Fundraising tips from a pro

August 11, 2011

By Jessica Kinghorn, Utah Climb4Life Event Coordinator

The HERA Climb for Life event is a valuable event for raising awareness around ovarian cancer and building relationships with other men and women who care about the cause and have similar interests. One significant aspect of the event is fundraising. It takes money to identify new cancer detection techniques and treatments.

We know, asking for money is hard. However, asking for funds for an important cause shouldn’t be. Why not steal some tips from a HERA participant who’s excelled in the fundraising arena? HERA Foundation Board Member and fabulous fundraiser Lara Usinowicz has been kind enough to share some of her gems with us.

How much money have you raised? Has it increased over the years?
I’m not exactly sure but somewhere in the neighborhood of $80,000 since 2006.  In 2006, the first year I became aware of HERA, I raised $10,000 in one month—between the time I found out about HERA in August and the climbing event in September in SLC. In 2007, I raised $20,000; 2008, I raised $18,000, 2009-2001, I raised about $10-12,000 each year.

How have your feelings about “asking for money” in the past changed since you’ve been raising funds for HERA?
I’ve never had any qualms about “asking for money” or being asked if it supports a cause.  People really do want to help and I don’t get offended if someone says “no.”  There are a zillion causes out there and people choose which causes to support.  If a person supports “my cause”, The HERA Foundation, that makes me very happy!

What are some classic fundraising techniques you’ve used that work well? What are some that don’t work so well?
The old adage, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get” is the key to fundraising.  ASK, ASK, ASK.  Ask your friends, family, and co-workers. Ask your friends to ask their friends.  Let people know that any amount helps. The website attached to the Climb 4 Life events makes it easy to solicit money so use this tool and e-mail everyone that you know.

What are some unique fundraising techniques you’ve used that work well? Or maybe ones you’ve heard of that have been successful.
In 2007, I started holding an annual fundraiser/silent auction that raises $7-8,000 each year.  Here is the basic format:
$25 entry includes 2 drinks, appetizers, live music and a huge silent auction. I know the owner of the venue so he keeps $10/person to cover his costs and $15/person goes to HERA just for walking through the door.  The band donates their time and I have a silent auction including outdoor gear, gift certificates, artwork, etc.  Again, everything helps so I ask everyone I know about donations.  Organizing this type of event is a lot of work but after the first year, it certainly gets easier with repeat attendees and donors to the auction.  I have learned to keep the event short and sweet—2 or 2 ½ hours—so all attendees are there at the same time and the focus is on the silent auction.

Since I’ve been one of the top fundraisers for the SLC C4L, I have accumulated a lot of climbing “swag.”  I am a recreational climber and have found a way to “give back” to HERA by taking that “swag” and selling it on Craigslist…and then donating the money back to HERA. I include information about HERA, a link to the HERA website and the fact that I am donating all proceeds to HERA in the Craigslist ad.  Selling items on Craigslist or having a garage sale is a great way to raise money for HERA, clean house and increase awareness of HERA all at the same time!

A few years ago, Montrail released a new shoe called “The Streak” and held an event called “I Streak for You.”  Participants raised money for whatever cause they chose and ran on a treadmill for one hour in the Montrail booth at the Outdoor Retailer trade show. Montrail would then match the top three fundraisers.  All other participants did their fundraising ahead of time.  I raised some money beforehand but, at the event, I put a bucket in front of the treadmill and, as I ran, yelled, “Throw money in the bucket.  I’m running to raise money for The HERA Foundation to find a cure for ovarian cancer”  or something along those lines.  I raised just over $1000 and Montrail matched it.  Sometimes making a spectacle of yourself pays off!

Ask for donations for your birthday gift.

Ask if your employer or the employer’s of those donating if they have a “matching program.”  Many companies will match a certain dollar amount to causes and this is a great way to double your money.

If you have a connection with a local restaurant, bar, coffee shop, or retail store, ask if they will donate a percentage of their proceeds from a certain item for a day or week or month.

At “crunch time” (a few weeks before the C4L), I ask everyone I know to ask everyone that they know to donate $5 or $10.  If 100 people donate $10, that’s a thousand bucks.  Everything helps.

Let’s face it, the economy is making it tough for people to give as much as they would like. How do you know how much to ask for? Is it better to be specific or leave it open?
I leave it open.  That way, a person can donate the amount that works for him/her.  I do remind people that everything helps.

Maybe some words of encouragement to those people who are starting their fundraising or in the middle of it? Have fun. Personalize your fundraising. Ask. Don’t be offended if someone says “no.” Send reminders. Say thank you.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I’d like to thank everyone that has made an effort to raise funds for HERA.  Everything helps and together we can make a difference.  One more thing…did I mention…ASK!

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