The Reluctant Fundraiser

November 5, 2009
by Cynthia Changyit Levin, RESULTS/RESULTS Educational Fund Board of Directors and Chicago-Evanston RESULTS Chapter Group Leader

“I’m an advocate, not a fundraiser.”

“My friends aren’t ‘big donor’ people.”

“My house isn’t big enough.”

“Maybe after Christmas.”

“I wouldn’t raise enough money make a big difference to the bottom line anyway.”

Have you ever said these excuses to yourself to avoid fundraising for RESULTS? I did, for sure! But last week, I ran out of excuses when I found myself hosting the former director of basic education for Kenya, Mary Njoroge, around Chicago and in my home.

When Crickett called from D.C. and asked me to set up some congressional appointments for this global education expert with only two weeks notice, I readily agreed. When she asked if I could set up a fundraising event, I got very balky. She listened politely to all my negativity and then gently proposed that I just try a casual potluck event in my house and see what happens. I was out of excuses. I had an international speaker, I’d personally seen the Master of Motivation (Sam Daley-Harris) deliver a financial appeal not even a month ago, I had an experienced local RESULTS partner to support me, and I had a freshly rehearsed personal story lovingly prepared for last month’s outreach event. It was now or never.

I used Evite and our RESULTS Chicago social networking sites to announce the fundraiser and followed up with some personal phone calls. Much to my amazement — on short notice for the Friday night before Halloween — we ended up with 16 people, about a dozen of whom were not associated with RESULTS.

Our small but mighty group was attentive and engaged in our presentation about RESULTS and global education. We raised $540 for RESULTS/REF in one casual evening. The surprise of the night for me was that well over twice as many funds went to RESULTS (non-tax-deductible) compared to RESULTS Educational Fund (tax deductible). These folks had full knowledge that they wouldn’t get a tax-deduction, but got so excited about our methods of creating change that they wanted to support our lobbying efforts specifically. We even had a couple of $100 level donors that we obviously managed to touch on a deep level.

As a new member of the board of directors, I’m learning how RESULTS runs efficiently and lean. There are no grand reserves of cash hanging about for a rainy day. We plan well and commit what we’ve got to fight poverty in the most strategic ways we can, and that’s something to be proud of. So, even though my group is not yet raising $20,000, I now understand that our grassroots fundraising efforts are highly significant and there’s every reason to have a fundraiser now rather than later.

So, look again at those excuses up top again. How much do they sound like these?

“I’m just an ordinary person, not a lobbyist.”

“I don’t know any members of Congress.”

“I don’t have the resources.”

“Maybe next year. . . .”

“I couldn’t really make a big difference toward ending poverty anyway.”

I think there’s parallel in the things that used to keep us from speaking out powerfully and the things that might be currently holding us back from being powerful fundraisers. The only thing holding us back is getting over ourselves and taking the plunge. So, even if you’ve never held a fundraiser for anything before, I invite you and challenge you to do so. Turns out I had it in me and so do you!

Have you ever planned a fundraiser? What were some of the challenges you faced? Did you meet your goals? Tell us by leaving us a comment!

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