My first post in this series dealt with the spiritual aspect of fundraising. In this post I am just going to lay out what I learned from our fundraising adventures: which fundraisers worked for us, which didn’t, and some tips and tricks to get the most out of all your hard work.
I want to begin with something I believe is the most important part of fundraising for your adoption…
You can either go into adoption fundraising kicking and screaming or you can approach it as an opportunity to shine a light for Christ while inviting those around you to join your journey. Remember when you were little and your mom would tell you to stand up straight, shoulders back? Well, same thing here – it’s all about your posture. If you approach your adoption fundraising with a posture of humility, honesty and transparency and people see you approach it kindly and with excitement – they will want to be a part of it. I promise.
How do you do this? Well, because most all fundraising is done through Facebook, Instagram, email and blogs, this gives you an opportunity to share your story – and most importantly – share your process of adoption in real time. I posted weekly updates, pictures of my process, and new pictures of our son when we got them. You may even give monthly updates of where you are in the process financially – how much your supporters have so generously given and how much more you lack. It’s up to you and what you feel comfortable with; I tried to be honest and transparent in where we were financially without sounding desperate and needy.
Now I share all this because again, it’s all about the attitude. People respond to honesty. They respond to you being up front and personal about your experience. Invite them along this journey with you! Start a blog, or a FB page just dedicated to your adoption process (a lot of people like to do this for privacy reasons as well). All in all – take people with you on this leap of faith!
In regards to Instagram and Facebook – you can choose to update your journey with pictures and graphics. I love using apps that you can add frames, graphics, cute fonts, basically making your pictures fun. My two favorite apps to do this are Rhonna Designs and A Beautiful Mess.
Not too good with this kind of thing? Email me – I am happy to help. I love getting creative in this way. I chose to advertise each fundraiser we had in this way – cute pictures and graphics.
So, which fundraisers worked for us?
1. Soap fundraiser
We ordered wholesale soap by the loaf from a maker in Tennessee and I cut, packaged and shipped each bar. I did a “china theme” for these and wrapped them in butcher paper, red string and added a china coin to each packaged. Was simple but cute. Detail is important!
2. T-shirt Fundraiser
This is a popular one and you will see we adoption mamas be crazy over a good adoption t-shirt. Tips when doing t-shirts: do not make it super personal! Leave out your name, your child’s name, or your personal state you live in. This will limit your audience big time!
You may want to pick a verse or a phrase that speaks to you in your adoption process. Do your research and look around to see what sells. Some of our best sellers came from offering at least two color choices, a men and women’s version and youth and toddler sizes – families love to coordinate!
I think we have had 7 or 8 t-shirt designs in the span of our three adoptions and I learned quickly what people liked.
Some of my favorite t shirt companies that create shirts for adopting families:
Tee Spring and Bonfire Funds – with these sites you can design something yourself or upload a design. These sites are both super easy to use and straight forward.
Fund the Nations is a t-shirt business that works exclusively with adopting families and mission trip groups – their designs are fun and trendy. They have some great graphic designers working with them that can help you put your vision on a shirt!
Once you have a design worked up, ask a few trusted friends what they like about it and what they don’t. Do not be afraid to go back and forth with your graphic designer until you get your design absolutely perfect! And be sure to print on comfortable soft t-shirts.
You can’t go wrong with a t-shirt fundraiser, everyone loves a good t-shirt. You need a good design and you need to advertise, advertise, advertise! Start your fundraiser with a bang by asking people to share your fundraiser on their page to be entered to win a free shirt. I did this with each t-shirt fundraiser and I know for a fact it works and expands your audience!
3. Hand-made Item Fundraiser
We did a jewelry fundraiser. I kept an eye out for what was trendy and found that tassel necklaces were popular so I searched for supplies and through trial and error came up with a design I liked. Now when you take the road of creating something completely from scratch it’s going take time. Do not look for an easy way out of this. Many of my days and nights were spent working on my necklaces. I held three separate sales – once a batch was done I would post them on a separate FB page dedicated (with a cute name and asked my friends to share away!) just to my necklaces and bracelets.
I advertised leading up to the sale with “sneak peeks” of the goods. This creates excitement! You want that! What I did that worked for me was that I did not make my necklaces available whenever. I bade a batch, had a sale date, posted each individual necklace and when they all sold out that was it. I did not take custom orders or make them available any time. This was a personal thing because I needed a stopping point, breaks between creating them and to make each necklace to an individuals specifications was something that was going to take way too much time. These were very time consuming and that would have meant even more time spent away from my family. I was upfront about that and guess what? It created demand. We made over $7,000 on three separate necklace sales.
