Wednesday, March 18, 2009

5 Creative Fundraising Ideas & A Wildcard

Here are some of the more creative fundraising ideas I've seen this season. Let me know yours!

1. Online Pool: The best example I have seen of this is the “Madness for a Cure” March Madness bracket/pool at CBS/Sportsline ( lets you manage fantasy/bracket style pools for various sports. Anytime there are major playoffs, you can set up a pool at CBS/Sportsline and charge an entry fee to your participants. Half of your proceeds will go to the pool winner, and the other half to your event.
  • Advantages: This sort of thing goes viral fairly easily: ask your friends to send it to their friends and coworkers. It’s not just asking participants to donate money, and people don’t have to feel like they know you to support you through this method.
  • Challenges: Technologically a little complex (setting up PayPal, domain names, etc.). Administering the pool might involve some overhead. Getting the word out.
  • Profit: $10 per person (half of a $20 pool entry fee)
2. Wine Tasting “Championship”: Host a wine tasting event. Participants bring a bottle of wine (specify red or white) and pay a $10 fee to obtain a ballot. Also put out a basket and flyer for other donations. Obscure the bottles in a wine bag with a large number on each one. Provide participants with a small notepad and pens. Serve light h’ors d’ouevres as you officially taste each wine together. (Pour small tasting portions, that way there will be plenty left over for people to go for their favorites.) Participants take notes on each wine and at the end, vote on their favorite. The person who brought the winning wine gets half of the entry fee. The other half goes to your event.
  • Advantages: Easy to set up and coordinate, not much more work than a regular party. Quick way to make some money in one evening. You may also get additional donations from attendees.
  • Challenges: The size and scale of your event can be limited, depending on where you host it. If you don’t want to have to host it in your home (or it’s too big to host in your home) see if there’s a neighborhood clubhouse where you can hold the event.
  • Profit: $5 per person (half of a $10 ballot fee)
3. Guest Bartending: Meet with the manager of your favorite local hangout/watering hole and see if they will let you and a couple of other team members work as guest bartenders for a night. Be sure to wear TNT t-shirts. You work for tips that will be donated to TNT. Get agreement from the management to put out a basket/flyer accepting donations. Bring along business cards for your event and extra flyers. All tips and donations go to your event.
  • Advantages: Great way to publicize your event while you get donations. Lots of fun, and you may get additional donations/leads for fundraising.
  • Challenges: You have to be ready to go into customer service mode! If you are at all uncomfortable doing a service industry role, this probably won’t be fun for you.
  • Profit: Variable (but 100% of your tips can go to your event)
4. Gimme 5 Campaign - (aka "Pimp my Ride" or "Pimp my Run"): Send an email to your closest friends, those who have already been ardent supporters of your event. Write up an email using the example below and ask them to email it to their friends, focusing on people that they know you haven't already asked for money. If you have a picture of your honored teammate, use it here. Emphasize your emotional connections to the cause. People will only forward this email about someone they don't know if they connect emotionally to it.
    Subject Line: Gimme 5

    Hi everyone! I wanted to send out this email on behalf of my good friend Sue Smith. I have known Sue for X years, and she has really outdone herself this year. You see, Sue is running a marathon to raise money to fight leukemia and other blood cancers! If you know her like I know her, this would be astounding news to you; her love for ice cream and martinis is legendary, as is her dislike of gyms. But Sue has taken on this challenge for her friend Samantha. Samantha is only five, and she's a precious little girl who is battling leukemia right here in Springfield. Samantha needs a bone marrow transplant, and Sue is bravely running to make sure you all know about Samantha, and to help find a cure for her.

    So I'm asking you to "Gimme 5" for Sue and Samantha:
    - 5 minutes of your time to visit Sue's page at to read about why she's doing this and more about Samantha.
    - 5 dollars to her cause. Click on the donation link on her website and donate just $5 (less than the cost of a meal at McDonald's!) to her event. And if you want to give more, that's great too!
    - 5 friends of yours. Forward this email on to 5 friends, and ask them to do the same to help out Sue and Samantha!
  • Advantages: Easy to do, no out of pocket costs.
  • Disadvantages: It really all depends on your friends to "go viral" with this. I'd suggest you send this on to people who you know love to forward stuff, and ask them to make sure they send it on to people who forward them stuff all the time.
  • Profit: Variable, $5 per person who chips in.
5. Create a Public Relations campaign for your event: This is a good one if you like to write. Put together a “press release” for your event. Read this article on writing a press release and this article on how to think like a reporter. Write up a generalized press release and distribute it to every local news organization you can find.
  • Local television stations, including cable access stations
  • Local newspapers, the big ones and the small regional city/town/county ones
  • Local radio stations and magazines
  • Your HOA newsletter, bike or running shops, YMCA, gym
Create a good all-purpose draft and then tailor a brief intro letter for each organization. If you’ll be sending it electronically, fancy it up with the TNT logos, etc. and make it a PDF with a free PDF converter.
  • Advantages: Little to no monetary investment. Can be done in your spare time. Pretty simple to execute.
  • Disadvantages: While you don’t invest money, you’re investing time, and possibly a fair amount of time if you don’t know how to do this already. If you’re not comfortable with writing, it can be intimidating. The return on your investment may end up being minimal.
  • Profit: Highly variable (could range from nothing to a lot, and you can also get other publicity/sponsorship opportunities from this)
And here’s a wildcard fundraising idea, thusly named because I’m still trying to hammer it out. If you have done this successfully, please leave a comment about how you did it so we can all benefit!

