This week’s Featured Fundraiser is Dan Smith. Check out his blog where he advocates and fundraises for cystic fibrosis.
If you ever would like to nominate someone for Feature Fundraiser just send me an email. – Jason
What kind of fundraising do you do and who do you do it for?
I really consider myself a sort of “blue collar” fundraiser. By that I mean that I don’t do a lot of work on the foundation or organization level. Most of my fundraising is simply on the level of a concerned individual. I am a father who’s daughter has a disease called cystic fibrosis, so I raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. My fundraising efforts include the annual Great strides event, which is our main focus, and then raising money with other odd events, like a half marathon I’m training for at the moment. In all, my wife and I (through our team), have raised more than $12,000 for the fight against cystic fibrosis.
What keeps you going? Why do you keep working in development?
A little 4 year old named Samantha keeps me going. Honestly, I don’t want her to die, and if the law of averages holds, she’ll need a double-lung transplant by the time she’s 25 or so and her life expectancy is 37. That’s not good enough for me. And while I’m not in development with the Foundation, I am always trying to develop my team.
What tips/advice do you have to other fundraisers in your field?
Get passionate about it. Honestly, at our level…the level of the concerned individual…there isn’t anything else to know. Strategy and all things associated with it are secondary to passion, at least that’s my belief. Credibility is paramount, and you build credibility partly through your passion. People have to see how much it means to you.
There is a guy on my ship whose son has a very nasty disease. The immediate effects of the disease on his son’s life are more detrimental to the slower attack of cystic fibrosis on my daughter’s body. However, he is just not passionate about fundraising (he’s a very good father…these are not related issues). Because I am, people know about my organization…no one knows about his. People know immediately that I am serious and honest about what’s going on. Our efforts have gained credibility with those around us.
What is the most frustrating or difficult thing about fund development?
I speak only as a father, but I think the thing that frustrates me the most is that any real fund development that I’ve attempted didn’t want to deal with me. The organization only wanted to accept proposals from the Foundation. In fact, the only major corporate donor we’ve gotten so far is the company my dad works for. The others I contacted were very gracious (most of them) and wanted to help, but informed me one way or another that I needed to have the headquarters contact them. This was unfortunate, although I accept the fact. So I would say that getting people to take you seriously as a fundraiser is a difficult process.
How do you set a goal as an individual fundraiser?
The most important thing is to be cautiously risky. This is especially true if you are personally affected by whatever you are raising money for. I freely admit that I can be a bit reckless when it comes to setting a goal. When I learned that the average team raised $1,500 for cystic fibrosis research each year, I set out to raise twice that much. We ended up as a team raising just shy of three times that much. The next year, I set out to best that by 20%. We actually bested it by 31%. I plan on attempting another 20% this year and see where that takes us.