Fundraising Basics 2018-01-17T17:04:21-05:00

Write It Down

A personalized letter is the most basic tool of fundraising, and that’s because it works. Regardless of whatever else you do, write a letter first! Use it to explain the facts — that you will be participating as a cyclist in Cycle for the Cause, riding 275 miles from Boston to New York, and that you would like to offer them the opportunity to help you support people living with HIV and AIDS. Include some facts about AIDS and The Center, and why this is important to you. Send your letter to everyone you have an email or mailing address for, and then look for more addresses and send even more letters. Don’t forget to include a link to your homepage, or a donation form and a pre-addressed return envelope. Visit our Fundraising Tools section for sample fundraising emails and letters.

Work the Neighborhood

There are countless opportunities to raise money within a few miles of your home. Think about it: the coffee shop, gym, workplace, laundromat, car wash, supermarket, newsstand, dry cleaners, video store, dentist’s office, bar, deli, parking lot, bike shop, liquor store, frozen yogurt and the pizza place. You patronize these businesses all of the time — ask them to help you out with your fundraising effort. How?

  • Just ask for the donation.
  • Put a poster in the window, explaining what you are doing and how to help. (A Ride Coordinator can provide you with posters.)
  • Display a donation box and/or letters and donation forms on the counter.
  • Ask the business to donate a portion of their proceeds on a given day.
  • Offer to wear their name on your t-shirt or jersey in exchange for a donation.

Get Social

Making contact with as many people as possible will be key to your fundraising. Chances are, your friends and family will be more than happy to be a part of your fundraising campaign, but you will probably need to go beyond your inner circle.

  • Throw a party!! Ask everyone who attends to write a check when they enter the front door.
  • Host an event — a film screening, boat cruise, or a band night in a local bar.
  • Ask your friends to ask their friends for donations.
  • Then ask their friends to ask their friends.

Bring It to the Office

Your place of work is another good source for donations. How can your business help?

  • Just ask for money. Your company might be happy to donate to your fundraising goal.
  • Then, ask for more — see if your company has a matching gift program.
  • Send an e-mail to the entire company with a donation form attached.  Get permission first.
  • Set up a small display — hang your Cycle for the Cause poster in a prominent place.
  • Approach clients, vendors, or anyone else that your company does business with (make sure it’s OK with the boss!).
  • Host a lunchtime meeting and do a presentation about Cycle for the Cause and your commitment to the cause.

Timing is Everything

Special circumstances can provide an ideal opportunity to grab a donation. For example:

  • Use March & April to suggest a great way to use tax refunds.
  • Birthday coming up? Ask for donations in lieu of presents.
  • Throw a Super Bowl/World Series party, selling betting squares with 50% of the money going into the pot and 50% towards your fundraising goal. Who knows — maybe the person who wins the pot will graciously choose to donate those winnings towards you goal as well!
  • Do the same with Golden Globes and Oscar parties — put together a sheet of all the nominees for all categories and get everyone to select who they think will win. You can do this as a party, or even as an office pool.

Go Paperless

The Internet and e-mail have significantly affected the fundraising world. Use them to your advantage:

  • Personalize your Cycle for the Cause homepage telling people about your commitment and how they can donate.
  • Let people know that they can make donations on your behalf at Cycleforthecause.org.
  • Add a short message about donating to your e-mail signature.
  • Upload a picture of you and your bicycle.

Get Crafty

Use your creativity, whatever it may be. Everyone has the ability to do something well; sell your product or skill to benefit your fundraising campaign. A few ideas: cookies, lapel pins, knit caps, poems, chili, short stories, tax preparation abilities, photographs, babysitting time, car washing, drawings, language tutoring, personal training, t-shirts, designated driving, dog-walking, errand-running, gardening.

There’s No Limit…

To creative, effective fundraising techniques. The following is a quick list of many more ways to get the job done:

Garage Sale – Time to get rid of all of those miscellaneous items in the garage and attic. Ask your friends to do the same. Put it in your front yard and sell, sell, sell! Put all the money raised toward your fundraising goal!

Bake Sale – Become Julia Child (and ask your friends to do the same) and host a bake sale.

Extra “Change in My Pocket” Box – Create little boxes for your friends and family and have them place it on their dresser. At the end of the day, they can drop that spare change in the box. Gather the boxes and apply the money toward your fundraising goal!