Guitar Hero/Rock Band Battle of the Bands – Rocking for a Cure
If you or someone you know has Guitar Hero or Rock Band, host a tournament! Teams of 3 form bands and compete against each other. Each participant pays a $10 entry fee. Bands “battle” each other, with each band performing one practice song and one Competition song. The band who posts the highest score in each round wins the round. You can score this in a bracket form (if you have lots of bands) or with an overall winning score.

The entry fee is split, with half going to the winning band, and the other half going to your event.

I haven’t yet figured out the advantages or challenges for such an event, but some questions that come to mind:
  • Getting an even distribution of band members across teams.
  • Registering participants ahead of time – You don’t want to have to handle all of that during the event.
  • What to do about no-shows. Do you collect payments prior to the tournament?
  • What’s a good number of participants for this event? You don’t want it to go on for hours and hours.
  • If you limit the number of participants to keep the actual competition down to say, 3-4 hours, do you make enough money off the event?
  • Where to host the event? It can be done in your home but would likely be more fun/profitable/easier to manage in a public place like a restaurant.
I hope that you find these ideas useful. If you choose to raise money using any of these ideas, please leave a comment or contact me and tell me your experience with it.

Good luck and GO TEAM!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Return to Sender...

If you're like me, you greet the mailbox with baited breath every afternoon after you send out your 100 amazingly awesome fundraising letters. Every day there are three things you can find in your mailbox: donations (yaaaay!), emptiness (booooo!) or even worse than nothing, returned letters (booo! hiss!).

That little stamp on the envelope, giving you the postal equivalent of the finger, pointing back to your return address with the words: "Undeliverable, Return to Sender" really stinks. Hopefully you won't get many, but if you get a 10% failure rate from some old addresses, that's still 10 letters returned!

So here's your action plan for dealing with those returned letters:

1. Do not forget your returned letters.
Stack them up somewhere and process them all together after a few days have passed and it seems like you have gotten them all (or most of them!) back.

2. Match your returned letters against your Excel spreadsheet.
I mark my donor information this way:
- Returned letter, no alternate contact: I color the entire line of info for the donor in red and mark it in bold italics.
- Returned letter, with alternate contact (like email): I only bold/red/italicize the bad information.

3. Start looking for alternative contact information for those donors that you only had an address for:
- Call your family or friends, ask for an email address or a different mailing address. This works well for me: I email my mother the names of the returned letter recipients that she knew. She found addresses from her address book that were newer than mine, and email addresses for some as well.
- Hit up "the Google" and try to find alternate contact information. Good sites for this, beyond Google:
- & are good social networking sites where you might find old friends.

4. Process the envelopes themselves
- You should have self-addressed stamped envelopes in these returned letters: Separate them out and keep them for future letters!
- You might also have business cards or magnets, or other "takeaway items" you included in your envelopes, be sure to save those.
- Save your letter, if it's not personalized to the donor, or doesn't have a deadline that's too close to use anymore.
- Save the notecards that you wrote, in case you find a working address.

5. Make contact!
- Contact each "returned donor by whatever alternative you can find. If it's email, dust off the email you sent out to your friends, and send it to the donor anew.
- Resend your donation letters to donors for whom you have revised mailing addresses. Use a fresh envelope!

6. Use up your SASEs!
After you find new data and send out your fundraising information, find a way to use up any leftover self-addressed stamped envelopes that you still have! If you have four left over, figure out four new people to mail.
- Call your parents again, tell them who you have contacted, ask them for fresh suggestions. When I contacted my mother to ask her for suggestions, even before I told her who I had contacted, she blurted out three names I never would have thought of! You've been looking at your donor list for awhile now, and your brain has probably gotten a little bit stale with new ideas.
- Sit down with your spouse or a close friend and brainstorm with them. Who would they contact that might be a mutual friend of yours?
Reuse any letters that don't have personalization or aren't out-of-date, and send them with your SASE's.

