Raising funds for a good cause

This is a guest post by Robert, who lives in Calgary and worked as a financial adviser before retiring at age 35. He is married, has three kids and has returned to school with the goal of eventually living and working overseas.

Later this week, I’ll be rappelling down a skyscraper in downtown Calgary. The event is in support of Easter Seals, and I’ve committed to raising funds for their efforts to bring increased mobility to disabled children. This is the first time I’ve undertaken fundraising, so it’s new to me. I’ve realized that it’s not really comfortable to ask people for money. It’s something that doesn’t come naturally to me, since I try to generously support just one cause, and I regularly turn down most other requests for small donations.

Very few of the people I have talked with have been very interested in the cause. Rather, they seem to trust me that it’s a good cause, and they will donate as a favour to me. I have had one-on-one conversations, either in person or by email, where I’ve asked if people will support me. Those people have generally been helpful. But a mass email or a facebook post has had almost no results, probably because people are busy and they already have good uses in mind for their money.

Math doesn’t seem to apply. I have tried to ask people for a specific amount that I think they can afford, usually $20, $50 or $100. The easiest choice for people is yes or no, rather than having to do the math for how much they can afford and how much they want to support the charity. But the other way that math doesn’t apply is summed up by the old saying “what goes around, comes around.” Most people seem to believe this, to some degree, and are willing to help others knowing that it could be them in need of help one day.

I try to remind myself, when I have the chance to donate, that it doesn’t mean I’ll have less money. It means that when I need help from others, I’ll be likely to get help. Further, there’s nothing impressive about giving money that I didn’t need anyway. And it helps to remind myself that I want to develop a mindset of abundance, rather than scarcity. There’s enough money to go around, and I can get as much as I really need. When other people have more money, that doesn’t mean less for me and it certainly doesn’t mean I won’t get enough. Since I have the money I need (for the present), I’m able to help others who need it.

I’m not asking you to donate to my cause, since I don’t know most of you personally. Do you have a habit of making charitable donations? Have you ever tried to raise funds for a cause?

6 thoughts on “Raising funds for a good cause”

  1. I do all my giving through Kiva.org I realized early on that I’m a sucker for a good cause and would end up giving away every penny that I own if I didn’t set some limits. So I capped what I would spend and when I reached that amount it was done. I also find that I get more satisfaction from giving large amounts to one organization rather than $10 here and $20 there. As a result my pet project (Kiva) sees the most of my money and I am very happy that I am making a difference.

  2. In general, I don’t agree with this type of fundraising where a person does something fun and essentially asks his friends and family to pay for it. Long group bike rides, or rappelling down a building are fun activities, that people should pay for themselves. If a person wants to raise money for a charity, why don’t they ask their friends and family to donate $20 and then he will then mow their lawn or clean their house or car?? Obviously because that would be work and hence, in my opinion, a true donation. In asking for money to do something fun, the only people truly donating are the friends and family who are not partaking in the activity.

    I realise you are not asking for donations here, so the comment is not derisive towards you; rather since you look at money and life analytically, I was curious if you see things similarly.

  3. Daniel, I take no offence at all. You make a very good point. I’ll just add a couple nuances. I would never have agreed to fundraise for the cause if there weren’t a fun activity involved. It was motivating for me, so the charity is better off in the end. There’s nothing wrong with having fun while raising funds… it doesn’t have to be tedious. I’m also going to end up donating myself, probably more than any of my individual donors. The charity sets a minimum that must be raised before I can participate, and I’ll make up whatever I’m short by. I would not normally pay $300 (if that’s what it ends up being) to scale down a skyscraper, but this makes it seem worthwhile. I know that other fundraisers are offering to match each donation made. So don’t worry, not all of us are doing this selfishly. 🙂

  4. I don’t see anything wrong with participating in a fundraiser and asking for donations. You are right it’s either yes or no. There are many reasons to donate and many reasons why people give to charities if their budget allows. We do donate if we can. My sister in law is having a bake off to raise money for an organization and I will be donating to that to help out. I enjoy the having fun aspect as well… why not 🙂

  5. Robert, Thanks for the reply. On second thought, the one big “donation” I missed in my comment above was the location. The building management/owner “donates” its use in order to raise money. Its use would likely never be allowed in order to simply raise money for private interests (e.g., a building tenant, or the owner itself). In the end, money is going to presumably a good cause; so long as people aren’t pressured into donating, it’s win-win.

  6. If getting people to donate money is hard, getting people to donate time is impossible even if their own kids are involved. I convene two soccer leagues and one of the main ways we keep costs affordable is asking parents to volunteer as coach’s. We provide training and background, and really at a young age all you need is enthusiasm and some sort of a plan (which we provide). I needed 26 coaches and out of 225 parents, I had 24 volunteers. I wound up personally coaching two teams even though my son only played on one.

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