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You don't need to see the whole staircase just to take the first stepDear Ms. Klein:

I am the treasurer of the Spanish Honor Society at my local High School. My goal is to raise approximately $20,000 in order to have all our club members fly to Costa Rica. We plan to volunteer at an orphanage there where we will teach the children English and organize activities for them. The problem is, however, that I have no idea where to start. I know a project of this scale requires more than a bake sale, but what? I understand that you are probably more used to dealing with things of a larger scale, but do you have any tips for the penniless high school student?


~Never Too Young To Start Fundraising

Dear Never:

Actually, your project is bigger than many I deal with, and it sounds like an important learning experience for your Club.  You will want to do this in phases:

1)   Form a small committee of club members, maybe your teacher and a couple of parents to help you.  Do not attempt this on your own!

2)   Start with the parents of the Club Members.  Send a letter home with each club member describing the trip and why it is so important, not just for the children you will be helping, but also a chance to become much more fluent in Spanish and to experience Costa Rican culture.  Note that your club wants everyone to be able to participate, and so is not leveling a price for each student, but rather raising a lump sum that will pay for everyone.  However, to get started you need to know what parents may be able to contribute. The form should indicate that each student costs $1000 (or whatever is true) and ask parents to note what they can afford.

3)   While that is happening, ask any one you know (or look on the internet) for scholarship sources in your community that might be available from Zonta, Rotary, or other service clubs.  If a local merchant is known to be supportive of high school activities, approach her or him.  Given the nature of this trip, I would approach travel agents, recreational equipment stores and bookstores.

4)   Also, your committee should make a list of people they know in the community who they think would be supportive of this kind of trip.  Think about people who went on trips like this when they were in high school or college, people who travel a lot, people who speak more than one language and think that is important, people who volunteer with children, and people who graduated from your high school and loved it, etc.  The key here is that the person must be known by someone on the committee. Send this list an e-mail or letter, which you will follow up with a phone call. These people should be approached for gifts in the $50-$250 range.

5)   Finally, keep track of the money as it comes in.  Once you are at about $18,000, consider a bake sale or other similar event, but make sure you have a banner with your goal on it, and ask people to donate to your trip rather than selling each cookie for $.50.

6)   On the back end, you will need to thank everyone who gives, and after the trip is over, send them a report about it and another thank you.  You should consider having a group blog during the trip that donors can subscribe to.

For more ideas of ways to raise this kind of money, see the book, “The Accidental Fundraiser” by Stephanie Roth and Mimi Ho (Jossey Bass Publishers).  It has 11 strategies in great detail, with forms, templates and lots of examples.

And good luck!  I think these trips are wonderful and I wish your club all the best.

~Kim Klein

Originally published in the Grassroots FundRaising Journal. FundRaiser users can subscribe at a special rate of $30/year by entering is "$30" in the coupon code field on the second page of the subscription process.

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