Hopefully these tips will hel pyou deal with returned letters. They're always a downer to find in your mailbox, but remember that a returned letter is just the price of doing a letter-writing campaign. Don't be disappointed, use the returned letter as an opportunity to reach out in a different way, or ask someone else to donate!

Good luck and GO TEAM!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Spring Cleaning to Save Lives

Spring is just a few weeks away (yay!) and with it comes the itch to start "spring cleaning"; clearing out the clutter from your home. Before you donate or toss items, consider how you might use all your excess "stuff" to make a profit and raise funds for your Team in Training event.

Here are some ideas to raise funds using those items you don't need any more. And if you work for a company that provides matching gifts, you can double the funds you raise by donating them through your company's program!

Selling Locally
Examples: televisions, furniture, stereo or home theater equipment, appliances, automobiles, lawn equipment, home gym equipment, recreation equipment (bicycles, skateboards, punching bags), office equipment

Summary: These are items you'll want to unload locally, either because shipping is too expensive, the items need to be "test driven" by buyers, or because you just find it easier to sell to buyers who live near you.

Sites for Selling Locally:
  1. Craigslist:
  2. Cheapcycle:
  3. National Thrift Store Directory:
  4. eBay Motors:

Books, CD's, DVD's, VHS Tapes

random books you have around the house, text books, out-of-print or hard-to-find books, compact discs, movies on DVD, movies on VHS

Summary: We all seem to acquire books that we read once and never read again. The same goes for CD's and movies. It's incredibly easy to unload these items on the Internet. Shop around the sites below and sell items at the places that will give you the most money for your "stuff". Put all of your unwanted media up for sale, and after your event, donate the unsold items to charity.

Sites for Selling Media:
  3. Powell's Books:
  4. Barnes & Noble Textbooks:

Original Art Work

Photography, drawings, illustrations, stained glass, homemade jewelry, paper or beads, other homemade crafts, designs for postcards or t-shirts

Summary: Do you have a creative streak? You can sell your original artwork or handmade crafts online in a number of places and in a variety of ways and donate your proceeds to your event.
  1. Etsy:
  3. Cafe Press:

Event Tickets

Examples: season tickets, individual sports tickets, event tickets, concert tickets, theater tickets

Summary: If you have season tickets or event tickets on hand that you don't plan to use, they can help you make money for your event! If you don't want to give up a full season's worth of tickets, select the specific games or shows you aren't interested in, and sell just those.

Sites for Selling Tickets:
  1. StubHub:

Everything Else

Anything and everything! Clothing, small appliances, hobbyist equipment (photography, stained glass, computers), software, sports equipment, collectibles, memorabilia, electronics

Summary: There is one place where you can unload everything under the sun. Anything, and I do mean anything, that you can't sell from one of the above sections, should be considered for eBay. If you haven't used it, give it a whirl. Listing items is incredibly simple, and there's a reason why it's the world's largest marketplace. You might be amazed to find who's interested in buying that vintage "Rush" concert t-shirt from the mid-1980's!
  1. eBay:
Selling the stuff you no longer need is a win/win situation. You can clear the clutter from your life, make someone else happy, and raise money to fight blood cancers at the same time! As spring approaches, take a fresh look at all the junk lying around your house and think about how you can use it to raise money.

As always, good luck and GO TEAM!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Countdown Widgets for your Blog

Have you been wanting a countdown clock to your event for your blog or webpage? Well, here's your answer! I found an awesome widget creator in the form of thanks to another Team in Training participant, Cat's post on Twitter. Sprout Builder lets you create up to 5 widgets for free, but that's ending in March so get there and create your widgets ASAP.

I took the liberty of creating 4 for the marathons that are popular for our local chapter. I've also included the Lake Tahoe century ride here, which Cat created and posted about on Twitter. Feel free to grab these widgets for your own blog pages by clicking on the links. If you are participating in an event that's not listed here, you can go to and create a widget for your specific event. If you need help, just leave a comment on this post and I will try to help you out!

Please use these and distribute them however you like!

The widgets have been moved over into my sidebar. Just copy them from there! -->


How to Say Thanks

The natural progression of fundraising is simple:
  1. You grovel for money.
  2. People give it to you.
  3. You thank them.
#3 is not optional.

