Fundraising 101

Start your fundraising with these three easy steps:
     1. Customize your fundraising page.
     2. Create your mailing list.
     3. Ask for what you want.

Still have questions? Find answers to fundraising FAQs

Step 1: Customize your fundraising page.

A personal fundraising page is more effective when it’s - you guessed it - personal! Adding a photo and personal note helps people know immediately that the page is yours, and customizing your URL makes it easy to share.

Here’s how:

  1. Click “Your Page” from the black menu at the top of the screen.
  2. To add a photo, click the pencil icon over the photo avatar and follow the instructions to upload an image.
  3. To add a personal note, click the “My Story” tab under your name and photo, then click the pencil icon in the right corner. Update the sample content with a story about why you decided to Sleep Out, a greeting to your network, or a note of thanks with your name at the bottom.
  4. To customize your page’s URL, click the “Settings” tab (next to the “My Story” tab). Click the “Customize” link and add your name or initials in the field provided. Be sure to click the blue “Save Changes” button.

If you’re a team captain, click the “Team Page” icon from the top menu and follow the same steps to customize your team’s page.

Step 2: Create your mailing list.

To figure out who you want to ask to support your Sleep Out, we recommend starting with basic categories and filling in a list for each. Here’s an example:

Group 1: The circle of people closest to you in the world.

Group 2: Friends, family, and colleagues whom you see often and share common values.

Group 3: Others on your contact list whom you see less regularly, but may still like to hear from you (e.g. a friend of your mom’s or a former boss). Questions to consider when making this list: would this person open an email from me? Would I want to hear from them about something they’re passionate about? Is this a cause that they could connect with? If yes, add them to the list!

When sorting your list into categories, think about how you could send an email to each category that the people in it would find meaningful (for example, maybe you have a group that’s just your family, and another that includes everyone who cares about social justice issues).

Additionally, don’t hesitate to cast a wide net. People like hearing about good work being done, and the more people you share your Sleep Out with, the easier it will be to reach your goal (and the more excited you’ll feel about the experience - we promise!).  

Step 3: Ask for what you want.

Making your “asks” is the most time consuming part, so we recommend starting with your Group 1 - you can practice on them since they are your most captive audience (and they’ll give you some lead off gifts!). Email is the most-effective platform, especially for your first appeal. Use our sample content to draft your message. 

Next, move to Group 2, tweaking your message based on who it’s for and responses from Group 1 (did your mom ask a question that you should answer in the next email? Did your friend really like one statistic?). Do the same for Group 3, and don’t be afraid to get creative in order to grab this group’s attention.

Once you’ve sent out a round of emails, think about how you can utilize other platforms to remind people and continue to spread the word. For example, if your grandma doesn’t have an email address, send her a handwritten note or give her a call. Ask the coworker you chat with every morning in person. If you and your best friend communicate primarily via text, text your appeal and link to your page.

Finally, if you’re active on social media platforms (Facebook! Instagram! Twitter! Snapchat! LinkedIn!), post about your Sleep Out and share a link to your page. Don’t be afraid about re-posting or sharing more than once. Ideas and sample content are available here.

Fundraising FAQs

How do I make my emails feel personal without sending individual messages to my whole list?
If you’re writing a group of people who know each other, address each person by name in the opening salutation (e.g. “Dear Mom, Dad, and Aunt Amie”) and make the opening line personal to them (.e.g. “remember that great conversation we had about homelessness at Thanksgiving?”).

For groups who don’t know each other, we recommend blind copying (bcc) their addresses and  opening with a reason why each individual has been included (e.g. “as my like-minded colleagues, friends from college, or people who have supported my Sleep Out in the past…”)

How do I make sure they understand how their donation supports homeless kids?
Let people know that the funds raised by Sleep Out go directly to Covenant House and are put to work immediately, keeping the lights on and the doors open for kids who will seek help this year. Once immediate needs like food, clothing, and safe shelter are met, Covenant House works with young people to develop  individualized plans to independent adulthood, free from the risk of future homelessness. Sleep Out participants help fund all of these essential services.

What if someone ignores my requests for support?
Ask again! If someone doesn’t respond the first time, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are not interested. Life moves quickly and sometimes a reminder email (“hey buddy, the Sleep Out is in a few days”) is all it takes.

When and how should I thank people for their gifts?
Always and often! Thanking people for their support of you and for their investment in homeless young people is important. You can thank your donor immediately when a gift comes in and/or  wait until after the Sleep Out, when you can reflect on the experience and share a story that left an impact on you.

You can thank people over email, in person, on the phone, through text, and/or or on social media - the timing and level of creativity  is up to you. Here are sample messages to get you started.

Up Next: