The day my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer was the scariest day of my life. The day she died was the loneliest. In the nine years that passed between those two life-changing days, I did everything in my power to save her.

I’m not a doctor, I’m not a scientist, I’m not a researcher. My ability to save my mom rested on my ability to fundraise. Leveraging my networks to raise money for the doctors, scientists, and researchers who could save her was the one thing I could do. So I did. I started fundraising and the experience moved me so much that I changed career paths. I saw how peer-to-peer fundraising created an opportunity for ordinary people to do extraordinary things and I wanted to be a part of it.

As a fundraising consultant for Plenty, my favorite part of my job is connecting with passionate people who are making the world a kinder and gentler place for others. And you, the World Pulse community, inspire me. Thank you for being women of action.

Whether you are raising money to pay the high school tuition for girls in your community, or starting your own business to make a better life for your family, or working towards any number of goals that will contribute to a better world, your ability to manifest change is only limited by your willingness to ask for support.

And that is my first piece of advice: you need to ask.

  1. Ask, ask, ask. When you are fundraising, you need to ask everyone you come into contact with in the course of a day, a week, a month, a year. And don’t decide for someone whether or not she can afford to donate. Share your vision of a better world, ask for her support, and then trust that she will recognize it as an opportunity to be part of something powerful. And if she says no? Shake it off and keep asking. Someone else will say yes.  
  2. Create a sense of urgency. People respond to deadlines. We’ve found that open-ended campaigns do not perform as well as those with a set start and end date. A deadline set too far in the future or no deadline at all may cause potential donors to think, “There’s no hurry, I’ll get to it.” And then life gets in the way and your request ends up getting lost in an inbox or under a stack of bills on the kitchen table. Motivate your donors to act now.  
  3. Share your story. I’m not someone who is naturally comfortable being vulnerable. However, I have found that the more authentic and personal my story when fundraising, the more generously people respond. I’ve seen that with clients as well. When you share your story, when you strive to be open and authentic, people will see how important it is to you and respond in kind. And if you’re anything like me, it may take some practice to get your story to a place with which you are comfortable. Start by writing it down if that would help you. Then try to share it in person with a family member or close friend. Ask for their feedback, adjust as needed, and then take it to your broader network.

That’s what I’ve got to get the conversation started. I look forward to creating a dialogue together, so please ask questions and share your own experiences in the comments section below.  We are a strong and diverse group of women and, together, we can and will create meaningful change.

As for my mom, even though it’s too late to help her, I truly believe that she set me on this path. Through the work that I’m doing with my colleagues at Plenty – helping organizations harness the power of networks so they can create a lasting change – I’m honoring my mom’s memory and maybe even saving someone else from knowing what it’s like to lose the most important person in their life to cancer, hunger, drunk driving, or any myriad of diseases or preventable catastrophes. What’s your inspiration? 

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Comments

Dear Suzanne,

Fundraising has always been one of the most difficult thing for me to do. I always feel that it's not ideal to place burden on people to willingly give or support projects. Your succint submission here is definately an eye opener.

I have lived in a rural community for more than 1 year and I see a great divide in terms of basic livelihood, financial knowledge and education. I am inspired to stick a match stick of innovation in these communities. Our countries are not complete without these people.

This line stick so strongly "your ability to manifest change is only limited by your willingness to ask for support."

I also like your idea of peer-to-peer fundraising and hope to learn more about it in the months ahead. I have seen many people with brilliant ideas and passionate zeal but fundraising has always been a challenge.

Do you have any community platform where all about fundraising in social projects is discussed?

...dust the smoke off the limitless treasures in you.

Hi Suzzane! I am very much inspired by your story. You have turned a period of personal pain into a new opportunity to share your gift to fundraise for worthy causes. Leveraging our networks to raise funds seems like an unfamiliar territory for me but when you shared your story, i now understand that it is not really that hard. I can even recall that i have done similar acts before in order to raise funds for someone 

MCL

Dear Suzzane,

You remind of myself where I left a good job to take care of my mom in Palestine. I say that I do not have to raise fund for my mom since she is financially stable and her illness and medical expenses are manageable.

