Summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro has been on your bucket list of things to do for years. You know the routes. You have thought about how you would kick yourself into shape. And you've decided to couple your adventure with a meaningful cause.
But there's that one little detail: fundraising. For many, especially for those who have never worked on a serious fundraising project before, coming up with the money to participate can seem like a more ferocious beast than the lions of the Serengeti!
The funds raised by Climb for Sight participants are directly used to provide children in our social-service clinics with eye surgeries for treatable conditions like glaucoma, congenital cataracts, crossed eyes and trauma, among many others. Children in Guatemala begin using a machete for work at the age of 7. These little ones often fall victim to horseplay gone awry and require emergency eye care as a result.
So we really value our participants' experience on Kilimanjaro, as well as the success of their fundraising efforts. We are here to help you come up with the funds, and your reward is a trip that is expense-free.
Letter writing, public speaking, cook-offs, holding special events... what is the best way, or combination of ways, to come up with the funds required to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro AND provide eye care to children in developing countries who most need it? Well, the best way to learn to do something new is by talking with others who have already done it.
Here is some advice from Brian, Chris, David and Father Joe, past climbers who have faced the difficult task of raising between $3,000 and $10,000 (depending on the fundraising option they chose to adopt).
So how did you do it? How did you raise the funds for the trip?
Chris: We did different fundraising events, made some phone calls, wrote some letters. I think some of us in the group were a little bit apprehensive about this part.
David: We did a variety of things, we wrote letters to family and friends, and then followed up with them. That was the main source. On top of that we did some things here in New Orleans for the public – a chili cook off, a corn hole competition, where it was something like $20 or $30 bucks to attend and eat. The main source was definitely letter writing and followups.
Brian: Almost all of it I did through canning. I stood outside of grocery stores and asked people for money. (Note: Brian is a bilateral below the knee amputee) I just stand there in shorts and it naturally attracts people. Probably about $1,000 came from writing letters.
Fr. Joe: Well I was a priest at a local parish back in 2000 and I told the parishioners what my plan was so a lot of them sponsored me and I sent lots of letters to family and friends and I raised about $40,000 for my first climb.
Forty thousand dollars! That is 4 times the amount we ask our participants to raise. The means that as a result of Fr. Joe's first climb (he climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro twice), 128 children received surgeries that prevented them from potentially losing their sight.
Looking back on your fundraising efforts, do you have any recommendations for future climbers?
Chris: It's a lot easier to ask for money when you are providing someone with something, right? So we held a lot of events, chili cook-offs, stuff like that where we were able to offer something to the people who were donating to us. That being said, I think that was a lot more ineffective than the personal solicitations which are a lot more uncomfortable. The biggest donations came from actually asking for those personal donations. So I think that that is an essential part of the fundraising process.
Fr. Joe: I think you just tell people that what you're doing is going to directly benefit very very poor people to be able to get eye care that they just wouldn't get otherwise, you know? If you put a couple of pictures in a fundraising letter and just send it out to your family and friends, your contacts and a few businesses, the money just starts pouring in.
Can you give an example of how you made those personal solicitations even when it was uncomfortable to do so?
Chris: One of my colleagues had mentioned at one point that she would be interested in donating. I felt uncomfortable bringing it up to her because at work we have a non-solicitation policy. So I talked with a close friend and he told me he thought I should just send a low-pressure e-mail to her, reminding her about her interest. So that's what I did. I sent her an e-mail with the link to the site asking her not to feel obligated, and she donated $100 right away. It wasn't necessarily the most assertive way, but it makes personal solicitation a little bit easier, especially for people who have never fundraised that way before.
So, if you're not used to fundraising this way, I would suggest going for those little wins, and then after a few positive responses, you become more confident in talking to people and pitching the cause to potential donors.
What are some other important things to keep in mind when fundraising?
Chris: Start early! If you start earlier, then you know more about your process and your cause as well. As you start to pitch your cause, you learn more about why it's important to you and what you are seeking to accomplish. Starting early allows you to open that window of opportunity to speak to ask many people as possible. Living in New Orleans, you run into people all the time, and you start talking about your personal story. A couple of my largest donations resulted in this kind of casual conversation. But you lose some of those serendipitous moments if you don't start early.
What was the response from people who you asked for donations?
David: You know most people are really into the idea in general because it's just a really cool concept. Even just asking people to donate to the charity is awesome and people are willing to do it, but then if you add the fact that I'm going to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, that really shows that you're going the extra mile.
So there you have it, straight from the Kili climbers' mouths. Put yourself out there and fear not the prospect of shameless personal solicitation. People know that their donations are being used for a good cause and not for your personal gains. But if you don't ask, you will never know who would be more than happy to help. Don't become disheartened when people refuse. That will happen, and that is okay.
Your success is well worth the effort.
And your gift of sight is a valuable and important contribution to the children we treat.