Fundraising for your adoption is a great way to grow your resources and draw upon the support of your family, friends, church, community or other network. However, fundraising — for any cause — is not without pitfalls. Some people have very different opinions about the appropriateness, timing, frequency, or nature of fundraising, especially for “sensitive” topics like fertility or adoption. Those criticisms shouldn’t be the last word in your efforts, but they are worth considering.
You should be aware of some of these common issues when planning and preparing your own fundraiser.
1. Fundraise without a plan
This isn’t the first time you’ve been asked to put together a “plan” when considering adoption. However, many people overlook that fundraising should be part of a comprehensive and well-thought out plan of addressing your adoption budget. What is your adoption budget? Or estimated budget range? How much have you saved? Or are planning to save by doing X, Y, and Z? (budgeting, cutting out eating out, grocery meal planning, tapping into savings/retirement, selling cars/clothes/excess items, etc.) Have you applied for grants? Are you considering any adoption loans? How will the adoption tax credit affect you considering your tax liability?
2. Pick a fundraiser that doesn’t fit your family
Fundraising should be about inviting people to be part of your story. The thing is — if you just pick a random fundraiser idea without some self-reflection, it may not sound like your story at all. Are you really into movies? Then have a outdoor movie night — not a fun-run. Do you love dancing and parties? Then maybe a dinner and silent auction/dance fit better than a car wash. Consider your interests, hobbies, and what you like to do with your friends and family. If you have specific hobbies with an already established network — try to plan something that goes with that, even if it means coming up with something new or tweaking an existing fundraising event.
3. Rely on one method or event to meet needs
Don’t put all your adoption dreams in one fundraising basket. Go back to your macro- adoption plan and look at your budget to strategize how many events or projects you want, with the appropriate timing. Maybe you have to break it up into smaller goals – money for the homestudy, or different agency payments — or maybe you have a matching grant you are trying to maximize. Its unlikely that one fundraiser or even one type of adoption financing will meet your needs, so plan on utilizing multiple streams.
4. Fundraise fatigue
Just as dangerous as having too little fundraising efforts — is having too many and maxing out your network with requests for money, time, resources, etc. Nobody likes to be pestered – even for the best of causes — so be sure you don’t burn up people you care about (or even strangers) with too many pleas for help. If you have a garage sale — ask people for items to donate, and tell them about the event. But, if you spin it into a second or third garage sale — don’t rinse and repeat the same maneuvers. Try to diversify the target audience of any particular fundraiser — maybe targeting online acquaintances with a t-shirt campaign vs. a letter or “puzzle challenge” or “tag the bag” campaign you send to close family and friends. Try to put yourself in the shoes of whoever you are reaching out to — especially with broad crowd-funding campaigns — and think about your own reaction, especially if people have already contributed to your efforts. Some people may still want to help, but aren’t in a position to give any more money — try to offer opportunities to give time or talents to help with your fundraising.
5. Share too much information on your referral/match
Many people have very strong feelings regarding their path to adoption, and many in the community talk about a “call” to adopt. While the desire to grow your family through adoption is a worthy one — you may want to be careful in how you frame those desires, especially in very public ways. Focusing on you, your family, your journey is usually a better idea when sharing your story rather than focusing too much on a child, especially if you already have a match or referral. While it may seem natural to include the urgency (especially if you are aware of the child’s difficult circumstances at present), think about the long-term effects of sharing too much information.
You can never un-share what you put on a poster or on a Facebook post — and someday this child will be an adult who is processing their adoption, and all of the grief and loss that may accompany it.
Do you want your child to be known as someone who was “rescued from the gutter” or “snatched from a filthy orphanage”? (even if that’s the truth) Are you “saving” them — to which they should forever be grateful (and likely be reminded of in a subtle or not-so-subtle way by someone who contributed to those efforts?) Or are you looking for a child that will bless YOUR family? Are they a project? Or a person? How will this reflect on their culture? Birth family? Country of origin? You will be the best judge of what is appropriate or not — but please be thoughtful in how you frame your fundraising events, especially any pictures, slogans, scriptures, etc. Some agencies may have policies about what you can share and when depending on your adoption timeline.