After 37 years away from my country, I have forgotten that the Palestinians are under occupation and have a little or no connection to the outside world. I discovered many talented women, who worked very hard to make ends meat to their families while their husbands either in jail or in exile because of the occupation, which also makes it harder to move from town to anther. I am a US citizen; therefore, I am able to move between towns and help the Palestinian women to establish businesses and market their products around the world. I would love your assistance in raising fund for these women to help provide for their family. 

Abeer

 

Hi Suzzane,your story  is a good one. When i first read about world pulse, i got so inspired,coming from one of the third war country,where the rate of corruption is high and poverty the order of the day.Being a memeber of the E.E I have gotten so much idears on how to liberate the girls/women in my community who has  taking into prostution as a means of livelihood but the problems i have always had, is finaning because considering my income, i can not do much as an individaul, .But with this story,i will think of something.

Regards

Hi Suzanne,

This is so inspiring! This is what we need everyday! I am so much looking forward to learning from you on this forum! This particular phrase touches my heart: ' your ability to manifest change is only limited by your willingness to ask for support'. Now I am so willing! We can never create change in our organizations, our communities, and ourselves as individuals, without support. I am here to learn 100%. Thank you for sharing this very powerful piece!

Best regards,

Leah.

www.leahokeyo.weebly.com  

 
 
 
 

beautiful sister!inspring..this is what i need to hear.please sister,can we conect on fb.thanks to faso that told,me about you!u are the human angel i need now!

Dear Chizor,

You are welcome. Good to know that you finally found Suzanne.

Keep us updated as your fundraising effort thrive.

We will be glad to support you all the way.

Best Regards,

Fasoranti Damilola.

...dust the smoke off the limitless treasures in you.

Hello Chizor! Thank you for reaching out. Please send me a message through World Pulse so we can connect. And if you have any questions about fundraising that I can help with, please let me know. -Suzanne

Beautiful description of peer-to-peer fundraising.  In reviewing the Plenty website, I am particularly please to see the for-profit branches as I deeply believe in building in sustainability to any nonprofit program. This network of people and peer-to-peer startegy can be put to work in many contexts including crowdfunding which happens to be my area of specialty.  I'm so pleased to see nonprofits adopting this method of peer-to-peer.  Thank you for sharing, Suzanne.

Hi Suzanne, hope I can call you Suzy. My question is quite a long one but since I am using my phone browser, I am doubting if I can get all typed before my daughter distracts me. I have a wide and strange field but which is of great help to me, my dreams and my vision. With a BSc in Nursing and a MA in International Relations (option) International Communication and Public Action I have mustered the courage to create an impactive change via prevention of unpleasant happenings and preservations of lifes

Emily Miki

Thus I am practically one who is greatly involved in peer-to-peer fundraising to support the less privileged and worthy projects. It works at the community level but with little felt impact. My research on how to increase impact broughtn across on

Emily Miki

Thus I am practically one who is greatly involved in peer-to-peer fundraising to support the less privileged and worthy projects. It works at the community level but with little felt impact. My research on how to increase impact broughtn across on

Emily Miki

Dear Suzanne, 

Thanks for your inspiring story and from the strength you drew from your pain. I share a similar experience even though in my case it was my sister who died and hers was due to pregnancy complications which could have been avoided. Over the course the years, I have heard of stories of mother's who died during child birth leaving orphaned children. I still remember memories as a 3 years old child of my dad weeping over the death of my aunt due to pregnancy complications. And I cannot imagine that after over 20 years I still experience the same situation as an adult. Every morning I wake up and ask myself what my fate is and what the fate of young women in Nigeria is as it relates to child birth? Will they ever experience they joys of motherhood? It's these questions and so much more that spurs me in my passion to spread the message of safe motherhood. Getting funding has been a bit difficult so I'm glad with the tips you shared. Even though in a country like mine it's really difficult to fundraise because of a lot of factors but I sure will put these steps to use. 