Office Fundraising Challenge – Speak with everyone in your office and get them to challenge each other to raise the highest amount. Give the winner a prize, like movie passes or a gift certificate to a local restaurant.

Voicemail Message – This will alert everyone who calls you that you are up to something special! Let them know that you need their support!

Return Address Labels – Print return address labels for your outgoing mail. For example, “I am participating in Cycle for the Cause. Will you sponsor me?” Be sure to include a donation form and a pre-addressed envelope to make it really easy for them.

Social Media – Post a message on your social networking page. Ask your friends to share your link on their social media pages.

Ask your local bartender to donate a portion of one day’s tips – Ask a local bartender to donate tips from one night. You can create a sign for the bartender to place on the bar stating that “All tips collected tonight will go directly to ‘Joe Cyclist’ who’s riding from Boston to New York to raise money for people living with HIV/AIDS.” If the patrons see that sign they may be willing to dig a little deeper in their pocket!

Fundraising dinner at your favorite restaurant – Ask your favorite restaurant to host a fundraising dinner for you. They supply the food and you supply the donation forms!

Happy Hour party – Invite all your friends (and their friends!) and get them to sign your cycling jersey. Charge $10.00 per signature.

Theme Party/Dinner – Hold a theme party for 10 (or more) of your friends. Donation: $50.00 per person. Spend no more than $20.00 per person on the food and you’ll have $300 (or more!) in donations by the end of the night.

Movie ticket donation – Ask your local movie theater to donate several tickets. Sell them and put the money towards your pledges.

Local theater donation – Ask a local theater to donate a couple of tickets to one of their plays or musicals and auction them off.

Valentine’s Day donation – A great time for your sweetheart to make a donation.

Delegate – Give 10 of your friends 10 donation forms and ask them to help raise money for you.

Creative Friends – Find a local artist or ask a creative friend to donate a piece of art or some jewelry to be auctioned.

House Warming Party – Are you moving anytime soon? If so, ask your friends to make a donation instead of purchasing a gift for your new place.

Color Donation Forms – Capture your recipient’s attention. Send them in colored envelopes too. These will stand out among your friends’ bills and junk mail.

Email Signature – Create an email signature with a link to your Cycle for the Cause homepage.

Business Cards – Print up some inexpensive business cards (you can even do it on your own computer). Include all of the pertinent information on the card – your name, your homepage address and information about Cycle for the Cause. Hand these out to everyone you meet!

Doctor / Therapist / Veterinarian / Insurance Agent – Ask him/her to make a check out for you instead of the other way around!

Dentist – Hopefully you won’t have to pull teeth to get him/her to help you out a little!

Chiropractor – They have cracked your back. Now ask them to crack open their checkbook and make a donation.

Yoga Instructor – You have bent over backwards for them … now it is their turn to do the same for you!

Radio Station – Call your favorite radio station and ask them to make an announcement on the air. They may even interview you.

Gym – Ask your gym to place a Donation Jar at the front desk! Leave a stack of donation forms at the counter, too.

Spinning Class – Have a stack of donation forms with you and ask your spinning instructor to make an announcement in class.

Hair Salon – Ask your barber or hairdresser to donate $5.00 from every haircut they complete over one the weekend.

Picnics – National holiday picnics are a great place to raise some money!

Mow-a-thon – Get your kids involved in this weekend activity. Check ahead of time with all your neighbors and ask them if you can mow their lawn for $50.00.

Neighbor – Write to all your neighbors on your block (or in your building) telling them what you’re training for and asking them to donate.

Free Rent! – Ask your landlord to donate one month’s rent to the cause!

Garden Tour – Check with a local historical society to see if they would sponsor a garden tour of one or several homes in your area. Promote the event in local newspapers.

Meet the Press – Does your company distribute a newsletter? Does your company have an intranet message board? Take advantage of these! It’s a perfect way to get the word out.

House sit – Friends going out of town for a while? Maybe they will pay you to watch their place.

Pet sit – Ask your friends to watch and take care of their pets.  Put the money they pay you towards your commitment.

Neighborhood Chores – Are you a Mr. or Ms. Fix-it? A lot of your neighbors would probably rather pay you than someone else. Place signs around your neighborhood advertising your services (i.e. watering gardens, cleaning roof gutters, sweeping the driveway, fixing an easy plumbing problem, painting a room, etc.)

