Notes from an Unlikely Fundraiser

Mia Schmid 20 days ago I started a CrowdRise Campaign raising money for Firelight’s Fund: Child Safety. I focused my campaign on two of the four organizations included in the fund, Justice for Children Trust (JCT) and Empilweni, because I’ve worked closely with them over the past two years. Their work to help children recover and heal from trauma is of particular interest to me.

My goal is to raise $500 towards the overall Fund: Child Safety goal of $25,000. This is a modest amount of money, but for someone like me who is not a fundraiser, it is a substantial undertaking. When I started this campaign I questioned whether or not I’d be able to raise the $500—I didn’t want to let our partners down. But I also wanted to push myself, to get out of my comfort zone, and live up to the challenge of raising money for organizations I believe in.

The most daunting task, of course, has been asking people for money. Thankfully, CrowdRise makes it fairly simple. You can post to Facebook and LinkedIn directly from the site and can easily share photos and videos with your audience. I felt confident that I could raise at least $100, knowing that if I nagged my family enough they would go to my CrowdRise site and donate.

I started out by sending an email to my parents and three sisters informing them about my campaign and told them stories about JCT and Empilweni. I thought my immediate family would be the most likely to donate.

My Mom, who is already a recurring contributor to Firelight, was the first to donate to my campaign. She has always supported my work and needs little incentive to donate to something that I am a part of. Her donation within the first few days of the campaign helped to get things off to a great start.

My oldest sister, an elementary school principal in Colorado, donated six days into my campaign and helped me surpass the one-third mark. She works with children from predominantly marginalized backgrounds, whose parents are in and out of the picture. It meant a lot to me that she connected her work with children in the US to children in Africa, who are facing similar challenges.

I ended up raising $150 from my immediate family, surpassing my initial goal and boosting my fundraising confidence. But targeting my immediate family wasn’t entirely successful. I was surprised to learn that one of my sisters deleted my email before she even finished reading it. She told me it was too long and boring. Although I was disappointed that she didn’t immediately jump on my campaign bandwagon, I appreciated her honesty and receiving feedback from someone I trusted was helpful. I used this to improve my messaging for my larger network of friends and colleagues.

A screenshot of Mia's Campaign page

I then tapped into my social networks, posting about my campaign regularly so that my Facebook friends would see a polite reminder to donate on their newsfeeds. Within days, friends who traveled to Uganda with me in college donated. Later a donation came in from my college roommate who has traveled throughout east Africa. It warmed my heart to see donations from friends who understood the need and also the value of donating direct to communities.

These initial donations have helped maintain my motivation, but a competitive spirit can also help. Around the office there’s been a bit of friendly rivalry among colleagues who are also fundraising through CrowdRise. When I surpassed my colleague, Evelyn Brown, she put a call out to family and friends on Facebook letting them know that she was trailing behind and needed their help. Her friends responded to the call, jumping ahead by $50. I encouraged my friends to help me make a comeback and I’m now back in the lead.

Mia's unselfie for Giving Tuesday

In only 20 days since the campaign started, I’m in awe of both the moral and financial support that I have received from family and friends. People have stepped up to show their support in ways that I couldn’t have foreseen when I first started this campaign. Being in the unlikely position of a fundraiser, I’ve seen a glimpse of what can happen when people come together for a common cause, helping communities afar because of something that resonates in their own hearts. I’ve also learned that fundraising can actually be fun!

As of today I am 96% towards my goal of raising $500. I am much further along than I anticipated in less than one month’s time. I’m now confident that I’ll meet my goal and am delighted with the Fund’s success because I know what the organizations in Fund: Child Safety can do with the money. They are able to stretch dollars to their greatest possible impact. This is what has motivated me to continue posting, nagging, and utilizing any other means of raising money for my campaign.

On that note, here’s the link to my campaign.  I’d be pretty thrilled to surpass my goal. These groups deserve it. You could always start your own campaign too!