When I became the Philanthropy Chair for Hewlett Packard’s Young Employee Network (YEN) in Alpharetta, Georgia, I knew I wanted to develop a long-term relationship with a non-profit and make a significant impact. I was fortunate enough to get connected with The Samfund in late 2013 and I knew they were the perfect fit. It’s hard enough to graduate college (with student loans) and try to start your career; to do that when you have thousands of dollars in medical bills seemed impossible to me. I tried to put myself in the shoes of a young adult cancer survivor and knew I had to help.
My fellow YEN members and I understood that this was a fantastic opportunity to help other young adults in a significant, meaningful way. But, we weren’t sure how to begin. How much should we raise? How much COULD we raise? How should we encourage people to donate? These were tough questions that we had to address along the way. And so, in May 2014, we began the 1.5 year journey to $100,000 for The Samfund.
No matter whether you’re interested in helping The Samfund through your company, school, religious institution, or elsewhere, I wanted to share some key takeaways from my experience and help encourage you in your fundraising efforts!
1) Develop a relationship with the organization you’re supporting
The first thing you have to do is know who you’re supporting. When I began the search for an NPO partner, I set up a meeting with Sam. I heard her story about why she started The Samfund, learned more about the various programs, and developed an understanding about how donations are used. Most importantly, I felt the energy, passion, and genuine care that Sam has for The Samfund’s mission. That personal touch was the deciding factor that led to The Samfund being YEN’s partner charity.
You should be prepared when people ask you about the organization and why you are fundraising! If you aren’t confident when you share the message, people are less likely to be confident about your efforts.
2) Develop a shared vision for your fundraising efforts in your group
In order to have a successful fundraising campaign, it’s critical that your colleagues and friends all share the same vision. Everyone must understand and believe in the fundraising campaign. The YEN team met several times before finalizing our fundraising efforts around the grant program, but once we had that focus, we aimed big!
Building that support and enthusiasm at the outset ensures that this is a true team effort from start to finish!
3) Set a SMART BHAG goal
When YEN began thinking about our fundraising goal, we thought $10,000 sounded like a tough, but manageable goal. $25,000 sounded impossible. But, with encouragement from YEN Alpharetta’s executive sponsor, Adam Carr, and some other folks, we shot for the stars: we pushed ourselves to double the reach of The Samfund’s grants program!
Whatever your fundraising goal is, make sure it’s a SMART BHAG. In case those acronyms sound weird to you, SMART refers to Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. BHAG is a Big Hairy Audacious Goal. Together that means: set a goal that stretches you and that you can’t reach without continually working toward it. It is hard work, but the reward, for yourself and your NPO, is huge!
4) Know how to measure your success
When establishing a long-term goal, set checkpoints to reassess your efforts. You have to have a clear plan in place that includes fundraisers, communications, contacts, and more. But, you must periodically check on the plan and see if you are on track to meet your goal. That means you have to be able to measure what’s working versus what’s not. By doing so, you can adjust your plan to ensure success.
5) Cash matching and payroll deduction are your best friend
If your company offers cash matching for donations, use it! More importantly, payroll deduction will increase your chances of obtaining donations from fellow employees. Approximately 60% of our fundraising total came when payroll deduction was open to HP employees. People are much more willing to donate a little bit out of their paycheck over the course of a year as opposed to a large, one-time donation.
6) Remember WHY you’re fundraising
It’s easy to focus on how much you’ve raised, but don’t forget to think about how many people you’re helping. If I ever ran into a rough patch with our efforts, I would think about The Samfund grant recipients I’d met and think about the number of future grantees that our efforts would support. You don’t just help them; you’re helping whole families. Knowing that YEN’s efforts would have a life-changing impact on hundreds, if not thousands, of people was the engine that kept me going.
Fundraising is tough, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a blast. Think outside the box with your fundraisers. One of YEN’s most successful fundraisers was a beard and Mohawk challenge. A few YEN members and I volunteered our hair and beards to be cut however people voted so long as we met our individual fundraisers’ goals. The results were hilarious!
As of November 2015, the Young Employee Network (YEN) has raised $100,000 for The Samfund. Sam called this “game-changing” for The Samfund. Since last year, The Samfund has added a second grant cycle, rebranded, and increased their reach around the country. I’m proud and honored to be a part of The Samfund’s journey. I’ve learned so much through the partnership and developed skills I can take back to my job.
As Dave Packard once said, “The betterment of our society is not a job to be limited to a few; it is a responsibility to be shared by all.” I hope that YEN’s efforts with The Samfund can serve as a model for corporate employees, showing them that they have the ability to drive innovative methods of corporate social responsibility.