If you had told me a month ago I was going to raise $950, let alone $1,170, for Haiti in less than 30 days, I would have looked at you like you were crazy.
For those just now jumping into this blog series, I am going to Haiti with some doctors and med students to provide free medical care (surgeries, general/optometry/dental care) for a week later this year. It’s also my very first missionary trip.
I joined the team of medical students from my area very late in the game. I think they started meeting and fundraising in June. Mid-September was the final deadline to commit to the trip, leaving October 15th as the final deadline for each of us to raise $950.00 for medical supplies, room and board for American and Haitian medical teams, etc.
I was nervous, scared, and let’s face it–faithless. Do you know how much $950 is? If you’ve ever lived life as a broke person, it’s a ton of money. How on Earth was I going to find an extra $950 just laying around? In less than 30 days? I almost wanted to ask the team leader if I could raise a reduced amount since I joined so late in the game, but I knew better. I did express my doubt to them and one of the leaders said that he know it seems like a lot, but God usually works it all out in the end.
And did He ever.
I floundered with doubt and faithlessness for days. I think I took a few days (maybe a week) to even announce and ask for money because I was so skeptical. Who was going to give me money for helping others in Haiti? Would anybody still care about Haiti? It’s not immediately post-earthquake so giving to Haiti doesn’t seem to be the “in” thing to do these days. And would my going on a Christian missions trip deter people who hate/dislike/don’t believe in Christ or who don’t like Christians/Christianity? We are in a recession! All I know is broke people, I thought. LOL. My excuses and thoughts of doubt were endless.
Then again, I am supposed to be this social media guru, new media consultant, who has seen campaigns raise crazy amounts of money online. I used to work in the non-profit industry. In fact, besides tech, my only work experience since the age of 18 is with non-profit organizations. I’ve worked in a hands-on capacity, running organizations, as well as in the development/fundraising capacity for a very lucrative organization. I am also an internet marketer. I know what to do. Right?
At the same time, I am absolutely HORRIBLE when it comes to marketing anything related to me. I am my worst client. I’m shy. Reserved. I don’t like being the center of attention. If I could be invisible, I would be. I like to be whereever it is I’m at, but I don’t like to let it be known. I much more enjoy the observer role. So this idea of putting myself out there and thinking about everything that could go wrong wracked my brain. Furthermore, I help my clients market things online, but it’s never to get people to donate money. Generally I help my clients market their brand, their content or their product.
Putting In Work
Needless to say, I was doubtful and apprehensive about the idea of raising $950. When I was a kid I never sold candy, magazines, gift wrap and other school fundraisers. I mean, my teachers always gave me the tools and ideas for raising money….but I never participated. I didn’t care if there was a prize at the end of the tunnel (pizza party, toy, etc), I wasn’t doing it. I had a deep rooted disdain for asking people for money. As a result, I approached this project apprehensively.
It’s a little strange being your own client. Things I would have advised a client to do, I didn’t follow through with myself. I’d say I did 35% of what I would have had a client do if they were in my position. That’s about right though, since many of my clients don’t listen to me anyway lol. I’ll go ahead and give you my step by step process.
- Start a ChipIn campaign. ChipIn is a great service that lets people pay by credit card or PayPal, and it gives you a widget so everyone can see and share how your campaign is progressing. I’ve known about ChipIn since it launched years ago, but I never used it for anything. It definitely helped me keep track of my own progress rather than obsessively doing it by hand (I hate math. Yes, I went to MIT and I hate math). People also like to be able to give online versus a check.
- Write some copy. I wrote a lot of copy. This was the hard part. At times I didn’t know what to say. It’s a lot of information to tell in one sitting. I know I can be wordy. I procrastinated this step for a long time. I wrote some copy, in my own voice, for my ChipIn page. I probably could have labored over editing it down a bit more, fleshing out my voice, but by this point I was desperate to get it up since I had been procrastinating for so long. Make sure your copy is clear, concise and engaging. Most importantly, make sure it sounds like you.
- Make a Bit.ly link for your page. This was so I could track how many times my marketing efforts were producing clicks to my ChipIn page. I set this up but didn’t use the data much. Had this been a client, I would have analyzed the data closely to see where the most clicks were originating from (Twitter, Facebook, E-mail, etc), which tweets or tweet time periods produced the most clicks, etc.
- Promote the heck out of your Bit.ly link. I posted it on Twitter whenever I was talking about Haiti. I put it on my Facebook profile. It was my status and away message on AIM/GTalk/Skype. I removed my own URL from my Twitter profile, and put my Bit.ly link instead.
- E-mail people. If you have an email list of people you email regularly, send it to them. I don’t have such a list, so I had to figure this one out on my own. I decided to write PERSONAL e-mails, individually addressed to people. Deciding who to write to and what to say was a bit tricky. But this is how it went for me:
- E-mail your family. This was the obvious first step. They would at least want to know about my trip, I’m sure.
- E-mail your close-tie friends. I defined these people in this manner: if I went to Haiti, didn’t tell a soul, then returned to tell all about my travels….some people would be mad or super surprised I went to Haiti and didn’t tell them. This group of potentially pissed off people were deemed my close ties.
- E-mail your loose-tie friends. Figuring out who these people were was a bit difficult. I tend to really only engage with my close-tie friends. I’m very poor with cultivating loose-ties (that’s partially the definition of a loose-tie though). I generally decided if I knew you were a Christian who openly talked about your faith, and/or you have solicited me for your community service something or other in the past, then I was going to send you an e-mail. This was my bare minimum.
