Written by: Jonathan Lee
Embarking on a trek up Mount Kilimanjaro is an extraordinary experience that will leave you in awe of both your physical and mental strength. Given the walk up to Africa’s rooftop is by no means a walk in the park, many who take on the challenge use the opportunity to raise money for a notable cause as well. As if the 5-8 day trek isn’t already enough to prepare for, some might find tacking on raising money for charity to be a bit overwhelming. However, ask anyone who has given it a shot, and they’ll tell you no better opportunity could have existed to raise much needed funds for the charity they chose. When my friend and I decided to climb Kilimanjaro, the Horn of Africa was experiencing its worst hunger crisis as a result of the drought that had been plaguing the area for months. At first images, of young children that were malnourished and on the brink of death, coming out of the region made it feel like raising money to aid them would result in nothing more than a “too little too late” type of situation. However, thru research we found a great charity that was making a direct impact on getting the children the aid they needed. We let our egos go, we set aggressive targets, we didn’t care if we didn’t reach our goal, we just wanted to raise as much money as we could for people who needed help immediately. Raising money for charity in the end helped build tons of momentum for our climb, it gave all our friends and family a platform to cheer us on as we prepared and of course the opportunity to donate. Yes, $10,000 in 4 weeks seemed to be a bit of a stretch, but below are 10 Tips that helped us get it done. Good luck on your climb up Kili and congrats on taking on the additional challenge of raising money for charity!
1. Select the right non-profit
Choose the nonprofit / charity that you are raising money for wisely. You will be working hard to fundraise and you want to make sure all the hard earned funds are donated to a charity that will make the best use of those funds. There are millions of great causes out there and many amazing charities that support those causes. However, non-profits are just like any for-profit company or organization which require effective management in order to make an impact. What is key to note, is that all nonprofits are required to file yearly financial statements indicating how their donated funds are being utilized. I recommend reviewing the financial statements of the non-profits that you are planning on fundraising for to ensure that your donated funds will be put to good use. In most cases you should be able to find the financial statement on the non-profit’s website.
Another recommendation to validate the non-profit, are resources such as Charity Watch (http://www.charitywatch.org/), which offer good references to ensure that the particular group you are looking to donate thru is legitimate and putting the donated funds to good use.
I know it’s hard to imagine that a charity would mis-use funds, but unfortunately it happens. Here is an example of how donated funds can be which is a situation you most definitely want to avoid ... http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/13/us/worst-charities
2. Create an online fundraising page
Many services are out there that allow you to quickly create a custom online fundraising page to launch and manage your fundraising campaign. For my charity climb I used First Giving (www.firstgiving.com) which offered a quick and painless process to setup the page and manage my fundraising campaign, track my donors and transfer the donations to the charity. These fundraising services make it easy for your donors to give money as they accept credit cards and will manage the process of collecting donations and transferring it to the charity for you. These fundraising services usually charge the charity a small fee (typically 5.75-7.5%) for their service which is deducted from the donations. The charity receiving the donations will issue a receipt to your donors which they will be able to claim on their tax filings as a tax write off at the end of the year.
While you can certainly create your own fundraising page from scratch and solicit donations manually I recommend using an online fundraising service to streamline the process. A few other notable services are Rally (www.rally.org) and Fundly (www.fundly.com).
3. Tell YOUR Story in a Compelling Way
Your key to getting people to take out their wallet, type in their credit card information and hit “donate!” is explaining why you are doing raising money. Humans are naturally compassionate and a heartfelt story about why you are raising funds for a particular cause and why it’s important to you personally provides a more compelling reason for friends and family to donate towards your cause.
Prior to climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, I had been working in Kenya for 6 months. During my time in Kenya I experienced both the incredible progress that the country has made as well as the extreme poverty that still exists in much of the country as evidenced in the slums in Nairobi. As I was approaching the final weeks of my work in Kenya, I learned that East Africa was experiencing the worst drought in over 60 years causing starvation for millions living in the region.