Not crafty? That’s ok! Do you have a friend that is? Get together and brain storm ideas! Also – sometimes you need to invest a bit of money up front for supplies. I had a good bit of investment in all my beads and jewelry making supplies. But if you have a good idea, and good design, it’s going to pay off! Search on Etsy and craft sites to see what’s popular and selling.
Hand made unique items can be a big fundraiser. Create them with your mass audience in mind. Do you like squirrels? That’s great but do not create a whole line of squirrel jewelry because you think it is cute! Get me? Create by what you know will sell. Even those who normally wouldn’t purchase something in an adoption fundraiser may purchase your item because it rocks hands down. Again, this increases your audience. It can be a bit like a formula if you think about it. Spend the time thinking about your audience, what may sell, get input from friends, have a good unique item – it will sell, I promise!
4. Doll Fundraiser
A fellow adoptive mama was willing to lower her price per doll and made me a huge lot of them to sell for less. Again – this required money up front but it was worth it in the long run. I also knew my audience and knew that a lot of China boys and girl dolls would sell and they did! Also – take good pictures of your items! You might have an awesome item to sell but if you have fuzzy or poor-quality pictures, you’ll lose a lot of potential customers. Outdoor lighting is easy to work with and you can’t go wrong taking good shots of your items outside. Don’t use a flash if you don’t have to. Not good at this? Find a friend with a good eye and a good camera and ask if they would come take pictures for you. This seems like something little but is a big part of selling your item! After all, people only have a picture (and your fabulous description, of course) to go on.
5. Used Kids Clothing Fundraiser
This was easily one of our most simple and effective fundraisers. We had adopted a little girl from China 7 months before and I had tons of adorable clothes I had bought in preparation for her. A lot of it was only worn once or still with tags! Our girl had grown super fast as soon as she got home, so I had a huge stock! I created a separate FB page, named it “Momo’s Closet” and sold all her extra clothes in a week. I made over $1,000 in that week. Easy peasy. I did price my clothing low so it could sell. That in itself created demand and every item sold out with in minutes – it was crazy.
6. Baked Goods Fundraiser
We did this during our process to adopt our daughter Brighton. We named it Bundt Cakes for Brighton. I ordered cute pink cake boxes, perfected a few bundt cake recipes, advertised, took orders and baked my heart out for about a month. This wasn’t a huge money maker but I believe it was because I had to stop – our son had surgery and I needed to spend time with him while he recovered. I know it would have been more successful if I could have done it longer. You can get baking supplies at Costco or Sam’s club for a small investment and sell cakes for a good price. Again, this was a local fundraiser so that limited my audience but people really loved it – and I loved it too!
7. Online Auction
This is a popular one in the adoption community and can easily be successful if you have great donors willing to donate items or services. This takes some preparation. You will need to put the “need” out there asking for donations. Don’t worry – people will donate! Remember about sharing, being honest and up front from the beginning about your process.
Because you have invited people to come alongside you, you will see they will want to be a part! Give them that opportunity! Some folks may not be able to contribute financially but they have something unique they can donate to your adoption auction. Or maybe their sister or aunt or grandmother does! You never know until you put that out there.
I just held an adoption auction for a friend and a wonderful woman who quilts made the most beautiful lantern quilt and panda pillow for her auction. Because she is adopting from China and had several China mamas in the audience, the quilt did really well! So again, think about your audience!
If you run across a cute shop online, ask them if they would be willing to donate to your auction! In return you can advertise for them leading up to the auction. People love this! It’s a win-win and that’s how I got most of my donations for my online auctions. Advertise your auction well, have people share and run it for a certain amount of time. Keep your starting bids low, people are not going to bid on an item if it already is close to purchase price. This can be a very successful fundraiser!
8. Art Sale
This was a fundraiser a sweet fellow adoptive mama offered to do for us. She is a wonderful artist and painted beautiful canvas paintings, advertised on Instagram and held the sale for us. I didn’t have to do anything! It was like a breath of fresh air after months of constant fundraisers. Do you have a friend who is talented and willing to donate their talents?
9. Yard Sale
This is an easy one. Who doesn’t have junk laying around they need to get rid of? Also, you can ask for people to donate their junk leading up to your yard sale! Believe me, if you ask, it will come. This is something local people can rally around and it can easily bring in a good bit.
