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Fundraising — August 23, 2013 at 11:30 am

Part 2: How to Run a Successful Fundraising Campaign


book logoPart 2: Fundraising Campaign Communication

Yesterday I walked through the essentials of setting up a successful fundraising campaign. Now that you’ve laid the groundwork, it’s time to talk about the communications.

The importance of your communications during a fundraising campaign can’t be overstated. You have to find the right balance between keeping your potential supporters interested and not overwhelming them. I’ll outline the communications I sent out during my month-long campaign. The exact dates of these communications can flex, but the main thing is to create momentum.

Week 1: Family & Work Friends

I started by being the first donor to my cause. This is always a good idea because people often hesitate at being the first donor. Next, because everyone at my office works with charities, I thought they’d be the most sympathetic group of potential donors to start with. I received two donations and a few pledges right away. A few days later I sent out an email to my immediate family, and received two more donations.

Week 2: Friends & Social Media

Now that I had a bit of momentum I sent out an email to a larger group of about 35 friends. Over the next week I received five donations. I also sent out a push on Facebook and Twitter, but besides a few likes, I really didn’t receive much traction in these venues. Part of that is my own fault: I didn’t do much follow up on the social media side of things, as I felt my circle of friends would respond better to email (and the latest studies have shown that email totally kills it with conversion compared to social media).

Week 3: Passionate Email

Things were going pretty well. I had 10 donations and was halfway towards my goal, but the real turning point was in my second pitch to friends, which I titled (excuse my language) “Libraries are the Shit,” and lead to seven donations over the next week. There are a few reasons why I think this email generated such a position response. First, it caught people’s attention with it’s surprising and funny title. Second, I was able to connect my goal of $1500 to something concrete. After talking to one of the directors at the charity, he said that $1500 would cover the operating costs for one of their libraries for a year. Finally, I spoke passionately about my love of libraries, even including a related quote from a book I was reading at the time.

Week 4: Final Push

With a week to go and $250 to raise, I made one final push giving friends and family 5 reasons to give. They pulled through and pushed us well over my goal of $1500. The first $1500 was matched and in total we raised $3500.

Week 5: The Thank You

The end of a campaign is never reaching your goal — any properly managed campaign will finish with a personal thank you and ideally a report on the impact those funds have made. I’ll need to wait a while for the impact, but I made sure to send out an email thanking all of my donors. I’ve also been hand writing thank you’s with my reading recommendations to friends — this is mostly because I love writing letters, but if you can send out individual thank you’s, your friends will likely be much more open to giving again the next time you pester them for money.


There are three key elements that I think will make a fundraising campaign successful:

  1. A Good Cause – When I asked some of my friends why they gave, many of them said it was because they connected with the cause of literacy. One friend said, “I really identified with the cause. I’m an avid reader myself, and I also believe that education is a key driver for sustainable change in any part of the world.” Depending on what the cause behind your campaign is it will attract a different segment of your friends and family.
  2. An Interactive Campaign – You have to find a balance here. People want to be involved in some way, but not so much that it’s difficult to commit. In my campaign I took on most of the work myself — I came up with and sent out the reading recommendations — but it allowed friends to interact. Here’s another friend talking about why he gave: “The interactive piece, the impetus to give more (in order to get something back), the beneficiaries.”
  3. A Personal Call – For some donors it was enough that I was passionate about the campaign. They just wanted to support me. “I liked that someone I personally knew took the initiative to reach out to me about something they’re passionate about,” said one friend. And another, when asked what they liked most about this campaign, simply said, “That you were doing it.” Connect with the people who know you best and you’re bound to get some results.

So there you have it. All my learnings from a month long campaign. Hopefully you find some of these tips helpful in your next attempt at fundraising, and if you haven’t already, make sure you check out my first post in this series Part 1: Fundraising Campaign Essentials.