Volunteer Forever fundraiser, Brian, has raised $3,705 for his volunteer trip to South Africa! Brian will volunteer with the organization, African Impact, to support HIV/AIDS children in St. Lucia.
We’re super excited to share Brian’s fundraising secrets with you!
1. Can you tell us about your cause? What organization are you fundraising for?
Brian: My cause is working with underserved populations across the globe living with or affected by HIV / AIDS. This includes access to lifesaving social services and health programs. In rural communities throughout the world, there are barriers to receiving medical treatment because of the social stigma HIV / AIDS carries. Community-led interventions and youth education are crucial components in stopping the spread of the disease, which makes me particularly interested in the work of African Impact. Specifically, I’ll work with orphans living with HIV / AIDS in January 2015 in the town of St. Lucia on the eastern coast of South Africa. As of the date of this letter, my supporters and friends have helped me raise $3,705 of my $10,000 goal. African Impact is consistently given five-star ratings by its participants, so working within an established infrastructure where I know can make a difference from day one is very appealing to me.
I did a lot of online research about African volunteer organizations before I made a decision. I wanted to work with an organization that had hands-on projects in communities affected by HIV. Working with children and adults were also important aspects, as I like the variety and different communication styles you have to use. You can tell a lot about an organization by the way they operate online (combined with feedback from former volunteers), so after I did a bit of research, I knew African Impact was for me. Their partnership with Volunteer Forever also helped in my selection since a donation platform already existed where I could send potential donors. Essential to any successful fundraising campaign is a quick, easy way to give. I have friends all over the world, so it was also vital to my fundraising campaign that potential donors be able to give without any restrictions on where they were located. Volunteer Forever fits the bill in both these regards.
2. How did you let your friends and family members know about your fundraising campaign?
Brian: Social media has been great for my campaign, but I also created the hashtag #HIVolutionAfrica so people could interact daily with me and learn more about my efforts. This hashtag combined HIV and the word evolution because I know this trip will not only help me evolve as a person, but it will help others transform their thinking about the disease. The hashtag is combined with daily posts accompanied by pictures across Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. I always include the link to donate so people can be easily taken to the Volunteer Forever page. Beyond social media, I tapped into professional and personal contacts and sent them a personalized email asking for help in making a dream come true for me and the children I intend to help. I also have a fundraiser planned in early December in which I’ll ask guests, family, and friends, to donate to my campaign rather than get me a gift for Christmas. As part of the fundraiser, attendees will have the opportunity to bid on a piece of art by the renowned artist (and my partner) Edwin Gil. All proceeds will go into funding my trip.
3. How did you follow up with potential donors who were initially unresponsive?
Brian: Persistence is the name of the game when it comes to fundraising, but more importantly it’s also about telling a story. I’ve used social media and the blog function of Volunteer Forever to share why this trip is so important to me and how it will change lives (including mine).
4. How often do you share your fundraising campaign on Facebook?
Brian: I share it every day using the hashtag I created #HIVolutionAfrica along with an image and inspirational quote. By the way, I’ve also used the link shortening website bit.ly to create a personalized URL that I can track click-through rates, locations of clicks, and determine what posts resonate the most with my audience.
5. What resources on Volunteer Forever have you been utilizing to run your campaign?
Brian: I’ve used the blog function since this platform is linked with my online profile and has a huge DONATE button at the end of each post. It’s very intuitive and if you’ve ever worked in a word document or WordPress, you can handle it no problem. And of course, this opportunity to write about my fundraising experience is invaluable. It’s great to see an organization like Volunteer Forever reaching out to people on how to make it successful. I truly believe that they provide us the tools to get started, so we can then provide the tools (in the form of volunteerism) for communities across the world to grow and thrive.
6. How helpful was the fundraising video for the campaign?
Brian: You know, I haven’t yet made a video as I was going to save that for when I hit the $5,000 mark (or half my campaign goal). If you’re reading this and want to see me on video, help me out and make a donation. I promise it’ll be full of personality, humor, love, and above all else, passion!
7. Are there any specific donors that you would like to thank?
Brian: I’ve actually thanked every donor personally each time a donation comes in. Whether it’s a personal email or I tag them on Facebook in one of my daily posts, they know how important they are to this campaign. To everyone who has donated (and even those who haven’t and have merely sent me kind words of encouragement), this trip is in your honor. HIV/AIDS will one day be snuffed out and you can rest easy knowing that you played a part in it by lending your support to me, the community of St. Lucia, and the world!
