I’ve been thinking a lot about fundraisers lately — both charitable and personal.
First, I agreed to take on a large fundraising project at my kids’ school. My husband and I are soliciting support for a personal business venture. At work, I often participate in communications for university fundraising.
I enjoy the strategy, finding the most effective way to help the cause and making the contributor feel satisfied that they’ve done the right thing. It’s an intriguing puzzle, figuring out how to make people feel good about contributing to a good cause.
I grew up feeling the grownups’ disdain for being asked for money. They didn’t want to be bugged to buy magazines and overpriced junk food or give me 10 cents per jump in the great jump rope-a-thon.
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I’ll sometimes attend sales parties. The sales ladies (I have yet to hear of one of these parties run by a man) wax poetic about their candles, provide drool-worthy dishes that only their pans can cook, or they sparkle from head to toe, dripping with the not-quite-precious stones and faux-genuine metal jewelry they sell. I usually buy something.
But I cringe at the end — the moment the strong-arm techniques come out and they offer prizes of great value in exchange for hosting their next sales pitch. They sweetly shame the group that refuses to buy in. They admonish us, pointing to our hostess — our friend — who has opened her home and put out some snacks — and point out she’ll miss out on invaluable prizes if three guests won’t agree to host another party.
I don’t. I won’t fall prey to party perpetuation, and I won’t slink away with my tail between my legs. It’s just not for me. If it’s for you? More power to you, I’ll come buy a candle.
When I worked in the corporate world, everyone had a cause. They raised money through walks, runs, crawls, rides and other exercises. Athletic employees amble to their co-workers with their pledge sheets, soliciting donations to the cause, whatever it may be. I’d fork over $10 to buy robotic legs for paraplegic cats, or to benefit the National Thumb Cancer Society’s Right to Pinch campaign. Sometimes the cause was chosen in honor of a friend or loved one, but often I think the cause was to conquer another 5K or cycling adventure. It didn’t matter, someone needed that money.
As I sat at a meeting discussing options for the mammoth school fundraiser ahead of us, we talked food, value, volunteers, monetary goals, collecting the money.
But I sense that the landscape of fundraising has opened up some new opportunities. My mind wandered outside the box to a place where everyone videotaped themselves dumping ice water on their heads and wrote checks. A fundraiser that self-perpetuated. Oh, the ice water has been done. That’s old hat. But pies in the face? Crack a dozen eggs down your back? Stand on your head and recite the alphabet backward? And oh, hey, write a check while you’re at it?
I thought of the amazing crowdfunding successes — a man who raised $56,000 to make potato salad. I believe he threw a party to serve it.
People just want to be part of something. To experience something a little different. They’ll reach into their pockets for — what? — for something different.
I rub my hands together in thought. The strategizing just got a little bit more fun.
Overland Park mom and freelancer Emily Parnell writes weekly.