My Brush with a Real-Life Fundraising Disaster
For the past seven months, I have been writing very regularly on the best ways to raise money for your school. I’ve offered advice on how to connect with your community, so that you can have the most productive fundraisers possible. I’ve written thousands of words on this subject. So, I think it would be fair to say that I have fundraising on the brain.
Therefore, it is not surprising that I had as strong a reaction as I did last night when I found myself, as an innocent bystander, in a real-life fundraising disaster.
(For the sake of not hurting anyone’s feelings, I will not divulge any of the details about this organization.)
Recently, I signed my four year old daughter and my five year old daughter up for a sports-related activity. They had never pursued this kind of activity before, and they were quite excited. Last night was the fourth meeting of this group.
Just before the class started, the teacher walked over to me and handed me an envelope. “Here’s information on the fundraiser. It’s a raffle. Sell as many as you can and return the left-overs next week.”
Now, I don’t fault the teacher. She was a young girl, and she was just doing as she was told. Her job was to teach my daughters a new skill, not raise money for this non-profit organization. So, really, I want to let her off the hook. But I do have a few words for the people who are in charge.
Here are some of the things that I think were handled terribly and did not at all inspire me to go out and work for them.
First of all, I didn’t even realize that this group was a non-profit until I read the raffle ticket. There is absolutely nothing posted in the entrance way that details the group’s status or mission statement. We never received any kind of letter or pamphlet that welcomed us to the community and explained who they were.
Second, I had absolutely no idea that I would be expected to participate in a fundraising activity until the moment I was handed an envelope of raffle tickets. I felt it was incredibly offensive that they just assumed that would be okay to ask of me. They wanted me to spend my time to convince my friends and family to purchase these tickets and help them, but they didn’t think it was important enough to give me fair warning. Maybe all the other families expected this fundraiser to come up, but no one ever said anything to me about it.
Third, they only gave me a week to do this. What were they thinking? On the scale of priorities in my life, these lessons for my daughters don’t crack the top ten. Do they really think that I will re-order my life immediately to sell these tickets? If they do, they are being incredibly presumptuous.
Beyond the PR nightmare they created, I am also concerned by their lack of understanding of what a bad planning idea that is. What if I get really sick this week? What if I’m out of town? What if I have a cash crunch this week and can’t afford the tickets at this very minute? Giving a person only seven days to raise money is an elementary mistake.
Fourth, I really didn’t like the way the director of this group set up the staff. From the way it is handled, I could tell they were given no instruction, no advice on how to talk to parents, nothing other than “Just pass these out”. The girl who gave me my envelope of raffle tickets almost looked apologetic when she handed me the packet.
Now, again, I do this sort of stuff for a living, so I admit I am way more hypersensitive than your average person in matters like these. However, from my experience, I can make a fairly educated guess that this organization is raising only a fraction of what it could if they did things the right way.
And that’s really the point I’m making here. Fundraising is difficult. In a time when our economy is hurting and people are struggling, fundraising is even harder. If you really want people to help you, you’re going to have to do everything right. I just saw this situation with my daughters’ class as an example of a non-profit doing virtually nothing right.