Post 1: Writing a fundraising letter
Post 2: Applying for adoption grants
Post 3: Fundraising sales and events
Post 4: Using social media to raise funds
Post 5: Handling negativity during the fundraising process
Be sure to check back next month about this time to read post four in the series!
Sales and Events
The first two parts of this series covered letter-writing and applying for grants. Donations that came in as a result of our letter, plus the grant we received combined to cover over 40% of our adoption costs. We continued saving every extra dollar we could spare, which covered another 20%. The rest was covered by funds raised through special events and sales that we carefully selected, planned, and executed with the help of our friends and family. We tried a variety of different events and sales over two and a half years:
● Online Auction ~ $750
● Etsy shops & craft shows ~ $8,400
● Consignment sale ~ $650
● Used clothing sales and garage sale ~ $2,300
● Virtual 5K ~ $2,500
● Other ~ $850
Total Raised: ~ $15,500
By the time our adoption process was complete and all the costs had been paid, I may not have actually become an expert in fundraising, but I certainly felt like one!
If you are considering special events or sales to raise money for your adoption process, here are my tips:
Our first large fundraiser was an auction held via our blog. All kinds of items were donated from friends and family members including homemade baked goods, custom handmade items, tons of jewelry, book manuscript editing, a photo shoot, tutoring, guitar lessons, maid services, and custom artwork. My husband and I threw in some of our services (I’m a graphic designer, and my husband is, among other things, a web developer): a custom blog, a basic business website, a custom logo, and a set of custom wedding invitations.
We created a category on our blog for the auction and a blog post for each item. To bid on an item, people commented back and forth, with items going to the highest bidder at the end of the auction. We left the auction open for two weeks.
Results We raised $1,200 for our adoption fund… Well, actually, we didn’t. The winning bids added up to that amount, but that’s not the amount of money that people ended up giving to us for their items. We had item winners all over the country and no easy way to contact them outside of email or Facebook. One item winner ignored every attempt at contact. Another paid only part of the amount that had been bid.
I admit that it was frustrating and disheartening, but we ended up with about $750 to add to our adoption fund. We were pleased with that result.
My Advice: If you can get useful, high quality items and services to be donated, an online auction is a great option.
I recommend using a service like 32Auctions or any number of other services instead of your personal blog, since the winner of the item is automatically billed at the conclusion of the auction. Pay attention to the service fees, though; some of them can be pretty steep. You don’t want to lose any more funds to credit card processing and service fees than necessary.
Etsy Shops and Craft Shows
In order to maximize profits, I didn’t take any of my expenses out of the income; I covered all the expenses myself. I just took everything that came in from Etsy and put it directly into our adoption savings account. Handling expenses that way made the funds from sale add up quickly, which was encouraging.
Results: We raised $8,400 over three years.
My Advice: Price your items carefully, making sure that your prices are high enough to compensate you for your supplies and your time. Use true retail pricing, and people will expect quality from your shop. This blog post has a great formula that may help you to choose adequate pricing. Make sure your products actually are high quality; don’t just knock off someone else’s idea or copy something from Pinterest. (That’s just ethical business practice.)
If you are going to make crafts or other handmade goods to sell, make sure they are unique. I don’t recommend jewelry, as Etsy is loaded with thousands of professional quality handmade jewelry shops and super cheap shops from overseas, and it will likely be extremely difficult to get into that market at this point in time. It helps if your product is something that people already need or want — something they will be searching for specifically — rather than something unique that would be more of an impulse purchase.
Your shop will likely be small at first, but my shops grew gradually over time as they became established and started receiving good reviews from customers. I recommend that you get started early in your adoption process, or even before you are ready to begin the process so that you have time to grow your shop.
As for craft shows, be forewarned that are a TON of work, especially if you’ve never done one before. Yikes. The first year, I put $500 into creating my booth and displays for three different shows. I sold about $650 worth of products, which gave me $150 profit.
Choose your craft shows carefully; think about your products and your audience. Items from one of my shops were seasonal, so I made sure to select craft shows that led up to the holiday season. The other two smaller shows were total flops with less than $50 profit total. I didn’t do a good job of judging my audience that first year; the show attendees were looking for much cheaper items than I was offering. Even my special “deals” were above of most attendees’ price range.
The good news was that I didn’t have to do anything new for my display in the second year, so all my sales were “profit” for the adoption fund, and the large show I did that year was a much better fit for my products and my target price range.
Also, don’t forget that you’ll need to pay taxes on income from sales through Etsy or craft shows, so set some of your profits aside for that, or you’ll be sad and scrambling in April (especially if your shop does well).
Used Clothing Sales, Garage Sales, and Consignment Sales
During our second year of fundraising, we decided to try a big sale of baby and kids items — a “MomtoMom” sale, since that would rid our house of some clutter (and make space for our new child).
We got permission to hold our sale at our church for free, and then I wrote up a letter to our church family, updating them on our adoption process since it had been over a year since our first letter, and explaining the upcoming sale. We asked for prayer for the sale’s success and let them know that we would be taking donations of clothing.
