This afternoon I gave at talk about fundraising at the RGS Explore Conference. If you were there then this post will give you some more information, some of the links and resources I mentioned and a copy of the slides. If you weren’t, well, you get all of the above without having to endure my bad jokes.
I think that it’s easy to assume that fundraising is all about money.
I for one have been to past talks on the subject with my pen poised, ready to jot down the secrets to making my fortune. But, expeditions are often about getting away from the rat race and daily grind, and money isn’t the sole focus of my normal life – far from it – so I’ve tried to steer away from that in my fundraising.
Thus my tips are about fundraising in the broader sense, of which “making as much money as possible” is just one aspect. Good practice, good pitches, taking your responsibilities seriously and raising for charities as well as personal expeditions also play a part.
My aim is not just to tell you how best to squeeze money out of people but how to get the most out of your fundraising activities as a whole.
Tip #1: Ask yourself why you want the money
It’s very easy to assume that you need money to do an expedition. That you need a sponsor, a big cheque and loads of free gear. But…
- Do you really need it? Or have you just thought: “I’m going on an expedition therefor I must need money”? I was recently approached by someone who wanted help with sponsorship. When I asked what specifically, it turned out that they simply needed two or three very small items of equipment (probably less than £50) and my advice was that they buy it.
- Do you really want it? Cliche as it sounds, with money comes responsibilities (and if you don’t think it does then please refer to the last question of this section). Whether it’s writing up reports or endorsing a brand, you will need to give something back.
- Could you save your own money – work more or spend less? You probably rough it on expedition so why not rough it at home for a bit so you can afford a trip without the rigmarole of getting a sponsor. (Tips on this under the Resources at the bottom).
- Do you deserve it? Would you honestly give yourself the money?
This is not a negative approach (I don’t believe in negativity) or an attempt to put you off fundraising. It is simply a gentle nudge to make you think twice before ploughing in and asking for someone else’s money.
Tip #2: Do your research
If you do decide to go ahead and ask someone else to pay for your expedition then it seems only polite that you do your research first.
You want to be prepared for any question that they can throw at you. Learn everything there is to know about your expedition and it will be far easier to impress. Read up on whoever it is that you are approaching, it will improve your chances, may lead to useful findings and, besides, it would be pretty rude to ask for money from someone whom you know nothing about.
Use the resources available to you. Get on Google, read the RGS Expedition Report Database and their list of grants (links below).
Tip #3: Tell everyone, take every opportunity
If you really want to go on this expedition then show it.
I am a big advocate of bragging about your ideas to friends down the pub as a means of committing oneself for fear of embarrassment/reprimand. But, as well as providing motivation, spreading the word is absolutely key when it comes to making opportunities and finding help.
Email people, write letters, pick up the phone, tell your friends, tell your family, tell everyone you know. Network, Blog, Tweet, Facebook – I don’t care if you don’t like these things – you have a mission!
The photo you can see at the top of this entry is of me at last year’s Explore Conference. It’s not the first time that I’ve strapped a sign to my back and strutted through a crowd. Do not be ashamed, do not be shy. Do not be afraid to embarrass yourself for you are working towards a higher goal.
And, if you have the undivided attention of a captive audience then always be prepared with a shameless plug.
Tip #4: Be honest, be open
When writing sponsorship letters, drafting press releases or designing your website, it is very tempting to exaggerate the possible achievements/risk/remoteness/scientific-importance of your trip in an attempt to impress.
There is no need.
If we all avoid hyperbole then we create a level playing field. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment. If you are honest about your plans and tI ell your story in your own words then people will recognise that and appreciate it. You’ll increase your chances of bringing sastisfaction to those who have invested their time, money and emotions into your trip.
Under promise, over deliver.
Tip #5: Give something back
If you have obeyed Tip #3 and told everyone about your trip – the guy sat next to you on the Tube, the girl you met at the bar and the person trying to sell you double glazing – then by the time you’ve actually finished the expedition, you’ll probably be sick of talking about it.
I fell foul of this on my Around the World in 80 Ways trip. My sidekick Thom and I spent a solid year blabbing about our idea with the result that, once we’d got back, we were bored to death of talking about it and didn’t deliver on half of our promises. So, when it came time to start promoting our triathlon last year, I made it a personal mission to make any supporters feel loved. We always kept sponsors informed of our activities, events and press coverage. They often wouldn’t acknowledged my emails or phone calls but I didn’t care. They had taken a leap of faith in supporting us so I made sure that they had every opportunity to capitalise on their involvement.
Make it worthwhile for your supporters.
If they are donating to your charity, then give them a raffle ticket / t-shirt / regular newsletters. If a gear company what’s some phots of their gear then take some photos of their gear. They have given you hard cash or free gear now give something back.
You may not want their help in the future but it’s good for your Karma and it’s good for the rest of us who might.
Links and Other Resources
- My slides
- RGS Grants and Other Funding Sources
- Blood, Sweat & Charity – Brilliant book on all aspects of charity challenges and fundraising
- 15 Tips on Fundraising – 15? He clearly knows more than me!
- How to live off £10 a day – Why not do this and save your pennies rather than try to get someone elses?
- The Scott Antarctic Expedition Brochure – A proposal document to aspire to
- 2012 Inspire Proposal – I’ve no idea if Ben made the above brochure himself but I made this one in PowerPoint (which I’m sure you have access to) after seeing his. I now edit it in Open Office (which is free) so you don’t have to be rich or clever (I’m neither) to make a presentable document
Like some more help?