- Blog about your progress. Tweet about your progress. Every time I made a progress announcement, it fostered more interest and at times, more donations.
- Give it a personal touch. I tried my best to make all my emails as personal as possible. I hate being spammed by what seems like a form letter. I’m someone who never forwards mass emails. I rarely, if ever, promote myself via email to anyone. I made all my thank you emails as personal as possible too.
How I Discovered a Ton of my Character Flaws
I reached my goal a week early, and raised more than my goal: $1,170 total. It was a serious process for me. I floundered so much during this time. I was so insecure that nobody was going to give. I initially made the announcement on my Tumblr, which tweeted to my Twitter. I think the first day I raised $350. At that rate, I’d be done in 3 days! I hadn’t even emailed anyone yet. This was just from my initial non-aggressive announcement to the Internets. I was amazed, and I’m secure enough to tell you I shed some tears that day. People’s generosity amazed me. I emailed my donors and started up conversations with them, and all was great.
Then things got a little tougher. I sent out some emails and I began to allow some frustration to get the best of me. Some people thought I was sending them a form email and straight up asked me was this a form email lol. I said NO. It’s not like I sent out one giant BCC’d email or did some fancy mail merge (I haven’t mail merged since my 2005 non-profit work). The only time I sent out one email to multiple people was when I emailed all my line sisters and two of my prophytes.
Some people wrote me back and said they just didn’t have the funds right now. I completely understood, and loved the acknowledgment. But do you know some people had the audacity to not even reply? The nerve! lol. I’m going to be really real with you right here. I really really tried not to hold this against them. I prayed to God that my heart would not be hardened about this. It took everything in me not to set up a filter on my GMail to auto-delete everything these individuals ever sent me in the future. I understand people are busy. I’m also slow at getting back to people, which is the super ironic crazy part. But, to be honest I was offended that of all the spam-like e-mails these individuals have sent me in the past, I couldn’t get a reply that said…something…ANYthing…even if it was a NO THANKS. I wasn’t looking for money, just an acknowledgement. This happened with a few loose ties and close ties individuals. I took this very personal. But you know what? This isn’t about me, and I was allowing it to be about my own ego. This was about people in Haiti who need some medical care and a little hope, so I let it slide off my back and tried to stay focused. Furthermore, it is not my place to judge anyone’s heart. I don’t know what’s going on in everyone’s lives, nor is it my business. God really had to work on this with me.
I think the email fiasco intimidated me a little, and I shouldn’t have let it bother me so much. I didn’t market my campaign as much as I had wanted to. I didn’t e-mail and ask others as aggressively as I had planned. I had other tactics that never saw the light of day because I allowed myself to get discouraged. In fact, for a few days, I took time off from praying about it, marketing, thinking about it. It was tough. My expectations, while skeptical, were that if I didn’t get all the money in the first week, it was never going to happen.
I reached 50% of my goal at the halfway point in my timeline to raise money, and this encouraged me to finish the race strong. I was so thankful for all my donations, from the three figure ones down to the one figure ones. I had lots of conversations with God about the generosity of others, and realized this was more about a reflection of my own generosity, not others’. Why don’t I give more of myself? Why don’t I give more of my funds when people ask me to give to a cause they’re championing? Why don’t I respond to their emails for requests, even if it’s just a word of encouragement? Just because it was a mass email, is it still not a request for help and encouragement? It doesn’t matter how much you give, but the act of giving itself is where the beauty lies. Opening your hand to give to others takes a lot of courage. During this time, God was also working on my heart regarding the homeless, but that’s a whole ‘nother talk show blog entry.
I was touched by the people in my life who were giving to this cause. I realize now it may not have been the best idea to specifically target loose ties for a request, because in the end this is about offering everyone the opportunity to directly impact people of Haiti, in a timely and tangible way. This is not about the state of my personal relationships with others. I definitely didn’t ask a lot of people I had planned on asking for one silly reason or another. I don’t know anyone’s heart and what they might want to do. All this guesstimating was in some ways a judgemental move on my part. Next time I am spamming everyone I’ve ever met.
Someone I owe (a lot of!) money to gave to this cause. Can you believe that? I almost didn’t even ask this person for a donation because I felt so bad about that. But, I decided it was still an opportunity I didn’t want them to miss out on. Complete strangers donated to my campaign. Some of these strangers gave A LOT of money, too. The kindness of strangers is so surprising. Single people donated. Newlyweds donated. Married-with-five-kids people donated. Broke people donated. Ballers donated. Non-Christians, unchurched Christians, dechurched Christians, Agnostics donated. My church donated to the cause (doubly so, since one of my team members also goes to my church and they supported her too). People I wanted to ask directly, but didn’t ask because I was too scared to, donated. Every donation (and non-donation) spoke something different to me, and taught me so many lessons.
Anyway, this entry is getting way too long. I am turning in all my checks tonight. I’m a little disappointed I didn’t apply myself harder, set higher goals. I definitely took away a lot of personal development growth, as well as professional lessons in fundraising from this experience. I still need to figure out how I am going to finance my plane ticket to Haiti (another $600 of my personal funds), but I know somehow someway, God’s going to work it out for me.
Thank you for reading this far! I am so glad this part of the process is complete!