First Family in Fundraising

I’ve worked in not for profit development for over ten years, but it’s not every day I embody a fundraiser. More often than not, there are individuals, systems and programming script between me and donors. A leader or two of mine has emphasized reconnecting with the impact. The best among us know the power of this, but this remains a self-disciplining practice. Still nothing compares with the opportunity to reverse roles. Recently I did just that, and I didn’t do it alone.

Truthfully, uneasy describes how I’ve felt in this professional skin. Truncating reports to the millions of dollars donated has an effect of near ridicule on the 99%. Enter Cranksgiving Philly. Part race, part food drive and part scavenger hunt, this event benefits Philabundance, the greater Delaware Valley region’s largest hunger relief organization, and brings together bicycle messengers, commuters and racers alike—not the face of philanthropy at front of mind, and certainly not the high profile one where I’ve squirmished. In the grassroots spirit of Cranksgiving, an annual international event, I found myself introducing a child to giving, and remembering a few things about it myself.

It’s About You.

The term donor-centric is at development’s core. The goal is to always keep the interests of your donors in mind. What drew a donor to get involved? What matters to her? Does that foundation’s value portfolio align with your organization’s? What does this have to do with you?

Ask yourself these same questions and take a very real look at what motivates you to give and engage. In this case, I knew some people involved, and I planned to ride bikes on that day anyway. I had volunteered for Philabundance before, and understood first hand that it had the goods to make my small investment count. This type of decision support doesn’t require any fancy methods or tools, and it goes a long way. To involve a child in fundraising, first ask yourself how you get and maintain his attention.

Give what you can when you can.

The generosity of the winning team at Cranksgiving was gritty, reminiscent of Robin Hood’s band and visible in its bounty exceeding its combined body weight. I’ve no data to support that, but a memory of what can be accomplished when a group of people who take joy in riding around the city for hours on two wheels decide to buy and haul food with them simply to give it away. All this was multiplied when an incredible match of our donations by the musically acclaimed Rock to the Rescue was announced! Did I mention joy? Giving that spreads it sustains it. When you stretch your grocery budget for a solid workout, some laughs and a full table for another, it’s easy to see how giving is possible.

Two bicycles and a bike trailer parked against a building
Give when and where you already are. Extra points for coordinating with naps.

It’s not about you.

Like the toddler who accompanied me that day, we all need to hear this from time to time. “We can’t stop at the playground today,” I replied to pleadings. Sit back and take this incredible opportunity to nap (and for once be thankful), I thought.

This cereal is for our snack, and this box is for someone else’s,” and then more hastily, “I’m sorry it’s poking you in the back, but it’s just a little further.” It’s not all about you.

There’s some really epic wisdom there.


Give a lot, get a little.

Reward generosity in return. We cheered the winners of each category as they were announced, and she enjoyed the positive energy in the room. Then my name was called. I’d made an impressive haul, surely exceeding the weight limits of the bicycle trailer not designed to hold a child plus her weight in potatoes, and with my teammate and friends had managed to keep her engaged all day. We received a prize and the title First Family! We were—to be fair—alone in this new category, but our participation was meaningful that day. I couldn’t have asked for a better end to this experiment.


Find a connection between what brings you joy and a need. Start small. Talk about giving. Make it meaningful to a child. Make it active and fun! The end of the calendar year remains an excellent time to give, and there is an annual fund manager out there still working to meet her goals! Here are a few more ideas for fundraising with children that will bring out the kid in you too.

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