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Fundraising is an important part of becoming a Hero for our kids. Mercy Home is 100 percent privately funded and the care we provide is only possible thanks to generous donors. Our Heroes don’t just show courage on race day – they do it every time they ask for a donation. 
 
For some, fundraising may seem more intimidating than running 26.2 miles. Like completing a marathon, asking others for money isn’t easy. But you don’t just wake up one day and run a marathon – you prepare by training your body. As your mileage builds, you become more confident.  
 
The same is true of fundraising – before you set out to reach your goal, you should develop a strategy. Once you get the first couple of donations under your belt, asking becomes easier and your goal becomes less daunting. And you won’t be on this journey alone – we’re always here to help and support you, and we’ve compiled some fundraising facts, tips, and ideas to help get you started. 

Fundraising Advice 

– Develop a fundraising pitch and practice it. Keep it simple. Here’s a quick example: “This October, I’m running the Chicago Marathon for Mercy Home for Boys & Girls. Mercy Home is a therapeutic home for kids in crisis in Chicago and it’s 100% privately-funded. Kids live at the Home and receive therapy, academic assistance, job and internship assistance, and continued AfterCare support. Your gift will give these kids the tools they need to succeed in life.” 

– Start with a solid donation to your own page. It shows donors you’re financially committed as well. Remember your gift will set the bar. Runners who donate to themselves raise twice as much.  

– Make your initial asks with the people most likely to give: Friends and family. Build some early momentum and practice your fundraising pitch.  

– Edit your fundraising page with a photo of you, preferably in your Heroes jersey, and your personal story. What is your reason for doing this? Continue to update the page during your journey. People who personalize their page raise seven to 18 times more than those who don’t! 

– Energy is considered one of the important attributes of being a great fundraiser. Energy, enthusiasm, and empathy are the 3-Es donors like to see in the people who call on them for gifts. 

– Every dollar helps but make big asks first. Remember it takes 175 $10 donations to hit the $1,750 minimum, and only 35 $50 gifts. 

– Asking in person gets the largest gifts. Find your asking style and use it to your advantage. 

– Put your fundraising page link in your social media bios and your email signature. 

– Thank people quickly and personally. Hand-written thank you cards increase the likelihood of a second gift by 400%. (Yes, people will give a second gift!) 

– People want to give. You provide them with an outlet to change the world. Never say no for someone. You never know who our mission might resonate with. 

– When posting your fundraising page on social media, use hashtags, especially on Instagram and Twitter #sweatyselfie #chicagomarathon #mercyhome #nodistanceistoofar #262nomatterwhat 

– Be authentic, honest, passionate: It’s OK to say it’s hard. In fact, it’s preferred. Post after your hardest runs, on your toughest days.  

– Use special days to create social media fundraisers, such as your birthday or Global Running Day. You can use the National Day calendar to take advantage of this too. “It’s National Sugar Cookie Day. Do something sweet and give a gift to bring hope and healing to kids in need.”  

– Follow the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on Facebook and Twitter and share and retweet their posts, along with a link to your fundraising page. 

– Don’t just mass email your address book. Take a few minutes to make a connection to an email recipient. It can make a HUGE difference. Fundraisers who utilize personalized mails raise up to 11 times more. Only 22% of fundraisers actually send emails. People who send just 4 to 10 emails average $585 in donations; sending 15 or more raises that to $1368! And pay attention to your subject line. It has to stand out in a crowded inbox.  

– The word “you” warms up the conversation, brings people closer, makes everything much more personal, and sends an unengaged mind into a higher state of alertness. Please understand: “you” is far more than a pronoun. It’s a profound emotional trigger as well. Be sure to use “you” in written asks. 

– Our staff writes stories regularly on the children in our care. Use these via email and social media to show potential donors success stories of what their money is funding. People want to be part of a winning team. We also have a YouTube page with some excellent videos you can share. 

– Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Asking for money is hard, even for those who do it for a living. This TED Talk may help guide you. 

