Finding the money to do the things your group wants to do is a challenge every group leader faces. All groups need money to operate—whether you are just getting started or plan to hold a statewide conference—and as the group’s leader your efforts will be the most successful if group members work together to develop your strategy and share the responsibility for fundraising. You can lead your group toward achieving its financial goals, but over the long term, the entire group needs to be involved in your fundraising process.
“Many groups take a backward approach to fundraising. Their strategy is to wait to see if they make money and then figure out what to do with it. The problem with this approach is that there is less motivation to raise funds if you don’t have a goal in mind, and less motivation for a funder to give money to an organization that doesn’t have a goal."
As the leader, you are also the catalyst for your group’s fundraising success. Even if your group shares the fundraising work, members will look to you to:
- Create the enthusiasm for your group’s fundraising initiatives.
- Oversee the fundraising efforts.
- Keep members informed about the group’s fundraising progress.
In addition, to be successful fundraisers, you will all need to:
- Believe in the difference your group makes for the families you serve.
- Believe in your mission.
- Have the confidence to ask for support from others.
Believing in who you are and what you are doing is key to motivating and engaging others to want to donate to your cause. If you believe your group’s mission is worthy for others to invest in, people will hear it in your voice when you speak about the families and children you serve, and see it in the good work you do. Most foster, adoptive, and kinship parent groups form to improve the lives of children and families. One thing in your favor is that many individuals and organizations willingly donate to causes that support children.
Think of how many times you have given your time or money, were proud to support someone else’s cause, or had fun attending a fundraising event. It is your turn now to ask others to support your group’s mission. Decide if this is a good time for you and your group to start planning your groups fundraising strategy.
Laying the Groundwork for Fundraising
Schedule a group meeting to lay the groundwork for your fundraising strategy. Invite group members, volunteers, people from the community who have supported you in the past, family members and friends with varied viewpoints and talents, and anyone else you think could help your group plan a financial strategy. Decide if your group will need more than one meeting to accomplish the following suggested tasks.
Make sure you bring your group’s mission statement and current budget to the meeting. (If you don’t have a mission statement or a written budget, you should hold a meeting to create them before your fundraising meeting.) Post the mission statement to remind everyone of your group’s purpose. Your budget will inform everyone of your group’s current finances. Make sure you include donated services, goods, and skills such as computers or printers, meeting space, web site operating costs, mailing costs, paid work hours, and volunteer hours in your budget.
Getting Your Community Involved
It is important to maintain strong connections within your community, offer help to others, and ask for help when you need it. Set a positive tone by being someone who welcomes the help of others, shows gratitude for the help you receive, and shares the credit for all the good things your group receives with everyone who made it happen. When you make rounds in your community, consider the following:
- Create a flyer or brochure to hand out. It is difficult to ask for money or help from others without giving them something in writing that explains your group and its mission.
- Introduce yourself to community members and business owners in your area and keep them informed about what your group is doing.
- Stay confident and remember that most people willingly give to groups and organizations that support children.
- When you ask for support, don’t give up if no is the first answer. Tell them what other community members are donating to your group. If they can’t give money, ask for goods or a free service or if they can serve on your board.
- Leave something to remind community members about your group, such as something handmade by a child or a thank-you card. If they gave a substantial donation, consider giving them a T-shirt with your group’s name on it.
Making a Talent Grid
NACAC’s parent group coordinator, Diane Martin-Hushman says, “There is nothing more important for a group leader to do than develop and build the relationships with the people in the group. That’s what parent support groups are all about—developing supportive relationships. If you don’t do that, you will never get group members to trust each other, work together, or buy into what you want to do as a group.”
To help build those relationships and help your members understand how they can best contribute to the group, you need to make a membership talent grid with your group before you decide what you want to do or design your fundraising plan. What your group does and how you decide to fundraise should come from a careful assessment of your membership’s talents.
