Homeless youth

Homeless youth
People we don't see.

Monday, February 28, 2011

A voice for the voiceless

I love being a fundraiser. If you have met me personally or have read any of my previous blog posts you probably already know this. I feel incredibly privileged to be able to fundraise for an HIV/AIDS group, more specifically, for the HIV/AIDS group I fundraise for, Boulder County AIDS Project.

BCAP, like many non-profits, support many individuals who have no voice. I call these folks "the voiceless".

The voiceless includes almost an unending list. In our case it is people with HIV of AIDS who live in poverty and people who are at risk of becoming HIV positive. It can be animals, prisoners of conscience, women, trans people, people of faith in different countries, the marginalized in this country, etc, etc.

As fundraisers, we have the amazing opportunity to help those who help give support to the voiceless. The attached photo is of a young, Iranian woman protesting last year in Baghdad. I would like to add brave and courageous to my description of her. Her hand-made sign carries a simple message. If we thought she was voiceless, she might disagree. Yet although she had a voice on this day, she most likely has not protested since the Iranian government violently crushed the protests last year.

Where does this fit in with Fundraising for Free? I'm glad you asked.

No matter the cause, no matter the location, no matter the definition of "voiceless", fundraisers have the power to help make this world a better place for all by assisting those who make the actual change. The more tools we have to fundraise, the more relevant and successful our work is. And that is where I hope my blog can help.

An example of this is a Fundraising for Free! workshop I did this past weekend at the Colorado Queer Youth Summit in Denver. A couple hundred queer youth (mainly high school students) from around the state met for speakers, workshops, and other fun activities. I was thrilled to be able to present my fundraising workshop, and to work with you on creative ideas of fundraising for causes they are passionate about, mainly for the Gay-Straight Alliances in their high schools.

These youth are ready to make change. Now they have some tools to financially support making that change.

Here's to all of you out there raising money to help make this world a better place! I am completely honored to be your peer.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Social Media Part II - Twitter

After veering off the social media topic for a couple of posts I am thrilled to be writing about one of my favorite platforms for social media: Twitter.

Many of you know about this blog because of Twitter. I am one of those fundraisers who absolutely loves Twitter. Before I start about Twitter, please remember that everything I present may or may not be a good fit for you, your agency, or your cause. As I say in the workshop, "Different strokes for different folks". This definitely applies to Twitter. All I ask is that you check it out with an open mind.

The main thing for me and Twitter is always looking at my Twitter usage and making sure that it is relevant, that my messaging is relevant, and that the time I put into it is relevant. It's important to me that people actually read and respond to my tweets. It's important to me that my tweets mean something to the reader.

Our name on Twitter is @BoulderAIDS . Have a look at it if you want to see a non-profit in action on Twitter.

Twitter is different than many other types of social media. The writer has 140 characters to use for their message. It might not seem easy at first but you can easily get used to it. A Twitter post is called a "tweet". If you want to reach people who follow different types of groups or causes, you can use a hash tag ( # ) which will add your tweet to a list of other tweets with that same hash tag. For example, when I am tweeting about HIV or AIDS, or something that happened at our agency, I use #HIV, knowing that anyone reading HIV tweets will read mine. This is an incredible way to get your tweet read by even more people.

I tweet about our agency's work and mission, about HIV and AIDS in our community and in Colorado, and about fundraising from the smaller non-profit perspective. I do not tweet about very personal issues as I am tweeting in the name of Boulder County AIDS Project and want to make sure my tweets reflect a level of professionalism.

If you would like to have a Twitter "How To Guide", connect with @ConnectColorado on Twitter and ask for the Colorado Non-Profit Twitter usage study. Lots of great tips on how to use Twitter from the on-profit perspective.

Another great thing about Twitter is that you can connect with so many allies. I was honestly surprised to see how many AIDS Service Organizations there are out there doing amazing work. I have also been able to connect with others in an effort to collaborate in different ways.

I would love your feedback on Twitter, so please leave a comment. There is more to come so please keep that in mind. Meanwhile, check Twitter out. If you already use Twitter, think of ways you can increase your followers, and your relevancy.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Get pumped up!

Having begun the series on social media and what has worked for our agency, I am working on the next post which is about our use of (and success with) Twitter. Then of course life happens and I have decided to switch that around a bit.

I am sitting at my desk with my coffee, Black Eyed Peas playing ("I Gotta Feeling"), and getting excited about an agency site tour I am doing in a little while with some student bloggers from the University of Colorado here in Boulder.

My thoughts have been on my fellow fundraisers this morning. In order for us to rock-n-roll with fundraising, and to be successful with the ideas I present here, it is vital that we take care of ourselves. It is vital that we connect with people and causes that inspire us. For me personally it is vital to have a passion for the work that my agency does. It's vital for me to get pumped up about fundraising, which is why the Black Eyed Peas are playing in my office.

So for this blog post, I want to look at ourselves as fundraisers and make sure we are taking care of ourselves. Do you feel inspired? Do you feel pumped? Or are you exhausted and need a break? Can you take a walk at lunch time or perhaps meet with a peer over coffee outside of the office this afternoon? Can you meet with a client that your agency serves so you can be reminded of your agency's vital work?

This blog, Fundraising for Free!, is all about sharing experiences that have worked for me in my role as a fundraiser in the hopes that I can help others who fundraise or are working for their favorite cause in some way. Before we can totally rock for our cause, we need to look in the mirror and make sure all is well with us first.

