For a worthy cause: Charity fundraising strategies explored

By Shelby Banks

When it comes to fundraising, many people find the biggest challenge to overcome is the obvious one – asking people for their money.

“You have to be able to have the nerve to knock on somebody’s front door,” says Judy Haiven, a professor in Saint Mary’s University’s management department in Halifax.

“But you have to be mindful that some people may say no and you will then have to move onto the next person.”

This week, Haiven facilitated a talk called Activism for Fundraising at the Halifax Library.

When put into groups of three, many people discussed the same challenge – they hate asking for money.  Other problems include getting the word out to people and trying to figure out which fundraising event works best for an organization.

About 20 people attended, most of them students.

If the person asked to donate says no, Haiven suggested a follow-up question to ask if they know of someone who would be interested in donating time or money.

Even with this advice, Haiven says she still hasn’t come around with the right answer to make it easier to ask for money.

Haiven offered several types of fundraiser events, from easy to difficult.

The first is bargaining fundraising. These fundraising ideas can be bottle drives, bake sales, selling lottery tickets, bingo games and passing the hat.

“A lot of people think bottle drives and bake sales are only for little kids, but that is not true,” says Haiven. “Bargain fundraisers are usually good for small organizations or small projects.  They are easy because you don’t have to think about them as much.”

Jessica Matthews, a student at Dalhousie University, is fundraising for the first time for Out of the Cold, a winter shelter in Halifax.

“We set up donation drives where you pick a day and you encourage people to drop things off and if people bring things to Value Village, then Value Village will pay your organization per pound,” says Matthews.

Value Village, a clothing donation store, fundraiser is a great idea, says Haiven.  Instead of asking for money, people are asked to gather items they don’t wear or use anymore and donate them.

“I have just been telling my friends, my classmates and I have made an event on Facebook.  I have just been telling people to spread the word that way,” says Matthews.

The next level, says Haiven, is organized funding, which includes online fundraising, annual or monthly donations, silent auctions and applying for grants.

“For organized fundraisers you have to put some thought into it, it requires more organizational skills and activates, such as silent auctions.  You just can’t bring it together fast like you can with bargaining,” says Haiven.

Linda Santoloce, who raises money for Open Harbour, says organized fundraising in her opinion doesn’t work as well as casual and optional fundraisers.

“Dinner with silent auctions – there is so much work involved because first of all you have to sell these tickets and it is the hardest thing,” says Santoloce. “I don’t buy those tickets to go for a dinner for $60 or $70 because it just doesn’t interest me at all.”

Santoloce would rather have a pass-the-hat event.  In the past, Santoloce has played movies where the hat is passed because it creates a better atmosphere because people are not pressured to hand over money.

“It makes a huge difference when you say ‘come to a film, it is free and there will be a hat passed but nobody is obligated to pay.’ But we always raise a lot of money that way,” says Santoloce.

The organizations that raise the most money are right in people’s faces, Haiven says, because if they don’t people are likely to forget about them.

“If the problem is right in your face you will probably get more money from people,” says Santoloce.

“But organizations like Out in the Cold, people tend to forget about them because they have been in the city for a longer time and they don’t receive as much money from the community.”