I advertised the MomtoMom sale on its own website, on Craigslist, our Facebook page, and in local flea market groups on Facebook. We called around and secured event sponsors, signed up local artists and crafters as vendors, and sold table space at the sale to other families who wanted to sell their used clothing and children’s items as well.
As for clothing donations from family, friends, and some strangers who heard about us, when it was all said and done, I had a dining room that was literally packed from the floor to chest high with donated clothing, toys, games, DVDs, baby gear, and maternity clothes. It was absolute craziness. You can get the full rundown on that event over at our blog.
Results: We raised over $3,000 total, via the big sale ($1,800), a garage sale ($475), and two rounds in a local one-day consignment sale event ($875).
My Advice: It is no joke when I say that the MomtoMom sale was hard work for $1,800. If it had been this much work without also being a service to local families, I’d almost say it wasn’t worth it. Almost. Be sure you have time for this insanity if you are going to do it.
Start planning at least six months in advance; I had four months, and it was barely done in time. My sister and mom helped me immensely, but there were hours and hours and hours of work to check, sort, match, clean, price, and tag all of the donated items.
We scheduled all kinds of free fun stuff for kids throughout the day, including storytime and crafts, face painting, a juggler, and a short kids’ concert. We also did three giveaways during the day. When people gave their admission donation, they received a ticket for the drawing. People stood around by the door after completing their shopping just to wait for the drawings, so I definitely recommend this. Each of the items for the drawings was donated, so it didn’t cost us anything except the cost for the giant roll of tickets.
Get your volunteers lined up early (you’re going to need more people than you think), and have a plan for leftover items. I didn’t, and our garage was full of unsold items for months until the followup garage sales, two rounds in the one-day consignment event I mentioned, and a donation to the Salvation Army finally cleared everything out. Phew!
I can’t mention the one-day consignment sale without also mentioning that a family friend completely handled repricing, tagging, and sorting everything for us as a donation of time toward of adoption. It was such a blessing to us, and I don’t think I could ever adequately thank her for all the work that she did.
Our final fundraiser was the 5K for 6k, named for the roughly 6,000 (6k) miles between the US and China. The event was a “virtual 5K,” which means that there wasn’t a specific race day or location. Participants and teams covered the distance in whatever manner they chose (running, walking, biking, etc.) within a designated time frame (we selected a week in mid-August). This format gave participants the flexibility to complete the distance in their own time and at the location of their choosing—on a trail, on the sidewalks in their own neighborhood or park, at the gym on a treadmill, in the pool, etc.
We created a blog for the event, linked it up to a PureCharity page, and advertised it like crazy on Facebook and to our friends. We even sent out a press release to local news outlets; I sent it out too late for most to print anything about it, but we did get front page coverage of our event in our local paper.
Participants received a tshirt, medal, and some other goodies in the mail the week before the event. Each participant paid an entrance fee of $25 + a promise to raise $100 by the end of August (or, if they weren’t interested in fundraising, they could pay $50 flat for their entrance fee).
We asked everyone to take photos of themselves in their 5K for 6k shirts too! At the end, we had a beautiful collage of people who supported us.
Results: We raised nearly $2,500 for our adoption fund.
My Advice: We got sponsors to cover the cost of the medals, shirts, and shipping costs, so it ended up all going to the fund. This event was a huge success, though I do think that it would be even more successful if it were given a bit more time and held in the spring instead of in August.
One of my favorite things that happened during the 5K for 6k was when my friend Andy, who runs a children’s home in India, told his boys about the event, they all agreed to run in support of our family. They didn’t raise any money (obviously), but each boy in the children’s home (from age 5 to late teen) ran at least five km in laps inside their building. Amazing! (That’s them in the middle of the photo collage.)
One hidden benefit of adoption fundraising is the community you build around your family that sticks around to support you, pray for you, and help you along the way and long afterward.
In order to be successful at fundraising via special events and sales, choose events that that uniquely fit your family, keep moving forward even if they don’t go as planned, and take breaks between events to avoid getting burned out. We had a few flops, got scammed once, and lots of ideas that never got off the ground. You’re going to have the best chance at success with lots of different types of fundraisers spread out over time. Just need to try out the ones that seem feasible to you.
There are hundreds of other fundraising ideas that you can consider from the traditional bake sales, garage sales, spaghetti dinners, and pancake breakfast to more unusual ideas. I know of one adoptive family who raised the full amount they needed in a single six=month fundraiser — a crowdfunded beard-growing contest!
You can do this!
Laure Kline and her husband Joel have two children, a biological daughter and a son adopted from Hubei, China, in 2014. She blogs about adoption, faith, fundraising and more at One Thousand for One. You can also follow her family’s post-adoption life at Adopting Baby K. Laure is the owner and principal graphic designer of Lime Creative, a creative studio specializing in design for churches and nonprofit organizations. She and her family dance awkwardly, sing loudly, and pretend to be completely normal from their home in Lancaster, PA.