Monday, January 5, 2009

Beware the Fund Raiser

In the years that we have been working in the human trafficking sector, we have learned a lot. One of the key lessons we have learned has been about fund raising for this issue. At the moment, human trafficking is the top of the day (for some). It is trendy - there are movies, television, and print newspapers and magazines talking about human trafficking. On the surface, you would have to imagine that this is positive. Yet, the reality is, it creates both positive and negative effects.

On the positive side, more people know about it - there is awareness. It is easy to discuss the topic and certainly there are more supportive people to the plight of slaves. Hopefully, a secondary effect for those of us working with survivors - it brings additional donors.

Though the negative side is - more people know about it. It becomes common knowledge and an ambivalence occurs that leads to people not taking action. But, this is a different issue. Let's get back to fund raising.

One positive effect of people knowing about human trafficking is that good people want to do something about it. On occasion, people step up to help organizations raise money. The reality is, especially among small non-profits, this is a big deal. Someone comes along and wants to help your organization raise funds.

In our organization's history, we have had some pretty creative fund raising ideas come across our desk. Whether it is concerts, dinners, movie nights, poker (yes, poker) - people have taken something they are passionate about and used it to raise money. We have taken time to recognize these people as Transitions Global HERO's in our monthly newsletter.

But, we have also encountered problems. People who either feel very deeply, but do not follow through or others that feel that they can use fund raising to position themselves with your organization for favor or influence. Worse, we actually had a young lady raise money through her sorority that never sent the money to us. She used our organization to hold an event and never sent the funds. So, beware.

The learning lesson for us has been to take the following precautions:

1. Make sure that a potential fund raiser understands how the money will be used.
2. Make sure that they have your expectations of what can be said about your organization, what kind of media can be used, etc. - it is a good idea to send them jpegs of our logo, tag lines, etc. for them to use in print media, posters, etc.
3. Sign an agreement - what, when, where, how, who - add a date to finalize the count of funds and how funds will be paid out to the organization.
4. Provide some support - these are people giving their time, talent, and resources to do something positive. Give them exposure, support, and encouragement.
5. Follow up with a 'thank you' - people that do fund raising are doing your non-profit a tremendous benefit. Find a meaningful way to recognize their efforts.
6. Be cautious - not everyone has good intentions. Some people want to use your efforts to make themselves money and others want something from you.

Overall, we have had a wonderful experience with people stepping up to do something wonderful for the girls we serve and the work we do. From the couple in Washington that used their wedding to raise money for us to people that run marathons, hold poker games, or perform a concert - their creativity, passion, and action means that, for us, young girls will have the futures that have been stolen from them.

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