Tag Archives: fundraising

Fundraising: How to raise $10,000 in an hour

Back in the clean-cut fundraising job days:)

I’ll never forget how I learned how to raise $10,000 in an hour.

Before I get there though, I have to say that some things you learn the hard way.   In my first couple years of work as a professional fundraiser I learned a lot about how not to do things.

Inefficient Fundraising

Classic example:  In my first year I struggled to lead a sprawling committee of volunteers and hospital employees (I worked for a hospital) through months of agonizing planning for a huge gala event. It was super rough.

In the end we only made a few thousand dollars in profit from the event and I was just relieved to not be in the hole.

Take 2

A year or so after this messy attempt at fundraising I had my first experience of asking a couple for a large donation.

I sat down with them and, after some small talk, asked for $10,000 to support a certain project.  They agreed on the spot.

In less than an hour I had raised more cash than it had taken both me and a committee endless hours and huge stress to achieve with my gala event.

The key to success

What was the difference between these two experiences?  What made one fundraising method effective and the other a dud?

The answer is as simple as it is frustrating to newbies: effective strategy.  “What does that even mean??”

Well, for starters, if you just dive into fundraising with blind faith and zero tactics you may get lucky and raise some cash but generally your results will be terrible.

Getting to the point where you have a relationship with potential donors and you can ask them for $10,000 (or much more) takes careful thinking.


You want to woo them to your cause. There are several critical elements in effective fundraising strategy but in this post I want to start with the most important one: relationship.

Let’s get back to my good news with the $10,000 “ask”.  The reason I was successful was that I had a very strong relationship with my donors. They knew why I was visiting them and they were ready to help.

Do you have a dream of supporting a big cause or starting a really innovative new business?  If you do, you are going to need support.

Woo your people

Make sure you surround yourself with the right people, with people that make things happen.  Treat these people right.

Support them and do all you can to understand them and help them out.  Be the best colleague/club member/tennis partner they have.  Hook them up when you can.  Nurture your relationships.  Bring your very capable friends close to your cause. Talk big, share your passion, ask for ideas.  Make the friends that you would like as donors feel invested in what you are doing.  They should feel part of the action, like they and their input matters.  They are your VIPs.

When the time is right, you can ask for their help and chances are they will be very, very helpful.  Possibly even “$10,000 helpful”.



First Rule of Fundraising: Shut Up

In the thick of it... back when I was a fundraiser in Northern California
In the thick of it… back when I was a fundraiser in Northern California

I have an unreasonable addiction in life.  It is all consuming.  I can’t help but get excited about it.  If the topic comes up in conversation I am automatically into it.  To me, this activity is the great enabler of most of what is best about the world today.  It can relieve poverty, build schools, elect better leaders, even save lives.  If you are good at it, you wield enormous do-gooding clout.  If you are not, your cause will often fizzle.

What is this obsession?  Simple: it’s fundraising.

Bush doctor…

Before I was born my mother worked as a bush doctor in West Africa where she raised the money for six rural health clinics that were built during her three years of work in the country. She passed on to me her fascination with fundraising.

For almost as long as I can remember, I’ve headed out to collect funds for various causes. I can remember knocking on doors as a kid growing up in the Philippines, with a little can asking for spare change for humanitarian relief.  These early experiences sparked an interest that actually turned into a career for me later in life: raising money for hospitals.

The catch…

I can literally talk all day about fundraising. But here’s the ironic part:  If you want to raise a large amount of money for a noble cause, one of the first things you should do is shut up about it.

How it works…

Allow me to explain:  If you are a smart fundraiser you make sure you distill your stormy madness of ideas about how to raise funds for your world-changing cause into some kind of coherent method.  Whether the goal is a few thousand dollars or a few hundred thousand dollars, the most effective approach to take to reach the goal is to think of the whole thing as a campaign.

Campaigns broken down

A fundraising campaign can be broken into two key parts: the silent phase and the public phase.  Here’s how it works:


In the silent phase you quietly gather your most important supporters and tell them about your cause.  You get these movers and shakers on board and between them and the deep pockets that you have access to through your personal connections and those of this group of power players, you secure as much of your goal as possible.  Different people quote different percentages of what you should have in the bank but a safe figure to shoot for is 50% of your goal before you move on to the next stage.

Going public

Once you have raised this much you go public.  By the time you get to this public phase you already have momentum.  If you have already raised half or more of your goal, people are more comfortable getting on board and supporting because they feel like they are joining a winning team.  It is easy to get people excited and to cruise to a finish if you have winnner’s momentum.

Savvy, global do-gooding

CultureMutt’s tagline is “savvy, global-do-gooding” and every post is about enabling you and I to actually live a lifestyle that is defined by internationally-minded service.  It is time we got into the nitty gritty of how to concretely fund this kind of service.  So this is the start of my fundraising posts which will pop up more frequently than not on CultureMutt in the future.

Contain your excitement

For now though, let’s remind ourselves of the first basic point:  Don’t talk to everyone about your fundraising plan from the get go.  Contain your excitement and instead talk to a select few.  Sit down with them and quietly strategize about how you will reach your goal.  After you have a concrete plan in place and you have secured enough funding to demonstrate momentum you can release your inner blabber mouth and tell the world.

Get this right and you can change the world through fundraising.  Savvy do-gooding works.  Unguarded bubble blabber doesn’t… it just leads to a painful death soon after your mom and Aunt Elma donate.