This was a cause that I was extremely passionate about and I had seen firsthand the poverty that already existed in the country. I had so many things to do in preparation for the climb, but I took the time to write a meaningful message that eventually went out to my friends, family and even strangers via my fundraising page. Since I had taken the time to really explain what I had witnessed and furthermore explain what the drought was doing to the people in the region – my message was clear. People were dying of dehydration and starvation, I wanted my friend and family to help me help these people. And sure enough, they did.
4. Set aggressive fundraising goals
In our case, no one thought we could do it...$10,000 dollars in 4 weeks was beyond aggressive, but we realized that fundraising is not a personal goal, fundraising is about doing everything you can to maximize on how much you can raise to help an organization. Setting an aggressive target nudges you to be more creative and passionate about your fundraising and also shows your potential donors that you are serious about making a significant impact for your charity of choice. It also gives people a reason to donate and not make silly excuses and rely on other people on the list to help you make your target. Essentially it gives people a reason to believe that “every little bit counts”
5. Leverage your network and the personal touch
Don’t be shy, get comfortable with letting everyone know you are taking on the climb in support of charity The more people that know you are climbing the better...no one is going to think less of you if you don’t make it. A quote from a good friend of ours: “It won’t matter if you don’t make it to Uhuru Peak, what will matter is that you tried, what will matter even more is that you tried in spite of all the odds against you, and no one will think less of you for that”
Use the personal touch. Instead of relying only on mass email blasts and Facebook posts, I sent personal emails to my prospective donors tailored to each one of them asking for support and a donation to my cause. It was important that I made a personal connection and communicated the passion I had for the climb and the cause. It’s easy for potential donors to ignore mass emails soliciting donations but a lot harder for your friends and family to ignore personal emails that you send to them asking for donations. In my personal experience it was extremely effective in helping me reach my target.
6. Make it Easy for People to Donate
Climbing the mountain will be hard, donating to your fundraiser should easy. The less barriers you have for getting donations the better your results will be. Follow tip #2 and it will help make it easy for anyone with your fundraising link to view your fundraising page and donate with their credit card. Another tip to achieve higher donations is to suggest donation amounts by displaying what a certain donation amount will bring to your cause. In my specific case I highlighted to my prospective donors that every $100 donated would feed one child for 100 days. This gave my prospective donors something tangible to grasp on how their donated funds will be used and also seeds in their minds that they should consider donating at least $100.
7. Keep People Updated on Your Progress
Regular updates whether in the form of email updates or Facebook posts are a great way to keep your friends and family updated with your Mount Kilimanjaro preparation and training progress. It’s also a great way to give a gentle reminder to those that haven’t donated yet to see all the effort you are putting in to prepare for the climb and hopefully motivate them to get their wallets out to donate!
8. Ask other people to help you promote your cause
Give people a reason to want to help you and promote the cause on your behalf. This starts first and foremost with your story (Tip #3 above). However, beyond your story, have some element of creativity to your campaign. Make it easy for people to say yes and make the donation...give people new updates on the charity or the cause for which you are fundraising for each time you send out an update. While I raised money for the East African Hunger Crisis I provided updates on the drought in East Africa regularly and how it was affecting the people living there.
Ask your friends and family to fundraise on your behalf and share your cause with their friends and network. It’s all about the network effect and transcending your message throughout your network and their networks.
9. Get Creative
Think of creative ways to generate. You could for example host an event such as a happy hour to bring attention to your cause and fundraising campaign. At the happy hour, have your computer setup and ready to accept donations. You could also reach out to the charity you are fundraising money for to see if they would be able to send out a representative to the event to speak about the charity and the work they are doing. Leverage social media such as Facebook and Twitter to share your fundraising campaign. Share pictures and videos as users love viewing and interacting with media. Whatever it may be, get creative!
10. After climb follow-up
You’ve spent months training for the climb of a lifetime and fundraising for a cause you are passionate about. Now, it all comes down to the 5-10 days that you’ll spend trekking up to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. Your donors, family and friends will be eager to hear from you and learn about all the details of the climb. This is your opportunity to thank your donors for all of their support and to bring them with you on your journey up the mountain as you tell them your story. Remember to also remind them about the impact that they made for your cause by donating to the charity that you were fundraising for. Take a moment to relive the moments of your journey and bask in the glory of knowing that you completed a monumental challenge while making a big contribution towards a worthwhile cause!