Ask everyone in the room to share the talent(s) they believe they bring to the group. Your list of talents may include artist, web page designer, legal advisor, medical expert, writer, seamstress, gourmet cook, teacher, organizer, musician, singer, gardener, speaker, and more. Allow others to suggest the talents they see in their fellow group members. Sometimes group members can see talents others don’t dare to claim or recognize in themselves. Have a group member fill out a talent grid listing group members’ names down the left side, and talents across the top of the grid. Check off the talents that apply to each member, allowing extra space for adding new talents and members in the future. The grid will allow you to see at a glance the talents you can draw from as you plan what your group wants to do and how to raise the funds to do it.
When you know what your talent pool looks like, you can match people’s talents to the fundraising tasks that need to get done. Those who are good at organizing could take the lead on a group garage sale. Those who love to entertain might have creative ideas for how to host a fundraising party. An outgoing person with business connections may be able to find sponsors for your group’s annual picnic.
Including Members Who Have Difficulty Attending Meetings
To engage expertise and help from members who have difficulty squeezing meetings into their schedule, Georgette King, a group leader from Philadelphia found two creative solutions:
Free conference calls—One group leader noticed that the grandparents raising grandchildren in her group had mobility and transportation issues, and were so overwhelmed by their daily duties and their kids’ school schedules, they had no time to offer their wisdom at fundraising meetings. She took action to keep them involved by getting a free conference calling number from the web site: www.freeconferencecall.com. She now has a dial-in number with an access code that accommodates up to 96 callers and the group can use it at any time with no need to schedule or make a reservation. To receive a 120-day renewable account, go to the the above web site, provide your name and an e-mail address and follow the listed instructions.
Meetings on the bus—One group takes popular monthly parent/child fieldtrips, so their leader holds her fundraising meeting during the 30- to 40-minute bus ride. One month she may give a fundraising assignment, such as asking each member to request that their personal bank sponsor the cost of one bus per year for their monthly field trips. The following month each member comes prepared with a report from their bank. This leader gets near perfect attendance, the meetings are short and productive, everyone is involved in fundraising, and most importantly they get results.
Deciding What You Want to Do
Once you have completed your talent grid, you need to decide what your group wants to do in terms of its mission. “It is important for groups to decide what they want to do before they begin raising funds,” explains Diane Martin-Hushman. “Many groups take a backward approach to fundraising. Their strategy is to wait to see if they make money and then figure out what to do with it. The problem with this approach is that there is less motivation to raise funds if you don’t have a goal in mind, and less motivation for a funder to give money to an organization that doesn’t have a goal.”
To help your group decide what it wants to do, and to make sure that it is in line with your group’s mission, facilitate the next discussion to:
- Decide what you want to do.
- Set goals for how to successfully do it.
- Determine what resources you already have and what resources you will need.
- Determine the cost of what you want to do.
Ask the group to help generate a list of what you wish your group could accomplish. Your list can include both small and big things, such as finding a place for meetings, providing child care, developing a web site, holding a conference, planning an educational retreat, or offering training. Have someone record all suggestions on a large sheet of paper. Allow time for people to think about and discuss the ideas.
Next, have each participant prioritize the three top things they would like the group to do. Track everyone’s choices and select the three that received the most check marks. Discuss the choices and make sure the group can agree on choosing at least one and not more than three.
Deciding Not to Fundraise
One adoptive parent group’s mission is to provide support to their families. The group unanimously agreed not to do fundraising projects. The families want the continued support of the group, but they don’t have the time or energy to do fundraising. Instead, they collect yearly membership dues of $80 from each member. With 50 members, they know they have an operating budget of $4,000 and they plan their activities to stay within this budget.
Once your group has decided what it wants to do, you will need to estimate what it will cost in terms of money, resources, labor, and time. Develop a timeline for when you hope to start, the steps you need to take to reach your goal, and when you hope to reach it. For example, if your group wants to host a training, your group will need to choose possible dates, presenters, and facilities to hold the training, plan how to advertise, and determine other costs such as food and beverages, printing costs, and child care, etc.
If your group wants to subsidize the cost of child care for your meetings, your group would need to determine the hourly rate of pay for child care workers and estimate the number of child care workers to hire, then total the yearly cost of subsidizing child care.
Knowing exactly what your group wants to do and what it will cost gives you a better foundation for developing your fundraising strategy. If your group decides to host a training, you can look on your talent grid to find the people who can help you find a training site, trainers, food, and free printing. Anything that you cannot get for free will be part of the amount for which you want to fundraise.
