Friday, September 5, 2008

Supercharge Your Soroptimist Club's Fundraising Efforts

As Soroptimist club members and officers, we are all familiar with the activities we do to raise funds for the various projects that we support – including teas, fashion shows, theme parties, silent auctions, sporting events such as runs and walks, sales -- events as diverse, lovely and creative as we are! By injecting a little bit of technology and creativity into the activities we already do and utilizing online fundraising resources, we can supercharge our fundraising efforts by reaching not only our members, family, friends and the community but also individuals and corporations across the country or on the other side of the world!

Let me give you an example. I run marathons. Until now, I have run them for myself, but it has become apparent to me that this is an event I can also do for others – specifically, for women like my mother who suffer the burden of arthritis. I had already registered for the Long Beach Marathon on October 12, 2008, when I realized that every mile could be a small step toward easing that burden and contributing to Governor Cheri Fleming’s biennial project to Ease the Burden of Women’s Arthritis.

Having seen marathon teams raising money for causes such as cancer, leukemia and lymphoma, and AIDS, I contacted the Arthritis Foundation to see if they had a similar program. Although they do have a program called Joints in Motion (JIM) that trains marathon teams, none of their teams were operating in this geographical region at this time, and one of their staff suggested that I instead Google “free fundraising personal websites.” I could then raise funds using one of the resources I found that way.

I followed the instructions and found an exciting new world of fundraising possibilities. There are a number of nonprofit organizations out there dedicated to helping other nonprofits raise money for their causes by offering free do-it-yourself web pages for almost any event you can imagine. I did exactly that for the upcoming marathon, and it was easy! Please see my fundraising page at www.firstgiving.com/barbaraandres.

This type of fundraising web page can be built (easily – almost anyone can follow the simple instructions) for a huge variety of fundraising events. The site can be used to promote fundraising events such as a tea or sporting event or party to people who may not be able to make it to the event but who want to contribute to the cause it supports. The funds are collected through a secure online system and are issued as checks or are direct deposited to the club on a regular basis as the donations are made. Some of the sites have a fixed fee for the service; others add a small processing charge to each donation they process online. You can also continue to collect offline donations as usual and include the total funds raised on your web page so everyone can see how well you are doing!

You can email all your friends, business contacts, and family anywhere in the world with a link to your page. You can put links to your fundraising pages on your club or corporate web site, or post a widget (a mini-version of the site) on web sites or networking pages (such as MySpace or Facebook) as well. The sites also offer sample letters and emails to corporate sponsors to solicit donations -- and a wealth of other resources such as newsletters and links and ideas. You can reach hundreds or thousands without leaving your desk!!

In setting up your fundraising pages, you will find that most if not all of the providers of these pages (for example, www.firstgiving.com) require that your nonprofit be registered with a database of nonprofits such as Guidestar to make sure that the funds are being sent to a valid nonprofit. They will usually provide a link to the database and a search form to see if your club is listed there. When using this, be sure to make your search as broad as possible (e.g., search by city and state rather than the club’s exact name) as there may be typos in the database. For example, for many of the SIA clubs and entities in the Guidestar database, “Soroptimist” is misspelled “Soroptomist” (I am working to get this corrected).

If your club is not already listed in the nonprofit database, they simply require documentation of your club’s nonprofit status under Section 501(c)(3) of the Federal Tax Code. For most clubs in this region who registered for 501(c)(3) status under the group filing under the Region in 2002, that Letter of Determination of Nonprofit Status from the IRS is readily available in the Handbooks you received at Leadership Training Conference this past Spring.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions and I’ll do my best to help direct you.

I want to stress that these online pages should not replace your existing fundraising activities but can enhance your current efforts considerably by expanding your reach exponentially. So go ahead – supercharge your fundraising efforts!

Barbara Andres
SI Los Angeles West/Santa Monica
Secretary
Camino Real Region

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