fundraising in post-COVID Times

Friday, October 2, 2020

"Mom, don't forget the fundraiser!" said the preschool teacher. 

I thought, "what fundraiser? This is an expensive private school. I thought this thing was paid for."  

I grew up in Brazil. For the past 11 years, I have learned all about the American school system as my own children go to school in the States. 

Fundraising became a thing that came around year after year. I understand the reasons why people conduct fundraisers. Still, I'm not a fan of asking people for money. 

Before COVID, kids were encouraged to go from door to door to sell things. I had my share of door knocks. I politely told the kids no. I foreal do not keep a lot of cash with me. 

When it was time for my kids to fundraise, I realized that there were multiple fundraisers happening at the same time. Each one of the kids' schools had a fundraiser. Some conducted two or three fundraisers per year. Oh yeah, the church also had a fundraiser happening at the same time. The kids were not in organized sports at that time but I heard different teams have fundraisers. I thought, "It's all good until this becomes my full-time job." 

I have friends who are gifted at fundraising. I choose to believe that is partly genetic and partly practice. There is also a science behind fundraising. How do I know? I've done a little research on the topic. Still, I chose not to major in the subject. 

Life post-COVID has brought fundraisers back with a fury. The masterminds of fundraising have adapted to the times. Kids are no longer encouraged to go door-to-door but to ask for donations online. 

So, how do you navigate fundraising? 

1. Remember your values. Unless you are extremely wealthy, you have to choose where to invest your fundraising time and effort. Start by remembering your values. The year we had four fundraising opportunities, we decided that our values best lined up with building schools to educate girls in West Africa. We put our time, effort and creativity into that project. Remember your values and be sure your fundraising efforts line up with them.

2. Be okay with disappointing people. Starting with the ones that live in your house. When my kids asked me about fundraising and I basically said no, they were disappointed. Over the years, they have learned to be okay with it. Lately, I am using this as a teaching opportunity. I explain the process of fundraising. I tell them fundraising is good. I also tell them that if they are putting all that effort just to get prizes, it is easier to save and buy the prizes themselves. I also tell them that if they decide to sell their own cookie dough, they can keep the money. There is this myth that the school (or whatever organization) will be really disappointed if you don't participate in the fundraiser. I'm here to tell you they can care less. They count on not having 100% participation. You know what else? They know who their big donors are. They know it ain't me. If you decide you can't be part of a particular fundraising effort, you will be okay. Ask me how I know. 

3. Be creative. When you decide to fundraise, you don't have to like it but you do have to be creative. Because everyone is fundraising, you need to stand out. If it is a fundraiser for your kids, be sure they are doing the ask. People know when the adults are doing the ask versus the kids themselves. You can also use the fundraiser as a teaching opportunity. If you are the one doing the fundraising, connect it with something you post about on a regular basis. I post a lot about fitness. I decided to remind my friends of my fundraising efforts during those posts. Every time I took a big step towards my mission trip, I registered the step with a photo and a reminder of the fundraiser. When the kids were little, we made mason jar chocolate chip muffin mix and we mailed them to donors. Another time, we decided to save our weekly takeout pizza money by making our own pizza. It was a creative way to raise the funds needed for an organization close to our hearts. Be creative and you will reach your goal. 

Whether we go back to knocking on doors or not, fundraising is here to stay. Remember what your values are. Be okay with disappointing people and be creative.