Likewise, if your group is exploring providing child care for your meetings, you may find retired teachers and youth who will volunteer to do the work, but you may decide to hire someone to supervise child care. Your group might decide this person’s payment is worth including in your fundraising budget.
Every Penny Counts
Many communities are dealing with tight budgets. Below are some smaller scale fundraising ideas that have been successful for groups and have encouraged even those on limited incomes to be able to join in the spirit of giving, have a great time, and feel good about donating to a charitable cause.
- Collecting coins—A lot of people don’t use their coins and leave them laying around the house. Collecting coins is easy and fun for kids to do and they can really add up. Banks and credit unions will usually machine-count coins for free.
- Pantry party—This is a modified auction fundraiser. First the group collects food donated by a local grocery store and groups items to make a meal or snack (such as a breakfast of eggs, juice, bacon, milk, bread etc.). Everyone from the group invites 10 people, with the goal of having at least 100 people come to the auction. Each attendee buys a $10 pack of 25¢ raffle tickets. Each ticket packet has the bidder’s number on the tickets. The bidding price for “breakfast”can be 2 tickets and any number of people can bid. A winning ticket is drawn and the winner pays only 50¢ for the food. If 50 people bid on breakfast, the group earns $25. If 100 people attend, the group will earn $1,000.
Developing Your Fundraising Strategy
Once you decide what your group wants to accomplish and you know how much it will cost, you are ready to develop your group’s fundraising strategy. It may take time to raise money, so don’t be discouraged if it takes two years to reach your group’s goals. This is not unusual, especially if your group is just getting started or has high-level goals.
It is also important to note that group members will respond to fundraising in many ways. Some people may say they hate asking for money and recall failed attempts at childhood sales competitions. Other group members may be willing to learn how to become effective fundraisers, while some others may even be able to make a game out of it and find fundraising fun.
Your role, as the group’s leader, is to allow people to be who they are, express both their hesitation and enthusiasm, and then help each member recognize how their talents contribute to your group’s fundraising strategy. Some people may never feel comfortable asking for donations, but they may be able to contribute by decorating tables for a fundraising dinner, writing an excellent fundraising letter, or sewing a quilt for your silent auction. As members start to see how their talents can collectively advance the group’s fundraising goals, the group as a whole will gain confidence in its ability to raise funds.
Work hard, follow your plan and your efforts will pay off in the end. Consider following the steps listed below:
- Generate a fundraising list that includes a variety of ways to raise money. The most common funding strategies are membership dues, donations, donated services and goods, and special events such as dances, children’s fashion shows, carnivals, and garage sales.
- Choose no more than three fundraising activities each year. Keep in mind that you will want to spread the events out over the year and not choose three labor intensive activities. Hosting a group garage sale is more labor intensive than hosting a dinner party where guests come prepared to write out a check as a direct donation to your group. If all of your fundraising events are labor intensive, you run the risk of burning out your volunteers and group members.
- Work around the events that are already sponsored in your area. Try not to replicate them or do them at the same time as another organization.
- Match the talents of your members to your fundraising activities and choose events that match the energy level and time commitment of your group.
- Map out a two-year fundraising plan.
- Keep records of your fundraising efforts and evaluate the progress and success of each effort.
- Reassess your group’s goals and financial needs each year and make necessary adjustments to your fundraising goals.
It can sometimes take time to establish a strong fundraising base. You may do fairly well your first year, but as word spreads about the quality and the success of the previous year’s event, groups are often able to increase the amount they raise the following year. It takes time to develop a reputation for hosting a quality event. It is important to note what went well and what was hard, and make plans to streamline future efforts.
When you finally choose the fundraising activities you want to do, make a list of all the people and organizations in your community that could support your efforts by providing in kind donations such as food, meeting space, printing costs, and door prizes etc. and find people in your group who are willing to ask them for donations.
It can be worthwhile to look for a corporate sponsor or a philanthropic individual to champion your cause. Sponsors like these may give direct donations; offer volunteer assistance, services, equipment and supplies; or may even host an event such as a gala. Some corporate sponsors allow their employees to volunteer services to groups as part of the corporation’s charitable giving effort.