Set up a little lemonade stand and bake sale table during your yard sale and have your kids run it – a great way to get your kids involved.
Have a local church? See if you can hold it there and get even more traffic and people involved. When we held our yard sale we were clear it was for our adoption of our son and we had many people just come by and hand us money or even pay more for an item because they knew it was going to a good cause.
10. A Raffle (or Giveaway)
This was a fun and non-time consuming fundraiser. A lot of people do these with a high ticket item a friend or family member donates. There have been raffles for iPads, American Girl dolls , Go-Pro cameras. You’re really only limited to your imagination with this one.
We held one and offered two items: an instant Fuji Film camera and an Ergo carrier. People sent in $5 for one entry and chose what raffle they wanted to enter and we ran it for around two weeks.
11. An Envelope Fundraiser
This is a popular one too! One of these was held for us by a sweet adoptive mama and it went really well! People pick a numbered envelope (any amount). Ours were numbered 1 – 144 and the envelope the person picks is the amount they donate! This can add up fast and is a simple and planned out fundraiser – easy to hold on Facebook or Instagram.
Every time someone donated to ours I wrote their name on a globe I painted with chalk board paint. It served as a kind of viual “thank you.” It now sits in our son’s room and is a precious visual reminder of all the sweet people that helped us get to our boy.
Those were our top earning fundraisers. We held a few others, but these are the ones that stood out to me as most successful, and ones anyone can do!
You’re really only limited to your imagination when it comes to adoption fundraising. Be creative, come up with something fun that your local community can get involved in and get to work!
Hold a 5K. Many of my friends have had success in this. This would require a lot of work and you would need a team of friends and family to pull it off… but when it is done correctly can really make a dent in that huge amount.
Get your game on. Organize a corn hole tournament or kick ball tournament! Design team shirts, buy concessions at Costco and bring even more in.
Pancake breakfast. Find a local restaurant to hold a pancake breakfast. I know Applebee’s does this, and Chick-fil-A will have fundraiser nights where a portion of their sales in a certain time slot will go towards your adoption.
Bar-B-Que. Know someone willing to donate their skills smoking meat? Have a southern back yard fundraiser and charge per plate. Many times local grocery stores will donate food to fundraisers. All you have to do is ask!
Puzzle fundraiser. You ask for people to “purchase” a piece of your puzzle for a certain amount. $5 or $10 – really whatever you come up with. Write their names on the back of the puzzle and when it’s all complete you have a wonderful keepsake for your child to hang in their room.
A few notes of importance to end on.
* Do not underestimate a good thank you! This can go a long way. Send emails, snail mail with cute paper, or post a quick note on their Facebook timeline. Take the time to let people know how much they are appreciated and loved.
* Be realistic in what you can and should take on. I spent lots of time praying and planning out my fundraisers – I wanted them to be interesting and fun.
* Don’t get discouraged! You’re going to have fundraisers that flop and that’s okay. Just learn and get back on the wagon.
* Ask for help! One thing I was not good at was asking for help. That’s just me. I am so thankful a friend saw at one point I was swimming in beads and needed help finishing up our last necklace fundraiser. It was like a breath of fresh air having the help. So don’t be afraid to ask for help. Inviting people along this journey of yours can be inspiring to others and also so many want to help if just given the opportunity.
* Pray and see what God reveals to you. He will bless your efforts – I believe that because I have experienced it myself! I truly believe the Lord had us begin this last adoption process with not a penny because He wanted to show up and show off. He had us walk in obedience to Him in a way we hadn’t before.
* And don’t forget the importance of attitude. Fundraising is a very humbling experience for sure. It can be fun, successful, and a learning experience if you go into it with the right attitude – and with your hands open to what God has for you through the journey.
About a week ago I was driving down the road and looked in my rear view mirror at the little bundle of cuteness that now takes up one more spot in my van. This time last year I was fundraising my fingers to the bone and wondering if we would ever get there.
With God’s helping hand we did. And He blessed us beyond our wildest dreams.
Thank you for this! We are at the VERY beginning of adopting our son from Uganda, and I’m just overwhelmed by the amount of money. Thank you for these ideas!! <3
What a great resource to anyone in the process of adoption!!!!! I am making a note of this for future reference!!!!! SO wise! Blessings!
Can I put in a plug for the Both Hands Foundation? They helped us put on an amazing fundraiser that raised everything we needed for our China adoption? They are encouraging, helpful, and I love their model! https://bothhands.org/