Karaoke Night – Who cares if you can’t carry a tune? Spend a Friday night at a Karaoke Bar and sing your heart out! Have the announcer tell the crowd that you’re singing for donations!

Talented Friends – Is there a little piano bar in your neighborhood? Do you have a talented piano-playing friend? Ask the owner to let you host a cocktail/piano fundraiser. Charge anyone who attends and let them know that it’s a benefit for Cycle for the Cause.

EBay – Remember the garage sale idea? Auction off the remaining items on EBay.

Company Vacation Days – Ask your boss or human resources director if they can swap one of your vacation days for a day’s pay.

Sell Spokes – Sell each bicycle spoke on your bike for $20.00 each.

In memory of… – If you are riding in memory of a loved one, include a picture of them on your pledge letter, on posters, etc.

Donations for each day on Cycle for the Cause – Ask supporters to pledge an amount for each day of Cycle for the Cause.

Television Show Finale Party – Remember when Chandler married Monica? Remember when Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer ended up in jail? How about when Niles and Daphne sped off in an RV on the “Frasier” finale? Gather a big group and friends and watch a series finale. Charge them at the door and put the $$ toward your fundraising.

Game night – Get out those board games and start playing! Break into teams and let the fun begin.

Host a poker game – Call your serious (or not so serious) card-playing friends and invite them over for poker night.

Bowling Nights – Plan a fun night of bowling at the local alley. Ask the owner to waive the fees and you can collect that money and apply it to your campaign.

Used book sale – Old books sitting in the attic collecting dust? Ask your friends, family and neighbors to donate whatever they have and host a book sale in your front yard. Wear your Cycle for the Cause t-shirt and put up some signs so people will know where the money is going.

Local Stores – Ask a local store manager what the hot selling item is these days and if they would be willing to donate a % of sales from that particular item to you.

Curse Jar – Place a Curse Jar in your office and whenever someone says a bad word, they have to put a dollar in the jar.

Dress Down Day – Ask your company to allow an official Cycle for the Cause Dress Down Day. For the privilege of dressing down, employees donate $20.00 toward the Ride.

Company Grants – Find out if your company offers grants to employees who volunteer their time for charitable causes. If so, you can volunteer your time at the Cycle for the Cause office and get paid grant money for the work. You may need a letter from us stating that you’ll be volunteering in the office and we’d be happy to make that happen.

Church Bulletin – Place an advertisement in your church bulletin letting the congregation know what you’re up to!

Red Ribbon Distribution – Create small red ribbons to bring awareness to our fight against HIV/AIDS. Sell them to your friends, family members, etc.

Is there a teacher in the house? – Get your students to help you fundraise. Kids are incredibly creative and cute, too! Have them put together those red ribbons for you!

Other Parents – If your kids play on soccer leagues or any other sports teams, distribute your donation forms to the other parents at the event.

Ride Along – Ask a potential donor to ride along on one of your training rides. They may be more willing to donate once they fully understand what you have committed to doing!

Inspirational Book Marks – Create them and sell them to your friends and family.

Universities and Colleges – Contact your local schools and ask if you can put an advertisement in their school newsletter asking for donations. Some of the organizations may even invite you to make a short presentation.

Bicycle Companies – Contact a couple of the big bike companies. Tell them what you are training for and ask them if they would like to sponsor you for the entire amount! You may even get some cool riding gear.

Computer Screen Savers – Create a Cycle for the Cause screen saver and send it to everyone in your company! A gentle reminder is a good reminder!

Mechanic – You have given them lots of money to work on your car. Now it is time for them to give a little back to you!

Rock on! – If you know any musicians, ask them to perform a benefit concert. Tell people that their admission ticket is a check made out to The Center.

Wine and Cheese Party – Host a party at a local restaurant and ask the owner to donate the wine and cheese.

Temporary Tattoos – Swap a temporary tattoo for a donation.

Do you have a favorite magazine? – Call the editor and ask them to be your sponsor. If you have subscribed to a particular magazine for a long time they may be willing to give something back to you.

Fraternities and Sororities – Contact the national chapter of your college fraternity or sorority and ask them to make a donation.

Alumni Organizations – Call your own college or university and ask them to place an ad in the alumni newsletter asking for donations.


Our thanks to our friends at AIDS/LifeCycle for contributing these fundraising tips.