Thanks,

Odion

odion

So research brought me across online funding via online funding sites, crowdfunding and even online donor applications, I have tried using some in this one year I came across it but with so much difficulties. Top on is online credit theft which uses paypal as a secured means of online monetary transactions but it doesn't work in my country Cameroon. I have asked friends and colleagues who told me paypal doesn't pay into Cameroonian accounts. Another is my fellow Cameroonians in the diaspora don't get involved as expected and I also strongly believe my donor network at the International level is still weak. So I get stuck on my desires to help

Emily Miki

So I will really appreciate mentorship from both you and RLEscher. It will greatly empower me and enhance my skills. Thanks and kudos on you good works. J

Emily Miki

Thank you, Suzanne, for sharing your experience and insight about peer-to-peer fundraising here! And thanks to all who have joined the conversation to post comments, questions, and to share your own experiences, as well! Let's keep the discussion going!

In order to simplify a bit, I will consolidate some questions that I've seen come up for Suzanne to address. Here are some questions we've seen come out of the conversation thus far:

1. Do you have any community platform(s) where all about fundraising in social projects is discussed? (Fasoranti)

2. Can you reccommend resources for asking assistance in raising funds? (Abeer)

3. How can we work with the challenges of online funding/funding sites? (i.e. paypal doesn't pay into Cameroonian accounts) (Emily Miki)

4. How can one strengthen and grow her donor network, both at the local, national, and international level? (Emily Miki)

5. Great advice to "Ask, ask, ask." In recognizing that many WP women are asking through online forums, social media, etc.: How does one make her "ask" more compelling and personal in the online setting? What tools or techniques are important to implement in asking online versus in-person? (Eliza)

6. Sharing your story is powerful, yes! Do you have any tips on how to tell your story when asking for funding and support? How did you get your story to a place where you felt comfortable sharing it, especially with strangers or those that you didn't have a close, personal relationship with? (Eliza)

(I've linked to the comments above so you can read the question as it originally appeared)

Please keep the questions coming! I'd love to know from the community, what is your answer to the bigger question that Suzanne posed: "What's Your Inspiration?"

We are here, listening...

1. Do you have any community platform(s) where all about fundraising in social projects is discussed?

From what I’ve seen of the World Pulse community, I think this is the place to do that. Does anyone else have any suggestions for similar groups?

2. Can you recommend resources for asking assistance in raising funds?

I need a little bit more clarification on this question – are you asking for people/organizations to ask when looking for funding and support? Or are you looking for tools to help you make the ask (e.g. solicitation letter)?

3. How can we work with the challenges of online funding/funding sites? (i.e. Paypal doesn’t pay into Cameroonian accounts).

I would love to redirect this question to the group since you all have more experience with this aspect than I do. That is not a hurdle I have had to deal with in my fundraising work. Here are a few of the more popular sites I know of but I’m not sure if there are restrictions on where they send money: IndieGoGo, GoFundMe, CrowdRise, Microventures.

4. How can one strengthen and grow her donor network, both at the local, national, and international level?

I could probably write another entire blog post about this, but I think it comes down to two main themes: make sure people feel appreciated and don’t be afraid to ask people to introduce you to their networks. People who give of their time, talents, and money want to know that they made an impact. People have a seemingly unlimited number of options when choosing how to spend their talents and resources, so make sure if they choose to spend them helping you – that you communicate the impact they have made and you thank them immediately and thank them often. Part of growing your network is keeping those who are already in it. If they feel valued and appreciated then they are likely to become invested for the long-term, instead of being one and done (giving once and then moving on). Which brings me to the next point – ask those who are in your network to ask their network to get involved. That’s one of my favorite things about peer-to-peer – you make an ask of someone who knows and trusts you, and then they make an ask of someone who knows and trusts them, and so on. You may not know the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 100th connection down the line, but they are getting the ask from someone with whom they already have a relationship. Focus on showing gratitude and impact and asking your network for help.  

5. Great advice to “Ask, ask, ask.” In recognizing that many WP women are asking through online forums, social media, etc. How does one make her “ask” more compelling and personal in the online setting? What tools or techniques are important to implement in asking online versus in-person?

