You think you do a lot to raise money? This exceptional Make-A-Wish Executive Director started by taking pictures of herself in unflattering workout clothes, then asked friends, board members and donors to pledge dollars per pound she would lose. Here’s her First Person Nonprofit story so far:
“How is fundraising going?” I get asked that question everyday. Every board member, donor and advisor is curious. And why? Because I have announced to everyone that I intend to be a “Big Loser.”
Like many charities, we are facing a deficit budget. We need every member of our board and staff motivated to assure that no child is denied a wish. I decided to embark on a most personal fundraising campaign. My hope was to raise enough revenue to fund one wish, $7,500, but this idea has struck a chord with so many friends and colleagues, we are on track to double or triple this goal! What could be better? We will raise much needed revenue, motivate others to help and I’ll have a smaller butt! Here’s how I’m doing it.
First I sent out an email to board members and friends saying:
“I apologize for not sharing this news with you in a more personal manner. But I wanted to let you know about some changes I am making in my life. The short story: you are going to see less of me.
“Why? Because while I’ve helped to grow our organization significantly over the last 10 years; my butt has grown significantly as well. That situation just has to change!
“Beginning today, I am launching my own “Biggest Loser” campaign with two goals: to become a healthier and smaller me over the next 12 weeks, and to seek your support in a $$ Pledge Per Pound so that Make-A-Wish will be healthier, too!
“In return for your $$ Pledge Per Pound, I will report to you weekly of my progress. And if I end up gaining weight, I will personally pay both YOU and Make-A-Wish. Wouldn’t you love a healthier executive director and a healthier balance sheet at Make-A-Wish? This kind of amusement and entertainment at my expense over the next 12 weeks has to be worth something!”
There are now more than 100 people contributing to my campaign, and I’m raising $610 for every pound I lose. And more pledges coming every day. I even created a Facebook page for the campaign. I didn’t bother to restrict access to it . . . once you start firing off unflattering photos of yourself, you may as well not bother with privacy settings!
Some unanticipated benefits: I feel GREAT. I’m forced not to spend so much time at my desk. Walking my dog really helps the stress level during these trying times. Six other Make-A-Wish staff and volunteers have started their own Biggest Loser campaigns, too.
And although I did this as just one more wacky idea I’m willing to pursue, I’ve been touched by the responses from those who have had their own battles with weight loss. Many have used the word “brave” to describe what I’m doing. I’ve been taken aback by the number of women who have shared their issues with body awareness.
Finally, I feel the current environment needs an energized fundraising plan and occasionally, some levity. You need to be a little creative and yet honest about the current environment. Whining annoys donors and NOT asking only confirms that you don’t really need or deserve the support. Remind your donors that you are asking them to JOIN you. Why should others give to your mission if you and your board aren’t fully committed? And if anyone ever doubted how committed I am . . . well they don’t doubt anymore.
Come join me on Facebook and make a pledge. In the meantime, here’s my latest email:
“OK, this week, we have a little math problem. First of all, the lack of [weight loss] progress this week might have had something to do with the walk Linda and I took last night. Out we headed and then – well, let’s just say a margarita was blocking our path.
“Now, back to the math lesson. Here’s the problem . . .
I am projecting a $200,000 deficit in our budget this year . . . in order to make up that difference, given the pledges I’ve received – I need to lose 329 lbs.
“No kidding: 329. At that rate, assuming I weighed enough – I should finish this thing in oh – I think 6.7 years.
“Happily, it is impossible for me to lose 329 lbs. So that means, in order to solve my math problem, I need to pump up the pledges. This is where you come in!
“If you haven’t done so yet – please let me know your pledge. On behalf of the 329 lbs I can’t lose – thank you! And my pledge to you? I will walk past the margaritas this week!
“P.S. The most difficult part of this campaign? Standing at the copy machine and knowing everyone is looking at your butt.”
Our thanks to the very, very brave Patricia Wilson, Executive Director of Greater Bay Area Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength, and joy.
I applaud your ingenuity and creativity!
This also brings up concerns –As social justice and community leaders/representatives, it’s important for us to think about the broader implications of reinforcing messages through our organizational/fundraising actions that perpetuate prejudice, negative self-image, and unhealthy body expectations.
Fat advocacy and activism, including health at every size, is a critical aspect of social justice. Unfortunately, in a culture that equates weight with health (and being thin as an indicator of good health), this is a largely invisible and unacknowledged movement in the mainstream.
I urge others to consider what taking on a fundraising goal like this (and the incentive for people to donate based on weight lost and not, say, personal grwth, mental health, etc.) says to fat people about how they should respond to themselves.
Hello, its me – the big loser. I just wanted to report that I earned another $30/lb in pledges today. $5/lb from someone I’ve never met!
How cool is that?!
Thank you for the moral and financial support during these most stressful times.
I am SO stealing this idea. Brilliant! I’m just 5 pounds away from my own weight loss goal, but I know that maintenance is going to be hell, because I can resist everything except temptation. Knowing that cash for homeless families is at stake will keep my hand out of the candy jar. I’m going to encourage our supporters to do their own campaigns, as well. Thank you for sharing!
What a great idea all the way around. I wish I was brave enough to take it on, or should I say take it off. Good luck in your very personal and public campaign. Here is hoping you lose all you want to with your supporters cheering you on.
Thank you for sharing this! I’ ve been trying to be more healthy for last six months, but have allowed the economic times to get me down and when I’m down, I "fill" with food! So, I’m pitching this to my Board in hopes they will find it to be a good idea too.
Thank you again,
New Hope, Blount Co Children’s Advocacy Center
Since this is a personal campaign – not an organizational one . . . no need to pitch it. As long as you think it is a good idea, go for it!Unless you are trying to get your Board to join you in conducting a campaign . . . which could be fun to do as a group and report your collective weight loss. Or you could line up a Board member willing to match everyone else’s pledge. A little "shock and awe" might help with your pledges!Good luck!Patricia
What a win-win situation! I start June 1st with my 12 weeks. As I have been so stressed about money at my non-profit, I have not been taking care of myself. So this idea just jumped off the paper at me. I already have a volunteer personal trainer on board!Thanks for the inspiration!Hillarynrp01@zirkel.org
You are most welcome. Good luck!Patricia
You go, girl! I wish I could follow your example.
I loved your idea, Patricia. I will share it as I train nonprofit organizations around the country to be creative in fund development and volunteer engagement during this economic downturn.
You brighten my day!
Stallings and Associates
Yay – glad you liked it. You know, the best way to show you like the idea – is pledge a few $ per lb. I’m just saying :)Patricia