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A Successful Fundraiser Stands By Its Mission by Jerome Watts

A Successful Fundraiser Stands By Its Mission by Jerome Watts


During my internship at the University of Pittsburgh I had the opportunity to speak with the top intellects and professionals in the medical and biological fields, specifically cancer research. Yet, while being immersed in scientific thought, I was told the key to success in the most general sense (both personal and professional) – passion. When one pursues their passion or does something that they genuinely enjoy, they often express feelings that are contagious. There are many examples of this positive contagion. Dance is very much a great illustration of this phenomenon; a dance craze tends to start off with one or a few people, but eventually evolves into a trend that captures the attention of many, exponentially drawling people in (here is a viral example of the infectious aspect of dance from the 2009 Sasquatch Music Festival: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GA8z7f7a2Pk). Even at the most basic level: an expression, such as a smile, is contagious. For some reason, no matter what stage we are at in our lives, from infancy to old age, when one sees another smiling it is almost an impulse to reciprocate and smile back. Passion is a thing that catches the attention of others and draws people of similar likes and beliefs together. With some care and attention to detail, passion can be utilized in matters, like fundraisers, and benefit non-profit organizations, provided that it coincides with the mission of the organization.


Initially, a non-profit should establish a connection with the community it is in, while abiding by the commonalities between their mission and the passion of the buyer. In other words, sincerity is the key to bridging the gap between the individual raffle ticket buyer and the organization selling said tickets, and is best done by showing that the mission relates to them personally. For a neighborhood youth sports organization, let’s say a youth soccer team; depending on the area, the consumers are primarily: those within the neighborhood, parents, sports fans, schools, and other sports organizations in the region. Making a personal connection by responsibly having the players for the youth soccer team spread awareness of the raffle sales, allowing for the consumer to personally interact and connect with those he or she will be benefiting in the long run. Also, collaboration with larger organizations with the similar missions is a great way to maximize ticket sales, by contacting professional teams and organizations that have somewhat of an obligation to the community.


Much like any other business or company, a non-profit organization has its consumers or targeted audience. Knowing what your audience wants and doesn’t like is a part of running a successful firm. In light of how non-profit organizations can best derive benefit for their fundraising effort via raffle fundraising, they must have a full grasp of what the passion of their specific following is and provide prizes that are congruent with that very passion. Collaboration may be the best approach in hitting a broad range of consumers and at times lessening the stress on the primary non-profit organization. Concerning my own experience, my middle school collaborated with the Pittsburgh Steelers, a professional team in the National Football League, on multiple occasions to help fund sports at the school, usually by way of a gala, where gift baskets were raffled off and money was donated. Most baskets were put together based around a theme, like home and garden, and contained artwork or cards from the students, appealing to the better nature of the buyer or donator. This collaboration made sense. The common mission for youth sports organizations is to promote sports in the youth of a specific community, provide an outlet for young people, and/or bring a community together through sports. This charge matched the mission of the Steelers in community outreach, which made it easy for them to agree to work with and assist the school. On a personal level, the players on the Steelers could empathize with the students/young athletes, which definitely helped in the matter of funding. 


Suitable prizes for raffles ideally are things that the raffle ticket buyer would like to win. Therefore, a successful prize would be highly appealing to a large range of people. Still working with the example of a youth soccer team and their audience (parents, sports fans, schools, and other sports organizations in the region), gift baskets are great prizes because of the room for creativity and the seemingly endless list of what one can place inside of it. They are often visually appealing, which is a major component of the buyer’s choice. At my school they contained tickets to sporting events, like Steeler games, a schedule for the school team, autographed merchandise, gift cards, and a thank you, to keep the prize personal. A theme can be assigned to the baskets as well, like a holiday, hobby, or pastime, and maintain enough variety to be desired by most. Gift baskets are not the only option for prizes for a raffle that would be appealing to a crowd, but I feel that they would be the easiest to put together (especially if working with a small budget), while being personal, professional, and creative. 


All in all, a successful organization/business is successful because it stands by its mission, listens intently to what its people/consumers want, and utilizes its resources whenever possible. Someone is more drawn to something when that thing has a feature that they can identify with or relate to. By finding the passions of the people on their radar, non-profit organizations can accurately and efficiently carry out their agenda, whether that be selling raffle tickets or just getting their point across.


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Contributed by Jerome Watts