Two weeks ago I set out to raise funds for Cuso International, the volunteer-sending organisation that is funding my upcoming work in Cambodia. Cuso sends North Americans around the world to contribute to reducing poverty through diverse projects in the realms of governance, livelihoods, education, disability, and health.
I committed to raising $2,000 for this cause which also supports me to engage in this specific project. When I began to think about fundraising, and the fact that I had never done it before, I felt rather daunted by how to begin. I’ve been doing different communication and “knowledge mobilisation” work over the last few years specifically for research, but never for fundraising. To be sincere, I started to think that asking for money was going to be a shameful process of hitting up friends and family. Why would people give to my cause when everyone has his or her own?
As I began to really think about what I was trying to achieve and putting together my own message, I became aware that what I actually wanted to do was reach out to people and let them know what I was about to embark upon. I hadn’t told anyone about my plans for Cambodia and thought I might just sort of enter into the journey to Asia without much fanfare. Though I’d love to say it was, making the move to pack up and leave for Cambodia with the lofty goal to improve people’s lives wasn’t actually a black and white decision. I took nearly a month to think deeply about the possibilities, the potential difficulties, and the implications on my life at this point. There were several possible paths that I had to consider. In the end, I knew my heart was telling me that this project was going to be the the life-changer, and once decided, I went into full gear to prepare. The more I reflected on this upcoming work, the more I understood how important it would be to share with as many people as I can, most importantly my well established network of friends, family, and acquaintances met in previous journeys throughout life. What is the point of doing something important to you if you can’t reach out and talk to people about it? It’s not about recognition or showcasing, it’s simply about engaging and sparking of basic awareness of significant issues and what’s important to you. Everyday impact starts there.
Using social media has been an important aspect of my work over the last couple years. After building up a Twitter network in my last position, I realised I had really neglected my own. I had a close Facebook network, but I rarely engaged. When I decided to announce my upcoming departure on FB, the response stunned me. Well over 60 likes and an influx of comments, questions, and encouragement from such a range of people. Some had stories about Cambodia, others let their imaginations roam wild. When it came time to fulfill the commitment I had made to raise some modest funds for Cuso, I decided to use FB to reach out to people near and far, all with some personal connection to me at some point in my life. Isn’t it funny how most of us feel like we are being shameless to seek out funds for charity but we are usually more than happy to give that support to others? I was shocked to see the result of this outreach endeavour. Donations rolled in from around the world. Inspirational messages came from inspirational people in my life. And to me – the most moving – was the chance I had to reconnect with some people that I hadn’t had contact with for considerable years. It was positively overwhelming.
In less than two weeks, I’ve reached the 70% mark of my goal. I’m going to be honest with you, I never ever expected I could find this kind of massive support in such a short period of time. Given my apprehension to ask for money, I really pushed the $10 per person support to try and get as many modest donations as possible. Of course some people are just insane and overwhelmingly generous – refusing to abide by the golden $10 standard. Others use their own networks to get the word out and have helped me to reach mutual friends. Although I can’t say that I’m going in the direction of a professional fundraiser, this experience really taught me so much. Although this will be very basic to you fundraisers or strategic communicators, I’d like to share a few of the key learnings for me when fundraising for this cause.
- Truly believe in what you are doing and start communicating from there. When you believe in your cause, it’s much easier to say that others should too.
- Use your motivation to really move your network or audience. Show them that you are personally involved, but also that it is a much larger endeavour.
- Make reconnecting the first priority. Fundraising is the most wonderful excuse to reconnect with people you might not have personally corresponded with in a while. You have a chance to tell them what you’re up to, hear what they are up to, and personally rekindle that communication in a day and age of social media public announcements rather than intimate conversation.
- Express your depth of gratitude. Nothing has moved me more than seeing the generosity of friends. Sometimes it just makes me awestruck to think that someone has supported me from their corner of the world, from their moment in a busy life.
I want to thank my sponsors, both donors and cheerleaders, from the bottom of my heart for their generosity. Beginning this journey knowing that I have this inspirational group of people behind me, and following to some extent what I’ll be doing, is really incredible. The fundraiser really put many new things into perspective for me. It gave me the opportunity to feel strong support and belief in what I’ve chosen to do.
And I couldn’t end this entry without letting you know that I’m going to be getting to 100% of that goal for this work over the next two years. I’ll certainly be reaching out personally and maybe thinking up some creative ways to do things for you that you’d like to support. One Cuso volunteer in an African country raised chicks and once old enough, hand delivered them to some poor villagers as a gift from individual donors. Let me know if you have any requests or ideas you’d support while I’m in Cambodia!
Canadians and donors from all countries except the USA, please consider donating here.
Americans please use this page to sponsor me. (This site issues an American tax receipt)