Local celebrities in your area with a connection to adoption may be willing to sponsor an event. Daunte Culpepper, an NFL quarterback who was adopted, has generously given to a number of adoption groups and causes over the years. Look for a sponsor in your area and let them know how they can help your group.
One group found a sponsor that didn’t have a connection to adoption, kinship, or foster care. A board member for Family Net, a foster and adoptive parent support group in Illinois, asked a local beauty salon owner if he would be willing to hang ornaments made by the group’s foster and adopted children in the window of his shop. He displayed the ornaments, which listed each child’s first name and three wishes for Christmas. Salon patrons could select an ornament and sponsor the child by purchasing the three things the child wished to receive.
The salon owner was so impressed by his customers’ overwhelming response, that he also asked his motorcycle club if they would host and pay for a Christmas party for the Family Net members. The motorcycle club members decorated their bikes with lights, dressed up like Santa, and formed a convoy parade to the party. They paid for and hosted the party, which included a family photo with Santa, stockings filled with goodies for the children, gifts for each family member, basketball games, karaoke singing, and other fun activities. The motorcycle club says they can’t wait to plan a bigger and better party for next year.
Evaluate Your Efforts
You will want to take careful notes and keep records of your fundraising efforts so that you can evaluate their effectiveness. Of course you will want to tabulate your earnings, but you will also want to evaluate the time, energy, and expenses involved in doing those events to decide whether they were worth it for the group. After each fundraiser, meet with your group to discuss what went well and what you may want to change to improve your outcome. Some events will become regulars because they were great successes and others will never be repeated because they didn’t generate enough money to compensate the time and effort it took to do them.
Succeeding With Humor
One leader was a little uncomfortable asking people to pledge money for him to walk at his group’s fundraising walk. He felt like a little kid asking for money and put off writing his solicitation letter. Finally he wrote an e-mail and sent it out on group e-mail lists that were already set up on his computer. In the e-mail, he explained how collecting pledges made him feel like Joey—the 12-year-old version of himself. He kept the message short and funny and signed “Joey” at the bottom. The e-mail was free and with a click it reached 150 people. He got 30 responses, and raised $2,000. His payoff was so encouraging that the following year other group members did the same thing with similar results.
Including silly activities at your events can help you draw a crowd to support your cause. One group charges admission to a festival where they hold dachshund races. Watching the dachshunds race—for the fastest time down the track and into an easy chair, or creative attempts at hurdles—brings spectators every year.
Some groups have held rubber ducky races. Group members sell ducks at $10 to $15 a duck to race in a local river or stream. There is a prize for the winner, but the spectacle of the race is what draws the crowd. The web site www.game-group.com offers kits for purchase and more information about how to hold a rubber ducky race.
Reassess Your Fundraising Strategies
Periodically hold fundraising meetings to reassess your goals and fundraising plan to see if they are still reflect what the group wants to do. Make sure your fundraising plan is adequate enough to help you achieve your goals and discuss changes or improvements you may want to make in your fundraising strategy. If your group’s goals have changed, you may need to change or diversify your fundraising strategies. Be open to ideas from others and remain creative enough visualize something new or tweak an old idea and make it your own.
For more information on fundraising, including grant writing, read chapter 7 in Starting and Nurturing Adoptive Parent Groups.
Group Garage Sale Tips
One adoptive parent group holds a yearly group garage sale in May. Last year the sale generated $1,400 for their group. Group members donate sale items, but also have found their neighbors are willing to clear out their houses and donate items to the cause. The group also sells food and last year made $300 on food alone. Each member brings a baked good and a pound of hot dogs or hamburger, and a case of soda. One time-saving tip is not to try to individually price everything. It is more efficient to organize clothes by size and label whole tables by price—the 50¢, $1, or $2 table.
Since this is a yearly event, people in the community remember to patronize the sale and know they are giving to a worthy cause. Some people come to the sale, buy a couple of things, and then write out a check for more than the amount of purchase. Last year one person wrote a donation check for $100.