I am supposed to raise how much?!

Fundraising has to be one of the hardest yet most rewarding tasks I have ever taken on. To be completely honest, I was hesitant to even apply for the Global Advocate Program because the $20,000 fundraising requirement seemed like too much of a challenge. I think it is safe to say that no one really enjoys asking others for help. Even if it is for a good cause or purpose, there is something truly uncomfortable in asking everyone you know to give money. Despite the vulnerability and stress, fundraising has been a really good learning and growing experience.

For my first fundraising event, I planned a spin class at the CycleBar studio in my hometown. One of the studio’s instructors is a girl I went to school with for 14 years and so she teamed up with me to lead the class. About 25 people attended the spin class and stayed after for food, drinks, and mingling. One of the CycleBar staff members offered to coordinate a raffle for the event and my sister stepped in as a Vanna White/Carson Daly host to help me collect money, distribute ticktes, and present prizes to the winners. Between the $25/person charge, the raffle, extra donations made at the event, and donations in lieu of attendance I was able to raise $1,316! Overall, the event was a definite success and I felt so supported by my friends, family, and community.

In addition to raising a significant amount of money, the cycling event served as great learning experience in the dos and don’ts of fundraising and event planning. So here is a list of lessons learned:

  1. If you live in Florida, don’t plan an event for the first weekend in August. Most Florida schools are back in session either the second or third week of August so most people go on one last vacation the first weekend of August before the school year revs up again. I had at least 10–12 people who were not able to attend because they were out of town. So when planning a fundraising event, make sure to pick a date that not only suits you, but works for your entire community.
  2. People and local businesses want to help you! I was so freaked out and nervous about going into local businesses to ask for product donations that I put it off two weeks longer than I should have. I don’t know if I was expecting Ursula to threaten to take my soul or what, but it turned out that my nerves were completely unwarranted. Every business that I spoke to was very enthusiastic and supportive even if they were not able to make a donation. People want to help you do good things for other people, you just have to give them the opportunity to help you!
  3. Give people as much time as possible to help you. The combination of being paralyzingly nervous and really busy with other apsects of the fellowship and my personal life, I waited a bit too long to ask businesses for donations. I waited till 2.5 weeks before the event to go and talk to local businesses, which really was not enough time and was only exacerbated by managers being out of town, which then led to some huge holes in communication → i.e. a pizza place telling me the day before the event that actually they could not supply the food for the event. In the end, Costco, Hurricane Wings and Grill, and Grandes Italian Cucina stepped up the day before and donated the food and drinks. However, I could have saved myself a premature heartattack and loads of stress if I would have just opened communication up sooner. So once again, people want to help you, but you have to give them enough time to do so!
  4. People who you expect to support you will not necessarily always do so, but there will people that you would never even think would know what you are doing who will step up in major ways. The magical women of Mama Hope first shared this golden nugget at the June orientation and it has continued to be brilliantly true. Although it is difficult to not take it personally when family members or friends do not donate to what you are devoting your life to, you cannot tell people how to priotize what they support or how to spend their money, so at the end of the day no hard feelings. What has continued to truly amaze me is the support that has surprised me from people that I would not in a million of years have thought that they would even pay attention to what I was doing. Maybe I did not give people enough credit at the beginning of this and for that I sincerely apologize. In particular, I have to give a huge shoutout to the Benjamin School. I attended this school for 14 years, but have not really engaged with the school since I graduated 6 years ago. Through my collaboration with CycleBar I was referred to a journalist at the Palm Beach Post who subsequently wrote an article about me, my projects with Mama Hope, and my fundraising event. Once the article was officially published, the Benjamin School shared the article and from that I had classmates who I had not seen or spoken to in 6–7 years donate, classmates that I had not seen or spoken to in 6 years attend the cycle event, and teachers who donated (including one teacher who only taught my older brother, but never taught me). So to the Benjamin community, I thank you infinitely for your support. Also from the newspaper article, there were old family friends who donated and participated in my event; the Community Relations Manager from the new Kendra Scott store in my mall reached out to donate items and offered to host an event for me; and members of the community that I do not know donated. At the start of this program I absolutely did not imagine that I would receive this much support from so many different people in my life. It has been very rewarding and humbling to receive such generous support not only because people believe in my work with Mama Hope, but also because these people deeply care for me and my family.

If I have not said it enough already, please let me take another opportunity to express my deepest and most sincere gratitude for all of the generous support that I have received, it has truly made this experience worthwhile.

So what is next for my fundraising journey? Although it does not show on my fundraising page — I am still waiting on a few different checks to be processed and deposited — my current total is $15,801! This means that I am now cleared to go to Kenya and begin work on the projects, but I still have about $4,000 to raise. To raise the remainder I am working with the Community Relations Manager from Kendra Scott to set up an in-store “Kendra Gives Back” event that will donate 20% of all purchases made during the event; I am collaborating with a local brewery to host a fundraising event that will include a raffle, food, and other fun stuff; and applying for grants that will hopefully support my partners beyond our time together. To be this close to reaching the $20,000 is incredible. There were days that I thought it would be impossible to achieve and I can completely and honestly say that my progress would be impossible without the overwhelming support from my family, friends, and community. Now time raise the final $4,000!

As always, if you would like to support my projects you can donate to my fundraising page https://give.classy.org/EliseRC!