Editor’s Note: This post is a conclusion for the First Time Fundraiser, Lifetime Impact article.
It’s hard for me to believe that the summer has gone so quickly and it was only a couple of months since I set out on my first fundraising adventure. My six weeks in Moshi Tanzania is now a thing of the past. So in the end, was the process of fundraising worth it? Was it what I expected? Did fundraising change my experience during my trip? And most importantly, did I achieve what I set out to do?
The fundraising work is not quite finished, but I am pleased to report a huge, and in some ways unexpected, success. We reached 80% of our goal during our trip to Tanzania and learned a couple of things along the way. Some of the fundraising activities worked really well and others, surprisingly, not so much.
What fundraising tools were used?
I built my fundraising efforts around tools that could be easily used. Fundraise.com turned out to be a very accessible and easy to use service. Roxy and I set our campaign up and found that using Fundraise.com as a home base for gathering donations made keeping track of money and promoting the cause very simple. Although they take a percentage of the profits, I know I could not have possibly raised as much without the easy-to-use website.
Since we were set on communicating with people all over the world and our campaign’s home base was online, we experimented with using social networking websites to promote our cause. Facebook was the easiest and most effective way we raised donations before the trip began. Another thing that worked really well for us was using email. Especially sending personal pleas; not for money, but for people to spread the word to their family in friends. In this way, we reached more individuals than we could have hoped to reach on our own and I also didn’t feel like I was irritating my friends and family by constantly asking them for money.
I was astonished by the popularity of my own blog, and once we were in Tanzania I found most donations came from people who read about our trip in progress on the blog. In fact, we raised almost a thousand dollars this way and I think this is because readers felt like they were experiencing Moshi and the Majengo clinic with us. Of course, that was my intent with blogging, but I was amazed by how many readers supported our work.
A few of the fundraising tactics we thought would work really well did not have the same kind of impact as our social media efforts.
I was a little surprised that speaking face-to-face with people about our cause often yielded an uncomfortable conversation rather than a donation. I think this could be a cultural thing more than anything. People don’t want to be put on the spot about what to do with their hard earned money, and I think Fundraise.com allowed them to donate on their own terms and on their own timeline. We just needed to remind them from time to time.
The fundraiser at Hans Bier Haus was not as successful as I had imagined it would be, considering that $500 of the $650 we raised was contributed by one really awesome patron. The evening was so much fun and it was very generous of the bar to host our efforts, but after all of the hype, excitement, and hard work that went into the evening, I was a little disappointed in the fundraising results. The ratio of time and effort to money raised was much lower than anything I did online. But we did connect with and inspire our hero, and raised more than 10% towards our overall goal.
Now for the unexpected!
I am lucky enough to have a family that is not only extremely supportive of the wild things I want to do (go to Tanzania for a summer? Sure! How can we help?) but they also happen to be really good at connecting. My mother is a dental hygienist and was able to gather more than $1,000 in donated dental supplies from her office and the former office of a coworker. Although dental care wasn’t an original focus for us, when we arrived at the Majengo Clinic we found they had just opened a dental office a week before and were in desperate need of instruments. How fortuitous!
Similarly, my father heard about a clinic in the area that was closing and, because of some legalities, the medical supplies the clinic maintained couldn’t be used in the US. My dad saw a great opportunity and was able to provide $1,500 worth of syringes, IV kits, and catheters for the clinic. Combined with the money we fundraised, which we used to purchase vitally needed blood pressure cuffs and stethoscopes, we provided the clinic with more than $3,000 in medical supplies!!
How amazing to go so far and beyond the original goal of $500 all due to some dedicated helpers back home.
Shipping those supplies to Tanzania was prohibitively expensive. But another hero stepped in and when all of these supplies were gathered they were shipped, not to Tanzania, but to my boyfriend, who personally delivered them when he joined us in Moshi to climb Kilimanjaro. We had such a fun day taking all of the supplies to the clinic in person rather than having to mail them from home, and we saved on expenses as well. I was happy to deliver actual quality objects rather than cash because we had control over exactly what was done with the money, and we know that the items we provided are high quality and will last in the long term.
We’re close to our goal, but not quite there. I’m excited to share our trip and begin the efforts to raise the last $1,200 that will power Path to Africa’s Children’s Center borehole. I’m looking forward to speaking with community organizations like the Lion’s Club, Shriners, Daughters of the American Revolution, and others, to schedule a presentation of the trip and my experiences. This is much more practical to do now because I can speak about all of the amazing things I got to do and see and I have pictures! Everyone loves to see pictures!
Just when everyone thought things were winding down, all signs indicate the project is gaining momentum.
One of my next steps is to focus on facilitating a long-term relationship between my medical school and the Majengo Clinic. The time seems right as UT Houston and the Texas Medical Center are becoming more engaged in global health. Getting a constant flow of volunteers would be a sustainable benefit for the clinic and I personally know about the benefits a student gains from learning about health care in a completely different culture. Don’t tell anyone, but I’m excited about this possibility. After all, just like fundraising before the trip amped up the anticipation factor, continuing the work will allow me to relive those incredible six weeks for a little bit longer than would normally be considered, well, normal.
The donations themselves put a lot of pressure on me to not only come through for the organizations I was supporting, but also to make wise decisions with other people’s generosity.
As a first time fundraiser, I hope my successes and failures can be a guide for other volunteers and fundraisers out there trying to make an impact. The journey has been stressful and difficult, but so incredibly fun and rewarding. The donations themselves put a lot of pressure on me to not only come through for the organizations I was supporting, but also to make wise decisions with other people’s generosity. Balancing medical school finals, planning a massive trip and raising money was also difficult, but not as hard as the social discomfort I felt constantly promoting my cause. Every second of awkwardness was made worth it by the doctors and nurses at the clinic and the wonderful people at Path to Africa who were all thrilled and surprised by how much people in America wanted to help them.
Did I complete what I set out to do? I think it’s a work in progress. My main goals were completed: I wanted to improve health care in Moshi and provide a service for the clinic. But now that I have seen how much there is to do, my goals are growing exponentially. In an attempt to stay grounded, my main focus is raising the last $1200 so we can get the borehole completed at Path to Africa’s Children’s Center. Now that I have some experience fundraising and understand a little bit more about what to expect, I can’t wait to get started on stage two. I hope you can come along for the ride!