8. Do you have any other tips you’d like to share?
Brian: Don’t ever be afraid to ask someone for money or assistance in making your dreams come true. They only thing they can say is no. I’m a firm believer that the vast majority of people want to help, so it’s just a matter of educating them on how they can make a difference. I’m a public relations professional, so a lot of the promotional ideas I’ve had have come from years in the industry. If you need help with your own campaign, let me know. We’re all in this together and I’d be happy to assist you any way I can! One last thing, if you know another language, translate, translate, translate! For me, my other language is Spanish, so I post and write blog posts in Spanish to solicit donations from my friends in Spanish speaking countries. Remember that effective communication (in multiple languages) can help you cast the net wider and reach more people with your ask!
9. What was the most important thing you did that contributed to your fundraising success (or anything else that you want to add)?
Brian: I believe the consistency of message and passion are the two determining factors when it comes to fundraising success. I continue to post messages every day in a creative way with inspirational quotes that tug on the heartstrings of people. I also have a true passion for working with individuals living with HIV/AIDS and I believe this shines through in my writing. At the end of the day, I have a personal need to connect to something larger than myself. It may sound cliché, but I want to be the difference in my community here at home and those abroad. Always listen to that voice inside you. It’s your internal compass telling you what direction to go!
Brian was kind enough to share the fundraising letter he sent out to his donors and wanted to share it with all Volunteer Forever fundraisers to help you with your fundraising efforts. See below for a template that you can personalize for your own crowdfunding campaign!
There are challenges to changing your life when you’ve lived a little (worked a lot) and built a successful career. Part of this change is listening to that little voice inside of you that calls you to connect to something larger than yourself. Over the past 15 years, I have kept a weekly journal that documents my highs and lows (both professionally and personally) with the intent of using my experiences to help others. One theme that resonates throughout my journal, is my desire to work with children abroad who are living with HIV / AIDS.
As you know, my Aunt Diane passed away last month. Before her death, she told me not to wait one more second in pursuing my dreams or what makes me happy. It’s her honor that I write to you today.
In January 2015, I plan to head to South Africa and volunteer at an orphanage in the town of St. Lucia on the country’s eastern coast. I will work with children who have lost their parents to the AIDS epidemic and who are also living with the disease. I will work with community members around HIV education as I help destigmatize and dispel myths around AIDS, which claimed nearly 300,000 lives in South Africa in 2013. The KwaZulu- Natal province, where St. Lucia is located, has the highest rate of HIV infection of any South African province.
Here’s how you can help me. I’m asking my friends to donate $100, $500, or $1,000 to help defray the cost of travel, supplemental insurance to cover me abroad, room and board, and the actual cost of the volunteer program via African Impact. As of the date of this letter, I’ve already raised $680. My goal is to raise $10,000 by the end of the year. For any money that I don’t use, I’m going to donate directly to the St. Lucia community for its fight against HIV / AIDS.
Here’s how to donate. You can go directly to an online page I’ve established with Volunteer Forever – http://bit.ly/HIVolutionAfrica – to make a tax-deductible donation. Simply enter in your credit card information, hit DONATE, and you’ll be helping me achieve my goal of $10,000. Here, you’ll also be able to get updates on my journey and track my progress.
South Africa has one of the highest rates of HIV in the world, but some of the most limited resources when it comes to treating the epidemic. This is why I’ve chosen South Africa, to literally get to the heart of the disease. I hope you will join me in helping children who have been abandoned by society merely because of their HIV status. There’s much work to be done across the world with HIV and this is my chance to make a small, but important difference, in the lives of our youth.
I leave you with a quote from Kalu Ndukwe Kalu that reads: “The things you do for yourself are gone when you are gone, but the things you do for others remain as your legacy.” I hope you’ll join me in creating a legacy that will one day wipe out the suffering caused by HIV / AIDS.
Very truly yours,
Steven Weddle · Co-Founder, Volunteer Forever
Steve Weddle is the co-founder and CEO of Volunteer Forever. Before Volunteer Forever, Steve was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force, where he served a tour of duty in Afghanistan.