– Remember that your fundraising number is a minimum, not a goal that you stop at once you hit it. No one plans to do the minimum in training for the race. You should look at fundraising the same way. Heroes don’t just do the minimum. 

Fundraising Facts 

– 58% more money is raised if you use a fitness app to post your runs (Garmin, Strava, etc.) 

– Sharing a personalized video raises three times more funds. 

– Stories raise twice as much as statistics. Facts don’t get processed, so if you can, show a story with your ask. Stories sell.  

– Nearly 90% of all charitable gifts come from individuals 

– Greater than half of donors (55 percent) will give to their favorite organization at least four times during the course of a year. It’s OK to ask early and ask again late. Or ask year after year. 

– 18% of all donations are referred from Facebook. Those who update their page with a post every 5 days raise three times more money. Social media is great for awareness too. And remember, not everyone sees every post.  

Fundraising Ideas

Honor your donors 
Offer to write their names on your jersey/shoes or to pick a song for your playlist. Give them the chance to be on the journey with you on race day. 

Bake Sale
Grab your kids or friends, and whip a few items up in the kitchen! Sell them at work, church, school events, or at other community gatherings you attend. 

Jeans Day
Ask your manager or supervisor if you could hold a “Jeans Friday” at your workplace. Employees can wear jeans in exchange for a donation to your campaign. 

Party!
Who doesn’t love a party? Hold a get-together at your house and ask attendees for a donation as “admission.” 

Yard Sale
You didn’t want all that stuff anyway! Gather it, price it, and take it outside on a sunny day to get money for it. Keep a stack of cards near your cash box that have your personal fundraising website on it along with more information about Mercy Home. That way they can give more to your campaign when they get home. 

Matching Gifts
Check with your company to see whether they have a program to match donations you make to charities. Or, search the database of companies that match gifts. 

Consign
Got stuff that’s worth more than you’ll get at a garage sale? Take it to a consignment shop! Consign your clothes, jewelry, furniture, books, bikes, and music. 

Restaurant fundraiser night
Lots of restaurants offer charity fundraising evenings, where they will return a percentage of their profits for an evening to the charity of your choice. Ask if your local favorites offer charity evenings, and whether they would be interested in holding one for you. 

Bar Night
Set up a bar night with our partners at Oh!Social. They will do a lot of the legwork for you. Your main job: Bring your friends and have fun! 

50/50 raffle 
This is a great one for the events mentioned above. It’s just what it sounds like. People buy tickets and the winner takes home 50% and you keep 50% for Mercy Home. Bonus: The winner often tells you to keep their 50%! Reward buying more tickets (1 for $5, 3 for $10, 7 for $20, etc.) 

Door to Door
Go to your neighbors’ houses and ask them directly whether they can make a donation to your campaign. Make sure to tell them all about Mercy Home and be prepared to answer any questions they may have.

Brunch
Hold a potluck-style brunch at your house on a Saturday morning and ask for donations in exchange for attendance.

Wine Tasting
Hold a BYOB wine-tasting event at your house and ask for donations in exchange for attendance.

Hold a one-day telethon 
Go old school. Set a goal, write a short script, grab family and friends and make your pitch via phone calls. Text your fundraising page link after talking with them.  

Local Art 
Have a friend who’s an artist? Ask whether she or he could design greeting cards, prints, or anything else you could sell to family, friends, and coworkers in exchange for a set donation to your marathon campaign. 

Silent Auction 
See if your friends have items of value lying around that they haven’t gotten around to selling yet. Collect them all and hold your own “silent auction.” Everyone who contributes can go home with something cool! 

Non-cash donations 
Did you know that Mercy Home can accept non-cash donations too? If you, your friends, or family are interested in supporting your marathon bid by donating gifts of stock or mutual funds, or by using a Donor Advised Fund, IRA, or other retirement account, please contact our Philanthropy Team at 1-800-378-8266, or at plannedgift@mercyhome.org