Why Does Fundraising Fascinate Me?

I have fundraised in November for the past three years. It’s for GO2 Lung Cancer Foundation and Lung Cancer Canada and I raised more than $42,000 US and Canadian dollars. I have written a few different articles about my experience and insight on fundraising. Since this topic is highly interesting to me, I wanted to explore it a little more and why I enjoy fundraising for lung cancer awareness.

Addressing the elephant in the room

The principle for my life is that anything I embark on, I’ll do my best. Consequently, what I have done is often successful. When it's not, I will retrofit it carefully and learn from it.

Fundraising was not my forte, and I always stayed away from it before I got lung cancer. Now I’ve seen the need for fundraising for lung cancer research, which is essential for my survival. The obstacle, which is a “big elephant in the room”, is that I couldn’t bring myself down to beg for money. After thinking about it hard, I realized: I was not confident that I could convince people that we, lung cancer patients, deserve their donation for research. From the time I realized it, I felt a burden removed from me.

Learning from successful fundraisers

I started to read articles, watch TedTalks and follow several philanthropists about fundraising. I implemented the “tricks” every year from what I’ve learned. I documented them, like the new way to look at the fundraising1, the difference in fundraising between Chinese and Americans2, and the essences of fundraising3. I always gain some insights and come up with new ideas for the next year.

In November 2020, I followed the TedTalk, given by Derek Sivers entitled “How to start a movement”. I raised $16,821 for Lung Cancer Canada that year.4

How to start a movement?

This 3-minute video from Mr. Sivers is funny but profound: a shirtless guy danced lonely, and hundreds of people around him picnicked and enjoyed the sunshine. Nobody paid him attention -- the guy was a “lone nut”. Then, the second guy joined him dancing, who played a pivotal role to show others how to follow. After a while, the third guy joined them-three is a crowd. Then, there were two more persons, and immediately after, three more persons. This is a tipping point, and not long later, hundreds of youths rushed to dance. This is how the movement started.

A couple of lessons that I learned:4

  1. “...a leader needs the guts to stand out and be ridiculed.”
  2. The second guy (the second follower) is important because he showed everyone how to follow. Also, the second follower makes the “lone nut” a leader. Then the third guy followed the second follower. This is how the movement started.
  3. A movement must be public. It’s important to show not just the leader, but the followers.
  4. There is a tipping point in the number of people for the movement.
  5. “...all of those that prefer to stick with the crowd (will join in dancing) because eventually they would be ridiculed for not joining in.”
  6. If you are the leader, don’t forget to nurture your followers. It’s about the movement, not you.

How to start my fundraising movement

I am intrigued by this TedTalk, so I set up my fundraising according to the above rules.

  1. As leaders I first donated $5,000 for my fundraising campaign with my husband. I had emailed my friends and asked them to donate. Two days passed, nothing happened. I was quite nervous. It’s not easy to be the “lone nuts”.
  2. My second followers were five lung cancer patients. They donated on the third day as I started it, and they set up the amount of $50 to $100 for patients. My third followers were my former graduate students, and they donated in the first three to four days and set up $100 to $200. The last group that played an important leadership role was my colleagues, from $300 to $2500 in the following four to five days. I was quite relieved, and the campaign had a good start.
  3. The movement must be public. In my FB, which is mainly for lung cancer patients and my graduate students, I wrote “thank notes” to every donor and add: “Research Matters”, “Research Saves Lives” and “Go Research, Go!”, etc. I feel incredibly grateful to write each note.
  4. There is a total of approximately 70 donors. According to Simon Sinek’s talk “How Great Leaders Inspire Action5, about 15 percent to 18 percent of people were needed to start the movement. So I needed 11 to 13 donors to start the fundraising campaign. After the first four days of my fundraising, I had 12 people donated, and after five days, I had 19. This was the critical number, and after that, the rest 50 people’s donations just poured in.

The three groups of followers (lung cancer patients, former graduate students, and colleagues) are essential for my fundraising in that they 1) donated fast within the first three days, 2) set up the donation amount, and 3) were the role models for others. Very importantly, they turned the “lone nuts” (my husband and I) into leaders.

Thank you. This is what I love about fundraising.

My afterthoughts

I thoroughly enjoyed this year’s fundraising and have several thoughts. Donation is the way to connect with people. It took me a while to realize it and appreciate it. From this year’s donation, I connected with so many Canadian lung cancer patients, regardless they donated or not.

The problem I found through this fundraising is that my donor base is small. Furthermore, I can’t always ask the same people to donate to prevent donation fatigue. To find new donor sources, I’m thinking to work with some organizations in the upcoming year.

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