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22 September 2008

charitable awkwardness Has anyone else done a fund-raising marathon (or bike ride or what have you) for charity? I'm finding the whole thing to be awkward.[More:]

I've had two moderately negative reactions from people I've approached about my fundraising. And one, a jerk, so it was to be expected. Most people are being very supportive--at least verbally, not so much financially at this point. I still have lots of time, though.

I'm finding the whole thing to be socially awkward. Any tips from the veterans out there?
Shake it off. Don't be afraid to ask for money for a good cause. Be proud and confident.

How are you doing the ask? That makes a difference.
posted by Miko 22 September | 12:03
It depends on who--but either via email or in person, I'm telling people that I am really excited about trying to complete this run. Then I detail why I chose to do this run--because the charity supporting it is something to which I have a personal link. Then I give them the URL to go to my training page where I have all the same info, plus details on my training and of course the big ol' donation box.

I'm trying to make it clear that I'm trying to share something I'm excited about--not sending them a generic email to shake them down for cash.

And most people are being really cool--it simply astonishes me that people feel the need to say something jerky every once in a while.
posted by divka 22 September | 12:07
I actually think an email blast has shown itself to be one of the most effective tactics in this sort of fundraising. YOu can do everything you've done in person -- writing the introduction about why you care about this issue, why you're asking them, etc - and then include the link to donate.

It can help if you have a fundraising page where people can see how close you are to your goal. If your charity doesn't provide this, even a free Google page that you update would be great. You could also put a little training diary up there. Invite people to follow you on a blog or Twitter to see how you're doing. Use it to share links or stories about how people might be helped by the charity.

Oh, you're already doing a lot of that. So there's really no problem. Just do the following:

Be totally bold. Don't be at all shy about emailing people you haven't talked to in years, distant relations, etc. No big woop. If they don't like it, they can delete it.

Don't feel awkward. It takes a LOT of asks to get one donation. Just keep moving.

Consider not that you are asking for a favor but that you are GIVING people the OPPORTUNITY to help an important cause. These donations are usually tax write-offs, and it's nearing the end of the year. Often, people feel good and proud about being able to donate. For instance, years ago I quit smoking with help from the American Lung Association. I swore I would become a donor to them but it kinda slipped my mind. Then a couple years later, two of my friends entered a fundraising bike ride for ALA. I was totally happy to support them, fulfilling my promise and helping them meet their goal.

The main thing is getting over your embarrassment at asking. But just be thankful you're not a development officer - you'd be doing it every day, for a living! Those folks think differently about raising money, and when you do fundraising, you can too.
posted by Miko 22 September | 12:15
Consider not that you are asking for a favor but that you are GIVING people the OPPORTUNITY to help an important cause. These donations are usually tax write-offs, and it's nearing the end of the year. Often, people feel good and proud about being able to donate.

That's how I feel. I was thinking earlier this year, huh, I could use some more write-offs for the year, wish people would ask me for donations. That week I got an e-mail from a college friend who was doing a long-distance bike trip to benefit an AIDS foundation. Score!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 22 September | 12:17
All good advice, thanks guys.

I think I let the few people who are jerks shake me back into the mindset of seeing myself as being a nuisance to people by doing this. I definitely need to retool that and try to be more positive again.
posted by divka 22 September | 12:19
It is socially awkward. You are taking a relationship of friendship and trying to add a financial aspect to it, even if it is for a good cause.

Is the jerk really your friend? If so, then why? If not, then why are you asking him for money?

I have donated to these things before, but they have always been for friends and causes I believed in. Also, none of them tried a hard sell on me; it was always a subdued e-mail solicitation.
posted by grouse 22 September | 12:20
Hah. The primary jerk is actually my relative. A close one and one who has, therefore, also a close tie to this issue. It would have been equally bad if I hadn't asked and therefore he felt left out. It was kind of a no-win situation.
posted by divka 22 September | 12:22
I think huge email blasts are the way to go. People feel uncomfortable to be hit up for money one-on-one, even if it is a good cause.
It's pretty lame to be a jerk about someone asking you for support on a charity. A "sorry, i can't this month" or whatever is much nicer.

(although I have gone off on jobs that pushed united way on me. I hate that pressure to donate money at work by your job.)
posted by kellydamnit 22 September | 12:36
All the in-person talks have been chats about what I'm up to that ended with a "Hey, I'll send you a link to the webpage I put up about it." And there's enough other hoopla on the page to check out that I don't think it reeks too badly of a shake-down.
posted by divka 22 September | 12:42
I hope I am not a jerk about it, but I am one of the people who would be annoyed by a solicitation like this.

I get so many of these emails and they don't appeal to my charitable side at all and instead make me angry. I have charities that I care about and am committed to and donate to each year, and I think it is irritating that my friends think I should want to contribute to their runs. If someone wants to do a run and give to a cause, that is great, but I think they should pay for it themselves. To me, it seems like often I am just financially supporting their hobbies.

If this is your first run, then people probably aren't fatigued by your requests yet, but keep in mind that they might have these donation emails coming in left, right, and center.

My tip would be to use the fundraising email sparingly and use it once now and once closer to the time of your event. That way people who are cash-strapped now have another chance, but aren't hearing from you asking for money all the time.
posted by rmless2 22 September | 12:43
Point taken, but at this stage in the game no one's gotten more than one email or mention of this from me.

No matter how taxed someone is by other people's requests, I'd hope that people could manage to be civil in response to a single email.
posted by divka 22 September | 12:53
It's part of life, and it's part of friendship. Also, the older you get (and the more resources you have) the more common it is to be asked. It doesn't have to be considered awkward. Think of the things that would never get done in this world if no one asked.

I, too, usually give to a limited set of specific charities. But I like being able to say that as my excuse when I don't want to give, or can't: "Sorry, I already committed my whole charitable budget this year. Good luck, though!"
posted by Miko 22 September | 13:06
True, and I have been emailing happily back and forth with friends who can't donate but had wonderful positive things to say or wanted to know more about what I'm doing. And that's great. I'd take a "Wow, that's great! Good luck" sort of email any day.
posted by divka 22 September | 13:15
I totally feel for you. My mom's doing a charity walk this weekend and has refused to tell anyone about it unless it comes up in conversation, which usually goes like this:

Friend/family: How come you can't come to my picnic Sunday?

Mom: Oh- I'm walking in a fundraiser. I was supposed to get sponsors but I can't really bring myself to do it, so they'll have to be happy with my $15.

Friend/Family: I'll add $20. How do I do it?

Mom: I don't know.

Fundraising's not her thing, I guess.

I found out how people can sponsor her (it's frighteningly well organized- I'm wondering how much supporting just their website must cost them!) and sent out an email to about 6 friends of ours. It's easier for me to ask on her behalf than it is for her to ask for herself.
posted by small_ruminant 22 September | 14:20
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