Asking online is efficient and allows you to reach anyone around the world. However, because you are asking people you may never meet in person, there is a barrier to trust there. How does a potential donor know that you are doing what you say you are doing? How do they know that you are being a good steward of their funds? Photos and videos can be beneficial when making an ask through online forums and social media. If you have access to a smart phone or camera, make a series of short videos: explain who you are, what you are trying to accomplish, and what help you need; make another one showcasing your project if applicable (e.g. trying to fund a school); make another one for each major donor – mention them by name and show them the progress you are making, ask them to share it with friends.  The more you can bring someone into your world and into your life when making that ask over the internet, the more likely they will donate.

6. Sharing your story is powerful, yes! Do you have any tips on how to tell your story when asking for funding and support? How did you get your story to a place where you felt comfortable sharing it, especially with strangers or those that you didn’t have a close personal relationship with?

As mentioned in the post, I recommend writing your story down to help you think through it, and then practicing with a trusted friend or family member. Gradually move beyond that to other friends, acquaintances and then the people you don’t know. If most of your fundraising is done online, that does make it easier, because you don’t have the added pressure of being face-to-face and you can craft your story before sharing it. Here are three tips for telling a compelling story when asking for funding and support:

Focus on one. The reason stories are so compelling is because they are about one person - whether that person is you or someone you love or someone in your community. I could talk all day long about the number of women (and men!) dying from breast cancer and other types of cancer, but people don’t connect with numbers. They connect with people. They connect with the story one daughter who loves her one mom so much that she wants to do anything she can to save her. Most everyone can relate to that desire to help someone they love, so they are connecting on that level because of how it makes them feel. So instead of telling stories about hundreds or thousands or millions of people, tell stories about one person – even if fundraising for a school or community. Choose just a few students’ stories to tell to help humanize what you are trying to accomplish.

Make it positive. Doom and gloom stories used to work in fundraising. Photos of children dying were a common sight in fundraising marketing materials. Not any longer. Studies have shown that instead of guilting people into giving, those stories and photos cause people to turn away. They want to escape from the emotions it makes them feel. If I focus on the fact that my mom passed away and all of the sadness that goes along with that – people won't be inspired to give. Instead, I tell a story of hope – the belief that even though it is too late to help my mom, she taught me about helping others and inspired me to keep going so I could save someone else’s mom or sister or best friend. Try to find the balance between tragedy and hope when telling your story.

Know your audience. I have multiple versions of my story. I have the short version I tell when I meet someone in passing and know I only have a few minutes to catch their attention. I have the longer story I tell when I am writing to someone else who I know has the same, or similar, deeply personal connection to the cause that I do. I have the version I tell when approaching a potential major donor with whom I have a relationship. It’s all the same story, just adapted to the situation and audience.

7. Don’t you think this ‘everyone’ persons could just not take you serious? Shouldn’t we be asking the right persons? Local leaders, colleagues and partners. Find out about international organizations that are encouraging research/activities in your area of work, and invite them to fund your project.

Yes, I agree that there are different levels of asks to be made, and targeting your asks can lead to increased success. This is an excellent point. The point I was making with the “ask ask ask” is that oftentimes when people are fundraising they only ask people who they know are wealthy, or they only ask local leaders, or they only ask people of influence. They decide whether or not someone has the ability and interest to give without actually asking that person. In peer-to-peer fundraising, however, we often find that those we expect to give big, don’t – and those we hesitate to ask because maybe they don’t have a lot of money or we assume they don’t have a connection, surprise us by giving big.  So ask everyone.

And to your point – yes, the right person is someone who cares or has a connection to the cause, like you mention with organizations that are encouraging research/activities in that area of work. That connection is the key – we see fundraisers reach out to wealthy people and people of influence simply because they have money and influence. But everyone is reaching out to those people for those exact same reasons. So ask everyone and, in addition, make a targeted ask to the right people. Thank you for your collaboration on this, Marah!

Dear Suzanne, So rich and inspiring, your piece on fundraising! Your first suggestion states: 'ask, ask, ask... everyone you come in contact with.' Brilliant idea!But don't you think this 'everyone' persons could just not take you serious? I am inspired to make the following suggestions: - Ask from the right persons... Mobilise you local leaders, colleagues and partners in diverse fora and cultural events - speak out to raise awareness and call for action. When they understand your goal, they will readily give their support and sometimes propose to you other potential sponsors/donors you may have to contact. - Find out about international organisations that are encouraging research/activities in your area of work, and invite them to fund your project. I look forward to sharing more with you!

