Social Network Fundraising: The Beginners Guide

Published by Reinier Spruit on

This is me running 16km and raising €2,549 for the Dutch Cancer Institute (NKI-AVL). The target was only €200.

Social network fundraising works because of two reasons: (1) you are asking your own network, and (2) the fundraising is being done publicly. This combined provides a healthy and effective social peer pressure.

When you were young you probably had to do a sponsor run at school. You had to get pledges from your neighbors and family for a quarter or 50 cents per lap. Remember that your neighbor always said: “So, what is the rest giving?” This is the best way to describe social network fundraising, she didn’t even hesitated. Straight away she went into the “how much” discussion…

Recently I gave a presentation for the participants of the ATMA Challenge. In this fundraising event 30 young professionals will climb one of the Himalaya mountains (6,764 meter!). Every participant has to raise 2,000 euro for educational projects in India, so that adds up to 60,000 euro in total. My presentation contained 16 tips on how they can raise this money.

I am convinced that 2,000 per participant is too low. Just before I went there I posted on Facebook: “They are going to raise 100,000 euro. They just don’t know it yet.

Have a look and let me know if you want to add a tip!

Tip #1 – START today!

Don’t put off your funds until tomorrow, what you can raise today! The sooner you start, the more you will raise.

Tip #2 – Be PASSIONATE about your charity!

Come prepared and know what you are talking about. You should be able to answer basic questions about the charity you are raising funds for. Apart from being prepared, it will also show your potential donor that you are passionate, dedicated, serious and committed. It will increase your response. So, show your passion!

Tip #3 – Ask your NETWORKS!

Ask your family, friends, colleagues, sport buddies, acquaintances, neighbors, etc.  Everybody knows you and everybody can help you, because you’re doing it for a great cause. The company you’re working for can even give you a bigger donation than you expect…

Tip #4 – Use a PLATFORM!

Where in the sponsor run for your school you used a paper form, now there are several online platforms available, which makes your action visible for the outside world. You can collect and show your donations (!), provide feedback, post a blog or pics, etc. Examples: JustGiving, FirstGiving (or Geef Samen for The Netherlands).

Tip #5 – ASK for donations!

If you don’t ask, you won’t get a dime… Most participants will experience the unjustified “first-timer asking shame”. There is no need for that, you are asking funds for a noble cause, that needs your help. Ask and thy will receive.

Tip #6 – Ask OFTEN for donations!

Why ask only once? If people don’t respond the first time, there is still a very big chance that they will respond the second, third, fourth or fifth time you’re asking. There are a million possible reasons why they didn’t respond straight away. Don’t assume they don’t want to give, because they want to. My personal rule of thumb for fundraising within your own network is to ask people again and again until they say no (which they often don’t say).

Tip #7 – Ask the right AMOUNT!

Some people will give you more than others, because, they like you better, or like the charity better or have more money to begin with. Bottom line, make an appropriate pitch for everyone if you can.

Tip #8 – Ask the MAJOR donors first!

Set the bar. If your first 5 donations average 10 euro each, there is a big chance donations that follow will also be around 10 euro. However, if your first 5 donations average 75 euro, everybody who normally gives 10 euro will now give at least 25 euro.

Tip #9 – Make a donation YOURSELF!

If you are a donor of your own action, you are a more credible fundraiser for your network. Set an example!

Tip #10 – Ask your audience PUBLICLY!

Sure, face-to-face asking works better, but also ask them by group e-mail, ask them on Facebook, ask them on Twitter, ask them in a speech, ask them in the pub…

Tip #11 – THANK (and tag) your donors publicly!

Your donors deserve the very best spotlight! By thanking them publicly, other people are also encouraged to become part of your donor community. People like to be publicly recognized as a philanthropist… Tagging in Facebook or Twitter works perfectly!

Tip #12 – Report on fundraising PROGRESS and ask again!

You have to report to potential donors on your fundraising progress. Do you only need 250 euro to reach your target? Let people know and ask them again! It shows how good you’re doing and that you still need help!

Tip #13 – Report on TRAINING progress!

Also report on your training progress. If you’re climbing the freaking Himalaya… that’s an impressing accomplishment! And you’ll be training for months. Often, that’s also the best argument to ask for a donation.

Tip #14 – BOB for a job!

There are a trillion things you can do to raise money in your networks or local community. To name a few: dinner parties, dance marathons, sell the junk from your attic, etc. etc.

Tip #15 – The best fundraiser is REWARDED!

