Fundraising is not something I consciously aspired to do. It’s really something that awakened a sense of creativity I didn’t know I had until the opportunity presented itself at work one day in the summer of 2011.
First, a little background to flesh out today’s blog entry. My employer is a Fortune 500 company that employs tens of thousands of individuals in countries across the globe. The office I work at borders cornfields while still being located in the midst of a robust metropolitan area. I share my office space with nearly 1,500 colleagues every day. It was those 1,500 co-workers that became the target audience for my first fundraiser, my own version of “The Amazing Race”.
Like many U.S. corporations, my company participates in a campaign annually to raise funds for our local United Way chapter. Several leaders are selected to chair the overall campaign, with a number of others invited to chair various committees that contribute to the campaign.
During the summer of 2010, I was asked to chair the fundraising committee for our upcoming fall campaign. I accepted and presented a list of possible activities that I felt would be both successful and fun for our office to undertake, including versions of “Rock Band” and “The Amazing Race”. The decision-maker that year was a huge music lover and fond of performing, so she opted for “Rock Band”.
The following year, I again suggested “The Amazing Race” to our new campaign chair, and this time, we were a go, and the real work was about to begin!
My first question? How do I put together a fundraiser that is neither too large and uncontrollable, but also not so small that it would be insignificant from a fundraising perspective? Other questions soon followed:
- Who do I enlist to help me pull this off?
- Can I go anywhere with employees, including off-site?
- How do I raise donations and appeal to the audience here at work?
- What marketing tools should I use to get the word out?
- Do I include prize money or a trophy and if so, how do I pay for it?
- Is this event going to happen in a day or a series of days and what time should we do it?
See? That’s just a small sample of things to consider in putting together a corporate event designed (in this case) to raise funds for United Way.
Being that I have extensive experience in client and project management, I turned to what I already knew to form structure around what I wanted to accomplish. In my case, I pulled a blank sheet of paper out of my printer and scribbled out a list of things I needed to categorize under several phases of the project. Words on that sheet included everything from engaging leadership to creating buzz in the office.
Once I had a full list compiled, I identified 4 high-level phases I’d use to structure the process of creating my fundraiser:
Next, I listed each of the tasks I’d written on my sheet under one of the 4 phases. Some tasks spanned multiple phases of the project (creating buzz for example – you promote it via word of mouth up front and then you’re selling the concept to those the participants will reach out to for donations later in the event), while others were distinctly applicable to only one phase of the project.
I’ll leave you today with a small task to complete. Begin to think what inspires you, and how you can capitalize on that inspiration to create an event that resonates with your target audience – whether it’s colleagues for a workplace fundraiser or your family for your summer reunion.
On my next entry, I’ll dive deeper into harnessing that inspiration and knowing what to do with it.
Until next time…