The quality and timeliness of your thank you notes can make a real difference in your fundraising. That might seem surprising - after all, if you've already received a donation from someone, how can the way you thank them make a difference in your numbers?

It's simple, really. Toward the end of your fundraising and training, you will get to the "grovel zone". The grovel zone is where you send out an email to everyone you've ever contacted, because you are ---><--- thiiiis close to your fundraising goal and every dollar counts. And if you're well past your fundraising goal, consider raising it so you can get to the grovel zone, because every dollar you raise past your minimum makes an even bigger difference in the lives of those fighting blood cancer.

And when it comes down to it, the people that you've graciously thanked will be more tempted to pony up an extra $5, $10 or more for your cause either this time around, or for your next event.

Online Thank You Notes/Emails
The easiest thank you note to write is the one you write online. Team in Training's fundraising portal makes it easy for you to track your thank you notes for all the donations you receive online and I recommend you use it. Here are 4 tips for your online notes:
  1. Only use TNT's standardized thank you note as a guideline - customize your own.
    Write your own note, and keep it as a template that you can refer to for later notes. The standard thank you text is far too generic in my opinion. Spice up the letter to make it more your own, and then save a copy on your home computer, or email it to yourself, and use it as a starting point for all of your notes. Be sure to always thoroughly reread every letter before you send it to make sure that it still works for the person you're thanking and that you didn't accidentally leave someone else's personalization in it. (Aaaawkward!)

  2. Only 1 person per thank you note/email.
    TNT's portal allows you to send your thank you note to multiple people. Don't be tempted to do this. If you're thanking more than one person at a time, you're not tailoring your thank you note. It will sound like a form letter, and you already hit them with a form letter when you asked them to give you money. Personalize the thank you.

  3. Send your thank you emails at the same time every day and within 24 hours.
    I have a routine where I send out my thank you notes every morning after I've gotten dressed for work but before I leave for the office. I'm in more of a writing mood in the morning, and I have fewer distractions before I settle in for work. Find a time of day when you can take 5-10 minutes without distraction and send out your notes at that time every day.

  4. Cc: yourself on your thank you email.
    The TNT portal doesn't save the emails you send, so copy yourself on your emails. Your recipients won't see that anyone besides them received your thank you note, and this way you can keep track of exactly what you said to each person you thanked and when you thanked them.

Offline Thank You Notes
You will want to send offline thank you notes to people who mail checks to you. I also make sure to send an offline thank you note in addition to the email I sent online for people who donate more than $25. Here are 5 tips for writing thank you notes offline:
  1. Create and use a base template.
    Just like an online note, put together a few words to refer to as a standard template, and then customize from there. You'll probably write a shorter handwritten note than you'll have for your email thank you notes, so pull out your best phrases and make sure they work in a handwritten note.

  2. No good at physically writing letters? Type it up before you write.
    Whenever I totally wing it in my head, I end up scribbling something and then wanting to scratch it out and write over it. This is a mess in a thank you note. So I take that base template, type out a few words of personalization around it, and then I put pen to paper and transcribe it, word for word, into my note. When I'm done with the note, I remove my edits and start fresh on the computer with the next note.

  3. Send thank you notes for your mailed-in donations first.
    If you're sending thank you notes to people who donate more than $25 online, as well as to everyone who mails you a check, send the thank you notes to those who mailed you a check first. The others can wait a little while if need be because you've already thanked them online.

  4. Pace yourself!
    Brides can tell you about this firsthand. Thank you note fatigue is no fun and when a bunch of them pile up, it can seem overwhelming. The stress of having to say thank you can kill your gratitude. So stay on top of your notes and pace yourself.
    a. Bring your blank notes (and your base template) with you to the office and wherever you go. Anytime you have 5 minutes, slam out just one note. Don't try to do them all at once.
    b. Restrict yourself to a maximum of 3 notes in one sitting.

  5. Note "Goodies" - Consider them!
    Consider some note "goodies" for your written thank you notes, particularly for those who generously donated to your event. These little extras can serve multiple purposes: They can remind your donor why you're riding or they can be a little something your donor can distribute to friends who might be interested in donating. Or they can simply be a nice way of saying "thanks". Consider the following possibilities:
    a. A picture of you with your honored teammate, or you out training with your team.
    b. Magnets with your picture, or your honored teammate's photo on them and your website URL along with a simple "Thank you for your donation!"
    c. Moo cards
Going back to the well for additional donations is always possible when you've taken the time to properly thank your donors. And a good thank you is especially important if you want to do another TNT event. Hopefully these tips will help you write out all those thank you notes without getting overwhelmed.

