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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

How to Organize a Fundraiser - Part 1, Getting Started

One of the reasons I've been slower than usual super slow to post lately is that my blogging time has been otherwise occupied with planning and working on some fundraising activities for a very close friend that is fighting breast cancer.  I have learned a lot in the process, and since I have pieced together my information from scattered sources and learning the hard way, I thought it might be beneficial to write about the process for anyone who might do something similar.  I will be back on track with my normal posting schedule by the second week of March, but this semi-hiatus is well worth it!!

Our fundraising activities are aimed at raising money to offset the medical expenses my friend is incurring as a result of her breast cancer diagnosis, including three surgeries in a matter of weeks (because the cancer had spread to one lymph node they removed all the others on that side but thankfully none of those were cancerous), followed by chemo (and all the medications to fight those side effects) and radiation.  

The fundraising activities logically divide into several phases, so I will post about this in several parts. You can read about my fundraiser specifically at  And if you live in the Paradise/Chico, CA area, our event is this next Monday, March 5th from 5 to 9 PM at the Paradise Round Table Pizza - we hope to see you there!!!

Part 1 - Getting Started

Form a "Committee"

Include those core people willing to commit and help with every facet of the fundraising.  There will (hopefully) be other people who volunteer to help with various activities along the way, but these are the people that will be "in charge" of making decisions.

You should have this meeting early in the process so everyone is on the same page.  It is hard not to have your head swirl with ideas once you decide to do a fundraiser and everyone can go off in different directions pretty quickly.  That first meeting allows you to focus your energy on realistic endeavors that everyone agrees to pursue.

Have a Goal in Mind

Have a clear financial goal in mind, based on the beneficiary's expected medical expenses.  I'm certainly no tax expert, but don't forget to aim about 25% higher to allow the beneficiary plenty to pay taxes on all the funds raised (since they will be taxed as income).  In our case, this is a lofty goal because they have many expenses, but all the more reason to try and help!  Anything we can do will ease their burden and that is the whole point!!

Organizing the Funds you Raise

It took several conversations with various folks (my banker, my CPA, and finally the head of a local community foundation) before I understood that becoming a non-profit is not the way to go about a fundraiser for an individual's medical expenses.  In fact, a non-profit by definition can not benefit a named individual.  Which means that none of the donations will be tax deductible (this hasn't seemed to affect our collections - our community has been amazing!).  And incidentally, setting up a non-profit is a long and expensive process.

The banking end of things ended up being pretty simple.  My friend (the beneficiary) had to go to her bank and fill out a form to get a Tax ID from the IRS, and then set up a bank account specifically for the fundraiser, a "Medical Expense Fund" in her name.   Then she set up a separate PayPal account and linked it to that bank account.

Consider how you will invest in your fundraiser.  We kept things to a BARE minimum in terms of up-front costs, which somewhat dictated what events we planned and how we got the word out.  We also didn't want to take any money away from our friend to pay for the fundraiser from the raised funds.

Involve the beneficiary

While we would have loved to have pulled off all the fundraising and handed my friend a check to cover all of her expenses without her knowledge or energy, that just isn't possible.  There are many parts of the fundraiser that will need her input, there's just no way around that.  She had to handle the Tax ID, opening the bank account, and linking it to PayPal.  And because she's a very private person, we've run everything we're doing for advertising by her (especially if it has her picture on it!).

Brand Your Fundraiser

You should put together a background story and take some photos early in the process.  The advice I got was that your "main" photo should be of the person and his or her family, preferably smiling and happy.  So we had a little photo shoot one day when she was feeling up for it and I got some great photos.

Once I had these two pieces, I set-up a "Cause" Facebook page (so it would have a "like" button) and a website (a Blogger blog since I'm familiar with how to do that).  I created the pink ribbon and Gerber daisy logo pictured in this post in order to unify all of our printed and web materials.

Decide WHAT you'll do

We have decided to have one main local event with many different fundraising activities.  Ours was greatly simplified by a program that our local Round Table Pizza has (which may be franchise-wide) where you can have 4 hours set aside in an evening (must be a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday) and they will "host" your event and donate a generous portion of all non-alcohol sales to the cause (including delivery in our case!).  That took care of a venue and food without any up-front costs for us, whew!  Since we began contacting other businesses in the area, we've learned that other places offer a similar program.

We are also allowed to have other activities at this event, so we are going with a raffle, silent auction, and bake sale.  More about these in future posts.

Have a Timeline

We set the date of our event based on when my friend was most likely to be having a good day based on her chemo schedule.  This, plus the fact that the bills are already coming in and we wanted to help as quickly as possible, meant we needed to plan the event within about 8 weeks.  This is SO LITTLE TIME!  But it is totally possible!!

We set little deadlines for ourselves that broke the planning into logical phases.

Collecting: We needed to know what items would be donated (mostly) in order to start advertising for the raffle and silent auction, so we started by contacting businesses and asking for donations.  This will be the focus of the next post in this series.