Take a look. Take care of yourself. Whoever you fundraise for depends on you to totally rock it!

As always, I would love to hear from you!

By the way, camping is one way I take care of myself. This photo is from a camping trip we took last summer at Seven Mile State Park in Colorado. Suga is in the photo with me.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Getting in on the Valentine's Day spirit!

I know, I promised Social Media Part II next. Yet today is a special day. So here we go!

Did you know that on average, people spend $128.00 on Valentine's Day?!?!

This figure kind of blew me away.

How can I get some of that for my agency or my cause?

I realize that this posting is a bit late as TODAY is Valentine's Day, but I'm going to give it a try and I would LOVE it if you gave it a try too!

First, call your donors and wish them a Happy Valentine's Day! This might be your first verbal interaction of the year, and what a great way to interact with your donors! No need to make an ask, just call to wish them a wonderful Valentine's Day! This will be huge to them and deifnitely nurture your relationship with them. WHo doesn't like receiving a Happy Valentine's Day call!

Next, use your social media networks to let people know how much folks spend on Valentine's Day and make an ask for some of that. $25 would help us in feeding one of our clients through our food bank today. Something like that. Use Facebook, Twitter, even YouTube if you have the capacity. Work it! Make sure for Facebook and Twitter that you include a link to your donation page.

If you have a favorite radio station that takes live calls during the, call them and make a public Happy Valentine's Day wish from your agency!

There are many other options, from delivering those cute (elementary-style) Valentine's Day cards to baking heart-shaped cookies for local businesses who have supported you. The main thing here it to have as much human interaction today as possible. Let the world know who you are and let all of your supporters know how incredibly grateful you are for their support!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Can Facebook work for you and your cause?

I love Facebook. On a personal level I have connected with friends who I had lost touch with, friends who are once again in my life and whom I not only chat with on Facebook but call and visit now. It took me a while to get comfortable on Facebook with my personal account before I could take the jump into a page for our non-profit. As many staff, volunteers, board and donors of Boulder County AIDS Project that are on Facebook it just made sense to create an agency page.

The first piece of advice I can offer is to make sure that you create a non-profit page, and not a group page. When you have a non-profit page, anyone listed as an administrator can post using the agency name/logo. It looks more official that way with posts. The group page doesn't allow that.

Before you decide to create a Facebook page for your group, make sure that you have the time and can make the commitment to actually use it. I use ours to promote events, to promote an urgent need or an action alert, and to let readers know when one of our clients has passed away. I post links to information regarding HIV/AIDS and fundraising, and try to engage our readers into some type of action.

And all of this is free!

I would also like you to know that you can fundraise on Facebook through their giving program. We do not do this as the fee is a lot (for us) and we pay no fees with our online giving setup with Giving First.

The thing I love the most about Facebook is that people following you WANT to follow you and you can get news out to peole who are interested in an instant. We are currently promoting our upcoming Humongous Book and Media Sale using Facebook and the response is great.

Speaking of our event, from your non-profit profile you can create events and invite those following you plus any or all of your Facebook friends. Then those friends can invite their friends. Before you know it, hundreds of people know about your event.

There is a lot involved with Facebook so please take the time to have a look at whether or not this would work for you, knowing it does take a time commitment. For us it's an incredible asset to our fundraising plan and to our plan of staying in touch with people who care about our mission.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Did you hear what happened in Tunisia?

I am writing this post from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's annual Creating Change conference in Minneapolis. I am literally surrounded by activists.

Personal promo: If you're at Creating Change, please join me for my Fundraising for Free! workshop at 9am on Friday.

In the past several days, my eyes have been glued to whatever newscast I can watch regarding the protests in Egypt. As an activist, I am heartened by what I see. I also watched the protests in Tunisia, and the subsequent departure of their president. It seems that it all started with an unemployed graduate student setting himself on fire after being harassed by the police about his food cart. Within days, thanks to the use of Twitter, protest marches never seen before popped up in Tunis, the capital city. And they grew.

Tunisia. Egypt. Creating Change. Activism. Changing the world. Fundraising fits right in.

This week I am going to begin a several-post writing about social media. The Wikipedia definition of social media is: media for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques. Social media use web-based technologies to turn communication into interactive dialogue.When I think of social media I think of Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and even our monthly email blast. I use all of these to fundraise for free! (you knew I would fit that in somewhere!)

This post will be the first of many in which I write about my experiences using social media to fundraise for our agency (and other groups). We have had great success with all of the formats I just mentioned, and I honestly believe that any non-profit can support their fundraising efforts with social media.

There are many opinions about social media and all the platforms for social media. For this blog the ideas I share will always be ones that have worked for us in fundraising. I definitely urge you to have conversations with those you're fundraising with in regards to which methods would work best for you. I also ask that you keep an open mind about social media and allow you (and your fundraising effort) to have your own personal experience with social media. I promise there is something for everyone when it comes to social media.

Before I break down all of the methods we use, I would like you to take a moment and decide what you want to get out of social media. Do you want to put your brand out there more? Do you want to promote an event? Do you want to start an urgent action communication, or an advocacy platform? Who do you want to connect with, and why?

I ask all of these questions because social media to me is all about relevancy. Do people actually read my email blasts? My tweets? Do people who respond to a Facebook event invite actually show up, or do they take action if the Facebook posting is an ask to take action?

Think about all of this and stay tuned as we start Fundraising for Free using social media!