This one is for the event organizers. What can you offer your best fundraisers? What is the best carrot for your fundraisers to raise more? How about a new pair of running shoes, or perhaps a new set of thermal hiking clothes provided by a sponsor. For some fundraisers this will do the trick to go even harder…

Tip #16 – Stay in TOUCH!

Another one for the organizers. Stay in touch with your participants (fundraisers). Perhaps they need help (with setting up their public donation page). But most of them just need some help to start asking. Or some encouraging words when donations start to dry up and the target is not reached yet. Organizers: you need to help your participants raise funds!


Good luck and thank you to all those people who run, walk, ride, hike, climb, swim or even dance for a better world! And good luck ATMA fundraisers! 60,000??? 100,000!!!

I’m sure there are more tips out there… Let us know below if you have one!

Reinier Spruit

Reinier Spruit

Reinier is in love with fundraising since 2001. Ever since he's trying to improve his own fundraising skills and those of others. He's one of the original founders of 101fundraising. At the moment working with amazing clients through his one-man fundraising consultancy. Loves running and baseball.


Andrea Goezinne · May 24, 2012 at 14:32

Tip #17
Ask also after the event is over. Lots of people want to reward you for the (physical) effort you put in!

Howard Lake · May 24, 2012 at 14:42

Good collection of tips there Reinier. I’d add to Andrea’s suggestion: don’t forget to share *during* the event (if you are carrying a phone) and afterwards. Collect people’s comments, photos of you, videos of you etc and curate a story (using Storify.com or Pinterest.com etc) to record your achievement. Once ready that’s another reason to go back to people to say thank you and perhaps ask for a final top-up donation.

    Reinier Spruit

    Reinier Spruit · May 24, 2012 at 14:50

    Thank you Howard! Love your suggestion. Didn’t think of it, because I was running too fast :-) but for most other events it’s easy to do!

Howard Lake · May 24, 2012 at 14:49

There are also creative ways of getting more out of your event. In the UK there is Guess2give.com. This encourages supporters to ‘bet’ how long you will take in your run, swim, cycle for charity. It’s another fun way of raising even more, perhaps from the same group of contacts.

Daryl Upsall · May 24, 2012 at 15:19

Ask your friend to write encouraging messages on your blog, fundraising page and to reweet, “Like” and spread the message around their networks eg “my mate John is running the marathon for a great cancer charity XXX…go on help him raise more money for kids with cancer…click here”

    Andrea Goezinne · May 24, 2012 at 16:28

    That’s a great one Daryll! There is a cool tool in the US that helps you optimize this called HelpAttack.
    People pledge small amount of money for every time that a message is reposted or retweeted.

    Also the phrasing can help a lot: a clear target amount and purpose can make a big difference, see Tip #12

Muhwezi Henry · May 24, 2012 at 17:00

Thanks Spruit for sharing in an experienced way. Its quite encouraging though I try to do all but the results are very low and I wonder what I can do more. Continue the good work. Cheers.

Suzanne Huiskes · May 24, 2012 at 17:25

Thank you for the great tips Reinier. Often the nr’s 15 & 16 are forgotten. It’s so important for your supporters to get some feedback. I will use some of these tips for the Charity Friday that we organize for our Charity Members, if you don’t mind. Will make sure to mention the source!

Reinier Spruit

Reinier Spruit · May 24, 2012 at 19:46

Hi everyone, thanks for your ideas and additional tips!

@Daryl, I like your tip very much, because it touches on the core of social networking when you’ve got endorsements from your network. Super!

@Muhwezi, Sorry to hear that your results are still low. I’d say that this kind of fundraising should work everywhere, so also in Uganda… What was the challenging event that you organized?

@Suzanne, Thanks for spreading the word Suzanne!

I just thought of another tip by the way. Also one for the organizers, which is: set a TARGET!

Some of the challenges that people do are more exciting than others (e.g. climbing the Himalaya vs. running 5km). So it makes perfect sense to raise the target for the challenges where everyone says: WOW!

In my case last year, I ran 16 kilometer and the target was 200 euro. Everybody who puts the above tips in practice can easily raise 500 for that challenge, I’m sure of it. In the end I raised more than 2,500 euro.

Thanks again everyone and keep those tips coming!

Crispin Read · May 29, 2012 at 17:52

Great tips Reinier

– I imagine I will be sending people this link a few times in the future.

Sandy Ungar · February 27, 2013 at 12:10

Root Funding (www.rootfunding.com) is another great fundraising platform. We specialize in grassroots fundraising organizations and personalized relationships. Find out more about us here:

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