6 Great #Fundraising Tips from a 6-Year-Old Boy

Calgary’s Haylen Astalos has never attended a fundraising conference. He has never participated in a webinar to learn about the latest fundraising techniques. He does not have a college degree in philanthropy, nonprofit management, or fundraising.

Nevertheless, now at six-years-old, Astalos has figured out what it takes to successfully raise money.Hot Chocolate by Alyson Hurt via Flickr

When he was just five-years-old, Astalos decided to take C$100 of his birthday money into the local Ronald McDonald House, according to a report in The Calgary Sun. He also made a commitment to continue supporting the charity. His mom says Haylen chose to support the Ronald McDonald House because “it helps helps sick kids.”

To raise more money, Astalos opened an ice-cream stand. With winter, he began selling hot chocolate. As he achieved each goal he set for himself, Astalos set a new goal. So far, he’s raised thousands of dollars for his favorite charity.

So, what can you learn from little Haylen Astalos? Here are six great tips:

1. Go with your passion. Astalos did not raise money for just any charity, nor did he let his parents pick a charity for him. Instead, he chose to support a nonprofit organization that was personally meaningful to him. His passion for the cause drives his activity and inspires others.

When looking for a fundraising position, be sure to factor passion into your decision. While you might have some success working simply as a hired mercenary, you’ll likely have greater success and experience greater personal fulfillment if you work for a cause you can be passionate about.

2. Be flexible. Astalos raised funds by selling ice cream in the summer. When the Alberta winter came, he changed products and began selling hot chocolate, something much more appropriate for the season.

In order to seize opportunities and maximize success, you need to be nimble and adaptable. While careful planning is certainly important, so is being flexible.

3. Be donor centered. Astalos wants to raise as much money as he can through his entrepreneurial efforts. To maximize his results, he knows he has to deliver a product that people want, when they want it, and where they want it. That means selling ice cream in summer, and hot chocolate in winter.

As a fundraiser, it is smart to be donor centered. By understanding what motivates your donors and what their needs are, you will be able to build stronger engagement and raise more money.

4. Hit the road. When, the Calgary Flames professional hockey team heard about Astalos’ efforts, the team invited him to set-up his hot-chocolate stand on the Saddledome’s concourse. Astalos jumped at the opportunity to sell his steamy beverage to his hockey heroes. The effort raised money and generated good publicity for Astalos and his cause.

As a fundraising professional, it’s easy to get trapped in the office. The board wants a report. The Chief Development Officer wants to have another staff meeting. The direct-mail appeal needs to be edited. Despite all the legitimate internal demands, it’s essential that development professionals get out of the office and meet with prospects and donors. You’ll learn about their motivations and passions and, ultimately, you’ll raise a lot more money.

5. Deliver high-quality. Astalos sells hot-chocolate for a good cause. He could have relied on the cause to sell the product, even an inferior one. However, Astalos chose to resell a popular, quality product: hot-chocolate from Tim Hortons. While enjoying a steaming cup, Flames player Brandon Bollig was inspired to remark, “That was spot on. He’s earning it.”

Whatever you provide donors, make sure it is of appropriate quality. Provide a high-quality website experience; have a high-quality point of contact when donors call; send high-quality communications. Personal touch matters. Eliminating typos matters. Avoiding bad grammar matters. Neatness matters. The quality of your interactions with donors will give people an impression of the quality of your organization.

6. It’s okay to exceed goals. Astalos set monetary goals for himself. More than that, as he achieved each goal, he set a new, larger one for himself.

Henry David Thoreau wrote, “In the long run, men hit only what they aim at.” Goals are important. Goals inspire us and others. Goals give us a target to work toward. Unfortunately, I’ve seen a surprising number of charities ease back their efforts once a fundraising goal is achieved. I suspect they do this so the following year’s goal won’t be boosted even more than typical. Nevertheless, you’re allowed to exceed your goal. After all, our job is to maximize resources for our organizations.

Science can definitely help us be more effective fundraising professionals. Studying what works and what doesn’t can help us raise more money. However, successful fundraising is about more than these things. Successful fundraising is also part art and part common sense. Haylen Astalos instinctively gets it.

The story about Astalos reminds of the following quote from Ernest Hemingway:

I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.”

What fundraising lessons have you learned by listening to unlikely sources?

That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?

9 Responses to “6 Great #Fundraising Tips from a 6-Year-Old Boy”

  1. It’s great to learn from young people who let their passion lead themselves, and inspire us all, to do great things, too.

  2. What a heart warming story. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Love this!! Sharing with my LinkedIn network now. It’s so easy to get distracted by focusing on the latest statistics, the technical jargon, and the minutia of our work. At its core, fundraising is about building relationships, listening to donors, and putting in the hard work.

  4. Love it, Michael. As always, your blog is worth every minute spent reading it! Thinking of you and sending healthy thoughts your way!


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