Friday, August 30, 2013

Inspiration: Turning Fun Nights Into Fundraising

Earlier this summer I went to a candle party. For those of you that don't know, it's kind of like Pampered Chef or Mary Kay, just with candles. A consultant comes to your home, shows you their products, and you and your friends order what you want. I had such a great time at my first candle party that I decided to host one of my own. Not only would it be a good excuse to get friends together, but when you host a party you get host credit when people place orders - a.k.a. free stuff! I'm always up for free stuff, so I figured, "Why not?"

I had my candle party earlier this month, and while only a few friends could make it, we still had a great time. I anxiously awaited the moment where I would find out how much free stuff I would be able to get - only to find out that my party didn't get enough sales for me to get anything. I didn't realize how much you needed to get host credit!

"Not to worry," my consultant said. "People can still place online orders so you still have time to get the host credit!"

Well as it turns out, she was right. People did place enough online orders for me to get host credit. But man, did I have to work for it! No one else from my party wanted to order anything, so I had to reach out to other people that couldn't make it to see if I could convince them to buy stuff. I was scrambling all the way up to the last minute, ultimately waiting for someone to make one $7 purchase so that I could meet the sales goal for host credit. I eventually got that last sale and got to pick out my free products, but those products certainly weren't as easy to get as I thought they would be.

When the candle whirlwind finally died down, I took a moment to pause and look back on it all. I had achieved my goal - but something sort of irked me inside. And then I realized - all that time I had spent trying to get people to buy candles, I was only thinking about me, me, me. I hosted the party so that I could get free stuff and in the end I had to work harder than I was expecting to so that I could get candle products for myself. There's a lot of Is in there, don't you think?

Now don't get me wrong, I don't think there's anything wrong with buying or selling these candles or any product that's sold in a similar way. It's something fun and it's a way that we can treat ourselves and spend time with friends and family (and even meet new people). But like everything else in life, there has to be a balance. When I had to work so hard for those candles, I felt like I no longer had that balance. I spent so much time thinking about myself and my candles that I forgot about the more important things in life.

That humbling moment was an eye-opening experience for me. After I had achieved my sales goal, I found myself saying to several people, "I feel like I should raise money for a charity now." Well, I've decided to do just that. Even though I had to work a little harder to get my candles than I thought I would have to, I was in fact successful at finding people to help me meet my sales goal. I figure I can use that motivation to help other people, for a cause bigger than my candle collection.

That's right, I am officially starting a fundraising project to help a worthy organization. I'm still not sure which worthy organization I am going to raise it for just yet, but I've determined that my goal amount to raise will be $500. Some of you may think of that as a low amount, some may think it's a high amount. There are reasons that I chose this particular number and those reasons are:

1. It's a realistic sum for me. I've never really tried to raise money for anything before, so I don't want to aim for a number that's too high. Sure I have family that can help out, but most of my friends are in the same place I am - with low budgets. This is a challenging number that is still achievable. And hey, if I go over, even better!
2. It's double the amount of money I needed in sales to get host credit for my candles. In order to get the host credit, I needed people to buy $250 worth of candle products. I figured this would be a good way to represent the series of events that motivated me to fund raise in the first place. Plus candles are cool, but charities are cooler ;)

Picking a monetary goal was the easy part. Now for the first challenging part: picking a charity. This is where I need your help! I have several charities that I would love to give to, but I can only pick one! I want your votes on which charity you think I should donate to. I only ask two things with the selection process:

1. Please don't make additional suggestions. I know that there are a lot of great charities out there, and maybe some day I can fund raise for each of them. But given that this is a small starter project, I would like to keep my list as short as possible, particularly because it is already hard to choose from these charities that are all important to me (hence the voting).
2. Please don't ask me to remove any of the options.  If you don't support a particular charity, don't vote for it. Each of these was chosen for a certain reason. ONLY if you know me and my belief system well enough and know something that I don't about the organization (like they do something that contradicts my morals) may you then contact me privately. I think they're all pretty neutral options that anyone would be open to donating to, but you never know when someone might oppose something for some random reason so I feel the need to throw this out there.

If you would like to learn more about any of these organizations before making your vote, you can click on each one and it will link to their website. If you'd like to know why I chose them, feel free to ask me! I'm happy to tell you why I selected each organization, but don't have the time to spell that out here.

And the charities, in no particular order, are (drum roll, please):

You can vote for your choice on the right-hand side of my blog - there's a poll that lets you choose from each option. I will keep the poll open until September 14th. I don't know why I picked that date specifically but I guess that doesn't really matter. So cast your votes! Once the polls close we can move on to the next step: What will I have to do in order to raise this money (or once my goal is achieved)? Should I run another marathon? Dye my hair purple? Walk around in a Gumbi suit? This is the part where I am open to suggestions so please feel free to comment or private message me with your suggestions. My narrowed-down options will be featured in a future blog post for another round of voting. I'll work on some ideas as well, so start brainstorming!

Once all that's done, the real grunt work will finally begin. I not only have to raise the money, but I need to be sure that I can collect it safely and in a way that people know I'm legit. My friends and family know me well enough to know that I'll hand over every penny I receive to the charity of choice, but if I have to reach out to strangers I want them to know that their money is secure and is going to a legitimate cause. Not to mention that even if it is just my family and friends I'd really rather not keep a collection of $500 sitting on my bookshelf. If ANYONE has more extensive fundraising experience and can point me in the right direction I would be SO APPRECIATIVE. I might even bake you cookies for your contributions.

Now that I've spent so much time writing this post, let's get started fundraising! Cast your votes! Send me your ideas! Pull out your checkbooks! And if you have a good name that I can call this fundraising operation of mine, please send that on as well! We all know how I sometimes have challenges naming things :)

* If the Wounded Warrior Project is the winner, my fundraising activity will be to train for and run a Tough Mudder, since proceeds from that event already support this particular organization. I plan on running a Tough Mudder someday no matter what (hopefully next spring), so even if another charity wins the vote for this little project of mine, Wounded Warrior Project will still get money when I run the race. Just something to keep in mind.

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