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Raising sponsorship - a personal approach

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Mike Laver
Mike Laver has completed six Monster Ski challenges and has raised in excess of £30,000 for The MS Trust. He shares his fundraising secrets here.

Raising sponsorship is not as hard as you might think. It requires energy and stamina, an occasional brass neck and a plan of action and time. First off, a lot of the advice you can get from the MS Trust fundraising page is very worthwhile. Read it and act on it.

Get started!

Start as early as you can and set yourself the goal you want to raise. Consider the size of your target carefully. If you set one too low, people may give smaller donations accordingly; equally, if you set a ridiculously large one, people will consider it wholly unattainable and may give nothing. Be prepared to increase your target as you get closer to it. The most important thing is to make a start and begin to let people know what you are doing and why.

Set up an online sponsorship page

There are a huge number of ways to gain sponsorship. First, start with a Virgin Money Giving fundraising page and check out the top 10 tips for online fundraising. Work on your message, and be prepared to modify it as you go. Include an eye-catching photograph either of yourself to personalise the site or a great action shot if not.

There is an automatically generated thank you e-mail which you arrange to be sent out after each on line donation. I found that, while it was more effort, sponsors really appreciated receiving a second 'thank you' e-mail personally to each of them a couple of days after your receiving their sponsorship money. And any publicity you can get is worthwhile by their passing the message on to their chums.

Start by asking!

One of the best ways I have discovered to raise money is just to ask - it is no more sophisticated than that; this is where the brass neck comes in. Write a short, succinct e-mail, summarising the reason why you are doing Monster Ski. Tell them what you are doing (the challenge), why you are doing it (the purpose), when you are doing it, and how the money raised will be spent.

Include a link to your fundraising page and ask those you contact to pass it on to those anyone that they think might be supportive. This worked really well and spreads the message of Monster Ski far and wide. For me, Monster Ski was partly about raising money and partly about raising awareness; in particular, it helps spread the second part of the challenge's message - MS is not the end of the world. And you never know who might just lob on the occasional £20 donation; complete strangers often do.

Keep track of who you have asked

I chose to e-mail individual clusters of chums like village neighbours, then relatives, and then work colleagues to get the benefit that any office or village chat would create - and it did create some. Although it might be unusual, if individuals hadn't responded to my first approach, I didn't routinely ask them again directly but found other ways to 'reintroduce' the subject to them later, as subtly as I could (after all I wanted to keep them as chums!).

It does slip people's minds - they are busy and there was probably never any intention to shun my request for sponsorship - they just need nudging occasionally. However, you would be amazed how successful the first approach was, but how slow the reaction could be in some people - they thought that giving closer to the time of the challenge (in my case about 9 months later) would somehow be better. For you, the person doing the challenge, you just want to get closer to your target and get desperate to see it grow; this wait can be agonizing! Stay cool.

Use online networks like Facebook

Online communities like Facebook and Twitter are fantastic for getting the word out about your challenge and for creating a buzz around what you're doing. Post regular updates and reminders to encourage donations to your sponsorship page. You can also meet fellow Monster Skiers via the MS Trust's Monster Ski Facebook page - this is a great way to share tips and ideas.

Ask your employer for their support

Many employers will match the funds you raise or can at least make a substantial contribution. If your employer has a magazine or website, write an article for it. Moreover, if your local community has a magazine, write an article for that too. Keep it short and pithy and if they can reproduce a photo of you, supply one. You'd be amazed just how many people read these articles, and act on what they read. You've basically got a great news story to tell, so ensure that it gets told. Prepare a press release and send it to local and regional newspapers including periodicals. Better still, rope in a chum with some experience to write one for you (unless you've had experience) and ask them to take care of your 'PR'.

Approach other companies

I also asked any business I bought goods through, whether it was related to my Monster Ski challenge or not, to reduce the price they were charging me, and explained that I would give this difference in price to my Monster Ski appeal. I was amazed how many companies were willing to do this. This raised a lot, all just by asking.

Expect frequent/constant knockbacks from companies if you approach them to give to you on a corporate basis. Most companies run charity accounts and have a plan where they give to a nominated charity on an annual basis. Approach them before the start of their Financial Year and ask them to consider your appeal as their annual charity.

Set up a web site and have links from it to other useful sites. This wasn't difficult and cost around £20. I asked a chum to host the site on his server so I didn't have to pay the domain registration company a monthly charge. I also bought software to update the site routinely - it's easy to do. Ask your company to host a link to your site on theirs - it's free advertising.

Take a break and ask for help

Quite likely, your fundraising will initially grow quickly before starting to tail off and it is important to re-energise your efforts and keep your fundraising 'alive'. However, expect to be fatigued by your fundraising activity. Don't try to keep at it constantly; you'll possibly start to resent the lack of instant progress. Take a break and go back to it after a while, re-invigorated and with new ideas. Encourage your family to help and ask your parents to write to aunts and uncles on your behalf. MS generally affects younger people, and without wishing to play the sympathy card, relatives are generally more empathetic and impressed by what you are doing.

If anyone asks to run a coffee morning or do any other activity to raise money on your behalf, take them up on it. You won't expend the energy but you'll have money raised for your appeal nonetheless. Listen to your friends' advice, but stick to your own principles and thoughts about how you should go about raising the money.

And finally...

My best advice: smile, be positive, and say thank you. Fundraising changes you as a person for the better.