Organizing a Fundraiser

Your first step in organizing a fundraiser is to build an enthusiastic fundraising team. How effectively you organize your fundraising committee is crucial. As chief organizer, you’ll wear many hats. Your jobs include: Finding Volunteers
The obvious solution is to find committee members by canvassing the membership, whether you’re fund-raising for a church, school, or other group. However, too often canvass methods are generic and leave you with members that have been coerced (even if gently) into participation. You can find active members who will enjoy their volunteer experience by using these simple tips.

Whether your committee is pre-established or you must gather volunteers, build success at the beginning by pinpointing skills your volunteers have to offer. Start canvassing skills with a short, specific, questionnaire to match up your co-workers with a way for them to maximize their talents. Instead of yes or no, a rating system from 1 to 5 shows who is most interested and best equipped for different activities. Begin your questionnaire with an opening paragraph that describes what you need from your team. Use our Fundraising Ideas to give your members and potential volunteers an idea of possible plans.

  1. Write an opening letter describing your fundraiser, its goals and some potential Fundraising Ideas. Send your letter to your group’s membership indicating specific skills you need to reach your goals.
    • If your organization has a newsletter, have your letter added to the next edition.
    • If fundraising for a church, post your information in the church bulletin.
    • If fundraising for a school, send the letter home to parents.
    Find skilled members by including a questionnaire like the one below. If funds allow, include a self-addressed stamped envelope or follow up your mailing with a phone call.
  2. Ask for names of those who volunteered in past fundraisers or who serve on other committees and in which activity they participated.
  3. Ask for names of those with special skills (accountants, writers, bakers, candlestick-makers). Call each and ask them to donate their skills to your project.
  4. Even if your prospective volunteers decline your invitation, be sure to tell them the date, place, and time of your first meeting. Leave your invitation open and thank them for hearing you out.
Example Questionnaire:
Our fundraising committee needs a secretary and a financial resource person. We also need someone that is proficient in writing letters and advertisements and volunteers to copy and mail them. Other tentative plans include a youth car wash, a bake sale, a bazaar, and a walk-a-thon.

Please indicate your level of interest 1 (not interested) to 5 (very interested) below:

  1. The committee secretary will take notes at meetings, list who’s in charge of different activities, and keep track of our progress, etc.

    I enjoy taking notes. (1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5)

  2. Our treasurer will keep track of expenses and make deposits of incoming funds.

    I enjoy working with numbers (1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5)

  3. Using a template, we will be soliciting donations from local business and industry.

    I can write letters (1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5)
    I have free time for copying and mailing (1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5)

  4. Using a template, we will be submitting press releases to the local media to kick-off our fundraiser. We also need press releases and small classified and/or display ads for different events as they are scheduled.

    I can write press releases (1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5)
    I can write ads (1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5)

  5. Are you an organizer? Tentative activities include a craft bazaar, a bake sale, a walk-a-thon, and a car wash. We need volunteers to chair and organize each event.

    Craft Bazaar (1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5)
    Bake Sale (1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5)
    Walk-a-thon (1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5)
    Car Wash (1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5)

The way to keep both yourself and your committee happy is to truly delegate authority. In other words, let go of some of the reins! If one of your committee members will take charge of the bake sale, let her be in charge. If another volunteers to write letters, let him be the writer. Be on hand to help, troubleshoot, see that goals are set, ideas are completed, and results tallied, but leave the details of organizing individual objectives to your volunteers.

Pivot People

  1. Secretary: Your committee secretary should be able to take notes at your main committee meetings and be able to type them, print them, and make copies to keep absent members informed and as a reference for members in attendance.
  2. Financial resource person: Both you and this member are in charge of counting received monetary donations, making deposits, and approving expenditures. In addition, your financial resource person should be able to provide sub-committee chairs with a budget for their events.
  3. Promotional organizer: Develops a committee to write ads, make posters, hang flyers, deliver handouts to businesses, etc. Needs to make sure that promotion of specific events is timely, appropriate to the event, and doesn’t conflict with other aspects of your campaign. Your promotional organizer may also be in charge of correspondence like donor letters and thank you notes.
  4. Follow through sub-chair: Develops a committee to keep track of donated goods, pick up donated merchandise, do callbacks to prospective donors, and make deliveries of prizes and orders if necessary.
Your first committee meeting
If you’ve followed this series of articles, you should be replete with fundraising ideas, strategies, and tips. Print them out and have copies on hand for all committee members at your first meeting.

Make your first meeting a productive, yet fun event. Bring a kitchen timer, paper and pencils for all, a pad of paper and pen for your committee secretary.

If you haven’t already, choose your pivot group.

Present your committee with your basic fundraising goal and the timeline you have to achieve it. Be positive in your presentation. Detail the benefits of meeting your goals. Underplay the financial aspect.

Brainstorm for ideas: Use the kitchen timer to spend the first 20 minutes brainstorming for ideas. Again, choose several of our Fundraising Ideas to get the ball rolling. Your new committee secretary can jot down the ideas.

Motivating Committee Members
Keep an open mind. Listening to the input of your members helps motivate everyone as well as puts more ideas (possibly new and better!) on the table. Assign members to research the effectiveness of the most popular ideas and present their findings at the next meeting. Examine each idea using criteria such as:

  1. Expense
  2. Ease vs. Complexity
  3. Organization Time Needed
  4. Available resources
  5. Benefits vs. Disadvantages
  6. Potential profit or end value to your fundraiser
Discuss the follow up on your fundraiser. Will there be awards? What type? How will they be distributed? Remember, these volunteers have chosen to be involved. Make sure they know they will be rewarded in some way for their efforts.

Scheduling Meetings
Don’t try to please everyone. Chances are you will never find a time to hold meetings that fits every schedule. At the end of each meeting, suggest a time for the next one. Keep a couple of alternate choices under your sleeve. If your first suggestion won’t work for a majority of your members, then suggest an alternate time.

Make sure that sub-committees have adequate time to meet and make plans, especially when their part of your fundraiser comes close on your calendar.

Your Second Committee Meeting

  1. Choose your ideas and plan your timeline. Pencil in each idea on your calendar.
  2. Choose sub-chairs for each planned idea. Work with each sub-chair or schedule individual meetings with them to help initiate their projects.
  3. Develop a budget based on your goals. Remember to include all expenses in your final goal amount.
  4. Set a time for your next meeting, giving your sub-chairpersons time to organize and research their activity.
Subsequent meetings
By your next meeting, things should be rolling smoothly.
  1. Committees should be formed.
  2. Donation letters, press releases, etc. should be drafted
  3. Co-ordinate with other community events if possible (e.g. a community-wide garage sale is a great time for your organization to have a garage sale as well, while a bake sale during the county fair may not “fair” well!)
Subsequent meetings need only be held to report progress, results, and iron-out any difficulties (if necessary). At the conclusion of your fundraiser, hold a final meeting to pass out awards, thank-yous and give yourself (and your volunteers) a big pat on the back for organizing an effective fundraiser and meeting (or exceeding!) your goal!

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