Marah Epie WP Vocal Contributor / Community Listener.

Dear Suzanne,

Thank you so much for such an inspiring and eye opening article. I have read and reread it quite a number of times since publication, trying to pinpoint exactly what I have been doing wrong in the last 13 years that I have been trying to fundraise for the Centre for Disadvantaged Girls' and Malkia Foundation's projects/programs. I can truly say that fundraising is the hardest part of my existence as a grassroots leader, which limits the achievement of my vision for Malkia Foundation, making it seem forever unattainable elusive. For instance, we have amassed enough donations of tools, equipment and machinery to outfit our community vocational training college but they are still stuck in Austin, Texas for close to a year now because our inability to fundraise towards the shipping costs. I am also in the process if fundraising towards a ticket to attend what could be the most important conference of my life, the Opportunity Collaboration, which will be held in Ixtapa, Mexico in October, but months later, it's still the same old story. I need your help to iron out the kinks in my fundraising abilities, Suzanne. Thank you.

All the best,

Phionah Musumba Founder/Executive Director Malkia Foundation & Centre for Disadvantaged Girls, Kenya P.O Box 9461 - 00300, Nairobi, Kenya Facebook: Phionah Musumba Twitter: @KenyaGals LinkedIn: Phionah Musumba Skype: phionah.anguzuzu.musumba

Thank you so much for sharing your story Suzanne and also for this wonderful tips on fundraising. I hope this is going to help me in fundraising to organize Imagine workshops for women and girls in Nigeria. The Imagine workshop can also be called human agency workshop, (I am + I can) www. imagineprogram.net . This workshop is to help women and girl in creating the life they want, knowing their own truth and maximize their potentials. You are such an inspiration Suzanne and may the soul of your wonderful Mum rest in perfect peace. We appreciate your sharing with us

Warmest Love Busayo

Busayo Obisakin Women inspiration Development center Ile-Ife, Nigeria busobisaki@yahoo.com womeninspirationcenter@gmail.com http://womeninspirationce.wix.com/widcng

Dear Suzanne,

Thanks for the detailed answers, quite encouraging and concise for further research and implementation.

Hearty Cheers, Fasoranti.

...dust the smoke off the limitless treasures in you.

Dear Suzanne,

You did great by sharing the touching but hope inspiring story of your journey into the world of social change and fundraising. Beyond reading your post, I have also read through the eye opening and highly engaging conversation which set off. I have learned a lot and hope to make the most of the new learning on the all too important issue of fundraising. 

 

Best regards,

Olanike

Dear Suzanne,

Thank you so much for this post. The timing is excellent. I too am studying it, and am also studying the responses. This morning I began a cross Canada trip to meet women here, to describe WorldPulse and how much more is possible now that we are able to reach each other directly. Part of every meeting will be a call to create and strengthen these connections, heart and mind of course, but also a deeper look at what can be done financially. It has not been my forte, but I am determined to do it. The problems I come across are, the mess of the world economy is so vast, and the money needed immediately so critical, eyes gloss over. The other common response (less often, thankfully) is "How do you know that it gets used for what you sent it for?" I try to be patient, and I think it is mixed in with "Will it get to her?", a valid problem but possible to solve. I also say that I don't mean to stop sending money that is going somewhere great already, but serious reflection on what is possible personally, along with widening the network, is always worth doing. What I believe will be the difference is that as I have the opportunity to introduce you amazing sisters, and some awesome brothers, what has been "an issue" becomes working seriously with another sister on a project she has already begun. Tomorrow is the first meeting. I'm still amazed that as I sat down to think about all this, here is all the food for thought! Again, thank you. So helpful.

With love in Sisterhood,

Tam

 

Hi sisters I recently launched a campaign via Causes and Indiegogo at https://www.causes.com/campaigns/94475-educate-orphans-and-invest-in-the... and https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/educate-an-orphan-and-invest-in-their... to support our scholarship program set out to educate orphans in Cameroon. Please join forces with us and pledge and donate a token to change a childs life by investing in his future through education.

Love and Light!

Emily Miki