Good luck and GO TEAM!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Hey - Just a Quick Question (or 10)

Do you have a moment?

Can you do me a favor and please fill out this survey?

I want to make this blog a great resource for Team in Training participants to get and exchange ideas about raising money for their events, but it occurs to me that what I think might be important and helpful isn't necessarily what you think would be important and helpful.

I posted the survey via Twitter yesterday and got a couple of retweets on it, but not nearly enough responses. In fact, both (hello, all two of you!) of the responses I got yesterday only served to prove to me that there are plenty of great ideas for my blog out there that I haven't yet considered.

So please, take a few minutes (it shouldn't take more than 5) to fill out this survey if you can. And please pass it along to other TNT participants, or retweet it to your Twitter feed.


Monday, February 16, 2009

5 Tips to Getting a Sponsorship

We're 2-3 weeks past kickoff, and your fund raising efforts should be kicking into high gear. Reaching out to local businesses in your community is crucial to raising money in sizable chunks. The key is to reach out to everyone you can think of, and to make it hard for them to say 'no'!

To get to 'yes', I suggest that you customize your fund raising letters, and add on to TNT's standard corporate sponsorship with customized sponsorship levels and benefits of your own. Really sell your local business owners on what you will do to help promote them in return for their dollars. If you show them how donating money to you will help their bottom line, they'll be much more likely to sponsor you.
  1. You pay 'em? You ask 'em!
    Send a letter, with a #10 (full-sized) security-lined SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) to every single business person that you can recall paying, for as far back as you can remember. Hit up your dry cleaner, your masseuse, your mechanic. Everyone! I did this, and I just received a $100 check (in my SASE) from a seamstress I've hired a few times over the past couple of years.

  2. Include the corporate sponsorship proposal with your letter.
    Do not make a business reach out to you to ask for a copy of TNT's corporate sponsorship proposal. Include a copy with each letter you send to businesses. (Print on both sides to save paper.) And while you're at it, go ahead and make sure your name is already printed on the "Team Member" line.

  3. Do the legwork for them.
    If your corporate sponsorship proposal includes directions for the sponsor to mail a check to LLS, and mail the sponsorship proposal to your local chapter, offer to do the legwork for them! Include a #10 (full-size) security lined envelope, self-addressed and stamped. Over the directions for mailing back the paperwork on the proposal, attach a Post-It note, handwritten with the following: If you mail the proposal back to me before (date) I will handle distribution of your check and paperwork with LLS. Thanks! - Yourname.
    Be sure that your "return by" date is far enough in advance of the deadline your chapter sets for corporate sponsorships for you to manage processing their check!

  4. Offer businesses all options!
    $500 is the minimum buy-in for a corporate sponsorship on our proposals, but I make sure to include in my letter another alternative: "Want to help but can't participate as a full sponsor?" in nice bold letters, followed by instructions for making a regular donation, will do wonders. Not all sponsors can afford $500 - $1,500.

  5. Create your custom sponsorship levels!
    Our local Team in Training chapters offer standard sponsorship benefits at the $500 and up range, but be sure to include something that might entice those who can't afford a full sponsorship. This goes hand-in-hand with #2. Consider this kind of blurb in your letter:

    Want to help but can't participate as a full sponsor?

    Thank you for your generosity! I would love to partner with you for my event! While standard Team in Training benefits start at the $500 level, I am excited to offer these personalized options for all sponsors donating at least $100:

    1. Sponsor a Mile: I will be promoting 26 sponsors on my "Sponsor-a-Mile" page and on my fundraising page! Pick your mile! I will link to your site and promote your business throughout my training.
    2. Personal Promotion Package: I've asked for your help because I love working with your business and your service has always been exceptional! Sponsor me and together we'll come up with a personal promotion package! I can write three honest reviews of your business on three different review sites to promote your business while you help me fund my run! Other options are available, just ask!
    3. Sponsorship Spotlight: Each week I feature one of my sponsors in a Sponsorship Spotlight on my blog! I will link to your site, include information about your business, and tell all of my readers, many of whom are local, about my wonderful experience with your business and your generous sponsorship!
You can raise money for your event without sponsors, but it's so much easier to hit your fund raising goal with larger donations from sponsors that it's really worth the effort. And it's rewarding too! If you solicit businesses that you trust and value, then you can really make your sponsorship work as a partnership for the both of you, which is good for your fund raising today and also for your relationship with your sponsor -- and future fund raising efforts!! -- down the line. Build and nurture these relationships and you will be able to go back to the well for another sponsorship for your next Team in Training event.

Good luck with the fund raising and go Team!