Let's face it, anyone can ask you for money and you have no way of knowing if the person asking represents a legitimate charity or organization. The question of credibility is even more important when you have no specific organization to back you up. For this reason, performing a service, such as walking dogs or washing cars, can help convince others to spend their money on your fundraiser, because the contributor receives something for her dollar regardless of what you do with the money. The same holds true for selling items at a garage sale or flea market.
Credibility comes from your standing in the community. If no one in your group has made any particular impact on the community, then you might want to seek out someone who is trusted and respected by the core group of potential donors whom you hope to attract.
Is there one key element that makes the difference in getting a donor to contribute?
Probably the most significant element is personal appeal. If you build a relationship and talk to people on a personal level, they are more likely to donate even if they are not as passionate about the actual cause as you are. This is because they have gained a sense of trust in you and believe in your dedication to the cause.
Parents of children attending a school in North Carolina launched a grassroots fundraising campaign to help the school after a former employee was caught misappropriating funds. Parents launched an e-mail campaign and within days raised $30,000 to help the school meet its payroll. The effort gained further momentum by generating positive press coverage. Local celebrities, community members, merchants, or political figures can be drawn into what you are working on and are often interested in the new grassroots group.
Some grassroots groups raise their credibility by individual associations within the community, which might be with a school, religious institution, or business. Even though the fundraising effort is separate from the institution, people may see you in a credible light if you hold a respected place in the community. For example, a teacher may have the goal of raising money to help a family in need. His credibility as a teacher will prompt more people to give money. Of course, he needs to obtain permission from the school to take on this outside mission individually. Whenever there is a possibility of a conflict of interest, full disclosure is advisable.
A picture is indeed worth a thousand words when dealing with a pressing issue others are not familiar with. For example, months after the intense media coverage had subsided over Hurricane Katrina activists took photos of mangled rooftops in New Orleans to remind the rest of the country the Big Easy still needed help. Grassroots groups lacking a long track record may need that kind of visual presentation to drive home their point and emphasize the kind of work they are trying to accomplish.
There are plenty of variables affecting success in raising funds. The awareness of your issue is obviously a key factor. If you are raising money to help your community recover from recent storms and tornadoes, people in your community will see your cause all around them. In a case like this, you may not need to prove to them your cause is a worthy one.