Philip Holmes is a bit of an unusual fundraiser of the month. He works for a charity – the Esther Benjamins Trust, which strives to improve the lives of homeless, trafficked and vulnerable children in Nepal. And he’s decided to take on a series of personal challenges to help raise more money for the cause he feels so passionately about, while it’s struggling for income in the current financial crisis.
He set the charity up in memory of the life and work of his wife, Esther Benjamins, who died in 1999. Since then, he’s been working to rescue and rehabilitate hundreds of Nepali child trafficking victims while lobbying the Indo-Nepal authorities to stop these abuses of human rights.
We were so impressed with his personal mission to help his own charity, and with the success he’s had so far, that we wanted to highlight his efforts as a shining example of online fundraising at work. We’re particularly impressed with how many different methods he’s used to promote his fundraising page.
Knowing how many people are in need of tips to help them meet their targets for the London marathon, we asked Philip to pass on his best fundraising strategies. Here’s his interview:
Have you ever had a Justgiving page before? How did you find setting it up?
I had set up Justgiving pages before as part of broader charity appeals but this was the first time I created one around a personal fundraising effort. I found it very straightforward to assemble and came away from it feeling that the final product with all its functions was arguable more powerful than the charity’s website. Less is perhaps more.
I feel it is important though to use all the functions that are available to fundraisers – YouTube and Flickr. And I would recommend reviewing your text from time to time so that it doesn’t appear dated. For example, my page currently likens me to John Sergeant; that is fast becoming yesterday’s joke.
What different methods did you use to let people know about your page?
As per the Justgiving fundraising tip I approached the media. These included an article that I wrote which made front page of the local paper back in Northern Ireland. The response included a £100 donation from a girl who went to primary school with me. This was the first time I’d heard from her in 35 years. I was also published in the Quakers’ magazine “The Friend” (one of my friends is a “Friend”) and I have been accepted for publication in “The Dentist” magazine (I am a former British Army dental officer). I am hoping that this coverage will not only lead to donations but indirectly boost the proceeds by attracting other runners. I think the BUPA 10km event would be a perfect one for a dental practice to get its teeth into, so to speak.
I have had the advantage as Director of being able to email the charity’s database and that has been very productive indeed. I placed a widget on the charity’s website and on my Facebook page and a request for support appears at the end of all my email messages.
Did you find having a blog useful for your fundraising? How does it help?
To be honest I just haven’t had the time to maintain my blog which is a shame as I enjoy writing.
Have you tried Twitter? It’s super-quick because you only update a line at a time. There are loads of charity people using it these days, it’s free and can be great way of raising awareness.
Thanks for the tip. Others have suggested this too. Maybe later in the year…
Once you’d upped your target a few times, did you change your approach to contacting people, or use any different strategies for reaching your new target?
Yes I did. I did a mass email to supporters a couple of days after the tenth anniversary of my first wife Esther’s death (The Esther Benjamins Trust is named in her memory) just to remind them of what this event and the charity is all about. That brought in donations of £1,200 within three days.
My next email will offer a prize of a very attractive ceramic bowl made by one of our beneficiaries in Nepal (this is part of our training to survivors of girl trafficking) with this being awarded to a sponsor whose name will be drawn after my first run in Hong Kong in February. I will repeat this for a piece of mosaic art that will be sent to a sponsor after the second run in May. I am also planning a sweepstake with sponsors in Hong Kong being invited to predict my finish time with a piece of artwork being offered to the lucky winner.
Have you got any tips to share with other fundraisers who might be struggling to reach their target? Which methods worked best?
The best tip is to spend some time writing good copy for your fundraising page, incorporating humour where possible, so that recipients will not only respond with donations but also feel inclined to share it with others. If you’re not good at writing a friend who is will be very willing to help you for a good cause or ask the charity that you are supporting if it can offer some eye-catching input (imagery) or witty suggestions.
How have you found the experience of having a Justgiving page? What do you like about it and what could improve?
It has been surprisingly good fun but you only get out what you put in. I love the ease with which it can be updated and monitored. It would be great if a second video link could be incorporated.
If you could give one message to the other fundraisers on Justgiving, what would it be?
Use what’s there, take on board the Justgiving tips, think about who else can help with your page and enjoy! Sorry, that’s four messages…
Thanks for talking to us Philip – and good luck reaching your target! We’re very pleased to make you January’s fundraiser of the month.