6. Take fundraising participation personally
Some people will give generously to your efforts. Some will not. Some people, who you know have the means, will pass on the opportunity to help, and it may sting a little, or a lot. Try to let it go. It may be hard to take denials or rejections personally, because clearly this is a personal and important issue to you — but try to separate the person from the fundraising plea. Keep in mind the ramifications for your interpersonal relationships when you are planning your fundraising — if you worry that you won’t be able to get over a rejection from someone — then don’t include them. It’s not worth damaging the relationship. You cannot un-ask someone who has been asked, so again, be thoughtful in who you include and why. Be clear about your own expectations — and be humble with them – then you may be pleasantly surprised by the help from others, rather than hurt at the rejection.
In general, “Expect nothing, and be grateful.”
7. Think that your finances are your own business
Sharing your adoption journey with others and asking for help will put your under financial scrutiny – its inevitable. Be prepared for that and consider that kind of watchfulness and occasional judgment when planning your master strategy of fundraising, budgeting, grants, loans, increasing income, selling goods/services, etc. If you are going on a cruise the week before your fundraiser (and you got is as a work bonus — either share that important part of the vacation, or don’t share the trip at all — keep off Instagram!) No ones likes to have their financial choices the subject of prying eyes — but it may be a cost of opening the “public” door to your private financial needs. Judging another’s circumstances is never right, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared for it physically, emotionally, etc. and consider it when you are formulating your adoption budget plan. The golden rule here applies: Try to put yourself in the shoes of other and consider whether you would have a harder time donating if you saw what looked like excessive discretionary spending. Be as transparent as possible as to what donations are going to as part of your adoption costs, many people are simply unaware of what various expenses really cost.
8. Fundraise without considering cost/benefit analysis
Doing a fundraiser right will likely take significant time and efforts, especially if you are in the fewer and bigger impact camp. Depending on the type of project, you might also need to contribute some funds or materials upfront. Make sure you have considered all of these “costs” (including your time) when making a master adoption budget plan. Is this the most productive use of your time to increase your funds? Would it make more sense to increase your work-hours, or get a second job/freelance? What are the typical profit margins on this kind of fundraiser? Not to be a broken record, but try to be thoughtful about your own cost/benefit analysis when considering fundraisers and the realities of your time constraints.
9. Not promote your fundraiser!
It won’t matter how great of an event you have planned if no one knows about it. You have to get the word out there with promoting, advertising, word of mouth, etc, to give people an opportunity to contribute or attend. If that makes your squeamish, remember that this isn’t a wild west holdup – you are giving people a chance to contribute – the ball is still in their court. So, share your story (with the caveats discussed above), and use whatever channels at your disposal. Some people even set up a reward system for helpers who sell tickets to get people motivated. If it can work for professional sales team, there must be something to it.
10. Don’t give real value for real money
You need to deliver on any promises you make. You may find, through your fundraising efforts, that you acting like a temporary business owner trying to deliver very business-like services. Try to do it as professionally as possible, with an eye toward the value you are giving people for their money. If you advertised an elegant dinner and auction — you can’t hold it in your garage. If you are selling t-shirts – make sure they are a cool design, and comfy. Would you want to buy them otherwise? If you doing a fun-run, have some other activities for participants to make a day out of it, you’ll likely attract more people (non-runners, for example), and you’ll make the event into a memory, instead of just another jog + t-shirt saturday morning.
Be careful about asking for money outright, or for a donation without any other goods or services in return. Some people find it offensive, regardless if it’s marketed as a “virtual shower.” Consider your audience and how involved they may or may not want to be in your adoption journey. Some people prefer to give outright donations and be done with it (we’ve all had to stomach multiple cookie dough buckets or endless yards of wrapping paper when we would have preferred to give a check and more money to the cause itself). Others would rather have *something* in return, even a small token, or would be happy to pay a bit of a premium for something they would already purchase — for a good cause. You could even test a few ideas out in your own informal focus group of friends or acquaintances to gauge interest.
It may be that asking for money outright — especially in a crowd-sourcing channel — may be best suited as the last tactic to reach your goals.