Notes on Fundraising for an Anarchist Community Space

[These are notes from the collective member who handled fundraising from when we opened in Fall 2008 until Fall 2012.]

I’ve done fundraising for local public radio since the early 2000s, and for Free Skool and SubRosa since the mid 2000s. This is a small and very incomplete collection of thoughts about fundraising.
Asking for money is generally not easy of people, but I operate on the premise that if the project is one that someone supports, they truly want to give as much as they are able to support the project. I try to be honest, transparent, and direct. I also struggle not to water down my requests for money.
In my opinion, the ideal person to do this should be communicative, comfortable being direct, willing to listen, conscientious, have lots of connections in a wide breadth of areas, and be really on top of things.

I create a fall and spring fundraiser each year. The Spring fundraiser ends in early summer so people can get on with their vacations and stuff without worrying about money. The Fall fundraiser ends before the new year so people can take the contribution off on their taxes if they are so inclined.
In general, I talk about “support for the space” rather than “donations.” Donations feels like something you give to a charity, while we usually are trying to create a collaborative community project. Support can come in many forms, and while I am writing or calling to get financial contributions, I like to acknowledge frequently that support comes in many forms.

There is an important tool I use during each fundraising campaign: The Donation Appeals List. It is how I track who gave money when, who my contacts are, how I know about them, and so on. This allows you to tailor your requests to the people you are asking. “I know you haven’t supported SubRosa financially in a few years, and I’m thinking this might be a good time to check in with you about how things are going.” Etc.

Phone calls and in person meetups -- though time-consuming -- are way more effective than emails and should be employed if you can.

I don’t have a template for fundraising emails. Each batch of fundraising emails has to be unique and heartfelt. A general appeal might include
  1. greetings
  2. statement of our goals in the fundraiser
  3. what they are supporting / connect with what we both want to see in the world
  4. fundraiser progress
  5. suggested action
  6. reminders and little details
  7. thank you.
I generally send several batches, saving the most specific ones to go directly to my identified contacts (directly, never Cc’d or Bcc’d), and usually personalized based on my shared history with this person. Here are typical batches of letters I send out.
  1. Before the seasonal fundraiser happens telling people it is coming up. Usually with an invitation to chat more about what we are doing right or wrong. This helps identify people who want to be more involved with supporting the space.
  2. When the fundraiser starts, making our goal for the fundraiser clear.
  3. A quarter of the way through, giving an update on progress.
  4. Half way through, giving an update and whether we are going at a reasonable or worrisome pace.
  5. Three quarters of the way through, reminding people time is running out.
  6. Last week, Hurry!
  7. Last day, OMG!
  8. Thank you and report back on the success of the campaign.
Throughout the fundraiser I’m talking and exchanging emails with people about concerns, excitement, what happening at the space, and so on.

I also try at least once to make sure that our fundraiser is heard about outside of our own little community, because there are people out there in the world who'd love to support a great local project.

I create a WePay campaign for each seasonal fundraiser and use the progress bar graphics to show the fundraiser’s progress visibly on our website and in each update email I send. We used to use PayPal but they fucked us over so many times, it is ridiculous.

How are we doing?
Time Left
Support SubRosa
Support the Fall Fundraiser!

It is challenging to keep track of the money that will naturally come in from other channels -- direct donations in the space, checks, etc -- but important because this support also reflects the momentum of your fundraising campaign.

That’s it for now, though I might update this on occasion.


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