Our daughter, Chelsea, was just eight weeks old when she was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis and our lives were changed forever. Although we were fortunate enough to live near a cutting-edge CF care center, we knew there were challenges ahead, and we completely committed ourselves to doing everything in our power to help the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in their mission to find a cure.
Fast forward to today. Although there’s still a lot of work to do, the progress made since 1987 has been remarkable. Not only is there a heightened awareness about the disease, but there is a full pipeline of promising therapy and drugs.
We’ve tried to do our part through the 65 Roses Golf Classic: A Tenacious TournamentTM. During its 20 year-run, this annual charity golf tournament raised more than $3 million for the CF Foundation. We’re very proud of the support we’ve given to CF research, but we haven’t done it alone. We have a great community of family, friends, business partners, and of course, the safety industry, which my own business has been a part of for 35 years now.
While I am by no means an expert, I have learned a thing or two about effective fundraising over the past two decades. Here are some tips that have helped me connect with sponsors to guarantee overall event fundraising success:
- Cast a wide net. When we started our golf tournament event 20 years ago, I asked a friend who was a great individual and well-connected in the Twin Cities to join me at our first tournament, even though he was outside of the CF community. He and his company went on to support the event for the first 13 years. Pulling in friends who are willing, able, and connected is a smart move for anyone looking to fundraise, even if they haven’t been involved with CF in the past. Going it alone can be daunting, but when you bring in others, you cast a wider net and yield greater results.
- Don’t be afraid to ask -- and ask again. In addition to president and CEO, my title in the summer is professional cat herder. At this point, I have no issue with asking for support because I’ve been doing it for so many years. A lot of people have worthy causes, so explaining cystic fibrosis -- which is a pretty rare disease -- is important. Sharing the CF story is a powerful way to garner interest and show sponsors that it is a cause worth supporting.
- Get creative. When it comes to potential sponsors, put yourselves in their shoes and try to find innovative ways to promote how they are donating money, goods, or services to your cause. Look for opportunities for brand exposure and ways to increase their brand visibility. Companies want to be connected to worthy causes -- especially when they think it could result in future business opportunities.
- Keep up the momentum. The effort shouldn’t end with one successful event. To maintain momentum, it’s important to stay engaged with your supporters and give back to their causes as well. It may sound obvious, but thank them. Then, update them and thank them again. Make sure sponsors feel appreciated and provide them with a top-notch event. It’s important that they understand the impact they are having, so if possible, have a representative from the CF community at your event directly appeal to your attendees and communicate the very real difference their donations are making for those living with CF.
The most important quality in fundraising –- as in life -- is tenacity. You can’t be afraid to stick your neck out there and ask for the things you need. Not only do advancements in CF treatment and research benefit those living with CF, but they benefit other genetic diseases as well. Needless to say, it’s something that any “giver” should be excited to be a part of -- and you can make sure they are.