Advertising: Then once we had a general idea of the donations we had, we moved into advertising mode: posting updates on Facebook and our website, posting flyers, passing out flyers, selling raffle tickets, getting our event mentioned in newspapers  and on the radio, etc.  In order to concentrate our efforts, we thought we'd have advertising go for about 2 weeks prior to the event.  In reality it may be about half that (other than posted flyers and Facebook/web stuff) because it takes some time to really arrange for the advertising, so that was one (of many) lessons learned.  Because we wanted to expose those businesses donating to our cause as much as possible, I think we held out a little too long waiting to gather the donation commitments before we moved forward planning the advertising, but it is really hard to cut that off.  Of course we are still collecting (awesome!) donations, but in reality it is reasonable to have a little less exposure for those that weren't able to commit right away.  We will still do everything we can to thank all the businesses that participate (more on this later)!

Ask for Help

Once we had a plan for the event and fundraising activities we wanted to do, we set out to ask for help from the community.  I will post about this next time.

Thanks so much for reading!  Have you ever planned a fundraiser for a friend?  What lessons did you learn along the way?

This post has been linked up to:

Home Decor & Organizing Party @ Organize & Decorate Everything

One Project at a Time @ A Bowl Full of Lemons

Organizing & DIY Link Party @ Organizing with Sandy

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Make 2012 Your Best Year - February Refresh

It's amazing what a difference a month can make in one's outlook and perspective.  As part of my determination this year to make changes that don't fade away right after the New Year (first discussed here), I will check in monthly with a "Make 2012 Your Best Year" series to make sure I am aligned with my goals.  I will call this my "monthly refresh".  In order to be worthwhile, the refresh should be viewed as an opportunity to organize your thoughts and refine your practices in a positive way, not to be negative or overly critical.  And the fact that this has taken the whole first week of this short month is okay.  It doesn't need to fit a rigid schedule, just so that it happens regularly and monthly is (I think) the right interval for me.

Be Thankful

January was a particularly crazy month around here, mainly because I got in a car accident a couple of weeks ago.  Of the MANY things to be thankful for, my two small daughters and I were completely unharmed physically aside from a small bump on the side of my head.  I am also thankful that there were no other cars involved.  The car did not fare so well, so we are having to deal with that.  But it is just a car.  Our financial situation went from "teetering on the edge of comfortable" to "we'll get through it somehow".  But it's only money.  Talk about a refreshed perspective!

I find often upon reflection that stress and anxiety are a matter of my perspective.  After the accident, all of the worries and stresses of life were stripped away and I was just thankful to be okay.  And even more so that my kids were okay.  I ignored life for a full day to just appreciate this feeling, and allow myself to feel the protective motherly instinct to cocoon my kids away from harm.  I took a few more days to ease back into reality, and by now we're finally back to a "normal" routine.  And all the worries and stress are back, but I am able to keep them contained to a healthy level of pressure because I am aware that they are put there by me, and I have the power to take them away again if needed. 
Just like the intentions of the New Year, I hope that my appreciation for my life and control over stress don't fade too much with time.  So I will revisit these concept as part of each monthly refresh.

Take Care of Me

One of my big goals for this year was to Take Care of Me.  As part of the monthly refresh, I will add at least one concept every month, without abandoning the previous ones.  I will still check in with all of my previous goals, to renew my resolve and refine the tasks that address each goal.  

Less Self-Deprecation

During a recent yoga class, the instructor complimented another student in the class, and the student responded in a way that slighted herself and downplayed the compliment.  The instructor pointed out that unfortunately we have all learned to do this, and it is true.  I do this all the time!  And even though it is like a reflex, I wish I didn't do it.  And I certainly would like to avoid teaching this to my girls. 

This isn't a completely new concept to me.  As my older daughter began to understand what the adults around her were talking about a little, I decided that self-deprecating remarks should be filtered out, just the same as my potty mouth.  The difficulty comes with actually doing it.  Especially because I hardly recognize that I have done it.  Somehow I've made a natural transition in the potty-mouth department.  So much so, that is almost feels weird to cuss anymore when the kids aren't around, where I used to have quite the vocabulary.  So how did I even do this?

Practice.  It doesn't seem like it took much practice to filter the potty mouth.  It seems like it was a mothering instinct or something and it just happened.  But can I decide what is appropriate for these instincts?  Or did I really practice not cussing in the first months to a year in which my daughter was there but not quite aware of exactly what we were saying?  Probably the second.  So I need to learn to recognize that I've made a self-deprecating remark, and then re-program myself to filter the comment before it comes out.  Re-programming can only come with practice - first in being aware and then in filtering.   So I will practice.

Adjust Goals to Be Realistic

One of my goals for this year was to blog more often, increasing my number of monthly posts compared with the months in 2011.  I haven't posted in what feels like forever, and although the reasons for this gap will hopefully not recur, I have also determined that my schedule just doesn't allow for me to post more than once or twice a week.  So I have decided to accept the reality rather than always be disappointed that I am not doing more. 

On a very positive note, I had also set a goal of the number of page views I'd like to have for the whole year (for a significant increase over last year in the blog's infancy) and I am so pleased to say that I am already hopeful that I will double my goal.  This is thanks to some awesome link parties in which I've been participating, and it is so exciting!  Thank you so much for reading this, and I hope you'll become a follower and leave me a comment on how you like my blog!!!
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