As I said, more fundraising posts are in the pipeline… in the meantime, feel free to share your fundraising successes and failures in the comments.  Together we can find ways to harness the power of fundraising to make this world a better place.


How much should you give to charity?

I don’t believe in being driven by guilt.  Yet so often I am. The question of how much of my income I should be giving to charity makes me feel uncomfortable. I often feel like I should somehow be giving more. That what I am doing is not enough.

I work in hospital fundraising so I understand how the fundraising machine works.  The charity identifies a pressing need and decides how best to get the word out to potential donors.  They use the most powerful images and stories available to convey the need.  They send the right people to talk to you.  If they can tug at your heartstrings, they will.  It is a science.

I don’t say the above to make any of us cynical.  Any worthy cause needs to be persuasively presented.  If you cannot engage the emotions of your donor base, its “game over” in fundraising.  People don’t give from the head, they give from the heart.

But even if I understand the mechanics and persuasion behind major fundraising, I am still stuck with the dilemma of deciding just how much to give to each cause.  I tend to be a big supporter of one or two causes and then to give token gifts to everything else.  Is this living generously?  Is this being a savvy do-gooder?

Some look to the traditional tithing system in churches as their saving grace –  10% of their income goes to one religious entity and, voilà, they are all done.  I’m not saying 10% is bad… it’s a lot more than most people do.  But it doesn’t answer my questions about how discerning giving should work.  Should you go for the extremes?  There are the next level giving types that practically (or literally) take vows of poverty and then there are those that give to causes as though they were fashion statements.

I’ve gone through phases where I have felt guilty for spending money on some of life’s luxuries that I enjoy and there have been other times when I have barely cared at all.  What I am more and more convinced of is that it is possible to live a generous life either as a rich or as a poor person.  Being wealthy does not make you greedy just as being poor does not make you unselfish. Surely it is the mentality that you have towards others, towards giving, that matters in each case.  Is the intent positive?  Have your researched the cause?  Is your gift generous without being financially reckless?  How do you feel having given?

Shoot me a line in the comments explaining your approach to giving…




Bjorn Karlman

Please Vote for Me!! A Post of Near-Delirious Excitement

You cannot BELIEVE how excited I am.  I am going to break from the norm here on CultureMutt and ask you to PLEASE vote for me  (scroll down on the linked page and you’ll see my name listed). Why?

Jammie and I are giddy wth excitement!

Because Tim Ferriss, the TOP 1000 Blogger / New York Times Bestselling Author whom I look up to HUGELY, just shortlisted me from a group of about 300 fundraisers and I am now in the final group of 5 to be considered for a Round-the-World-Trip.

I could not believe that I had been shortlisted, it took a friend from Atlanta giving me the heads-up on Facebook for me to go and check the results.

It gets even better.  Even if I don’t win the RTW ticket, I still have a 3 out of 5 chance to be listed as one of 10 fundraisers that helped bring in $20,000 for one of three schools (with Tim’s matching gift the total raised will be $60,000 and his combined efforts will therefore build three schools) that are being built through the organization Room to Read.

Just over two weeks ago, on July 31st, I wrote What Really Matters to You, a post that helped to start get the ball rolling in terms of my own fundraising for the cause.  I explained that, in line with CultureMutt’s pursuit of “savvy, global do-gooding” I was supporting Tim Ferriss who

is absolutely one of the “architects of positive change” that I aim to emulate and write about.  He’s turning 34 and instead of b-day presents he’s asking people to donate to Room to Read – World Change Starts with Educated Children that, among other things, builds libraries in Asia and Africa.  His post invites readers to give to the cause and includes the hook that if you give and spread the word… he’ll include you in a drawing for a free round-the-world air ticket:

I ended up doing a ton of online promotion which you can read about on the voting page.  The result was that I made the cut and was listed as one of Tim’s top 5 promoters.  Tim’s readers are now voting on the best commenter/promoter out of the five shortlisted contestants.

I am trying to keep this post short and to the point but, once again, I would REALLY appreciate your vote.  My wife Jammie and I have already committed to visiting at least one of the schools/libraries that will be built as a result of this fundraising, regardless of whether I win or not.  But how much fun would it be to win!

The voting link  (look for the voting section at the bottom of Tim’s post)



Bjorn Karlman

What REALLY matters to you?

Before I get to the punch line…

“What kind of a life do you want to look back upon?”  Whenever I struggle with decisions or prioritizing, this question or some variant of it, typically helps lift the mist.  I often force myself to imagine that I am in my 80s or so, looking back at my life’s collection of relationships, accomplishments, failures, adventures and other experiences.

I have a number of reasons that I do this.  For years I have decided to take the advice of self-development writer Stephen Covey and “Begin with the End in Mind.”  It helps me realize what is important as opposed to what is “urgent”.

But there’s more.  Forcing myself to think about what kind of a life I want to look back upon somehow makes my dreams and extravagant goals seem more doable, more achievable.  I am not so sure why.  Maybe it’s mind manipulation but somehow, visualizing accomplishment makes it seem easier to pull off.  I am less intimidated by my bigger goals and I feel more empowered and enlightened about the day-to-day things that need doing.  This kind of reflection also helps me realize when I have an opportunity to do something above and beyond for someone else.

The point behind CultureMutt

As the “About” section states, “Live generously” is CultureMutt’s most basic mantra… It is all about savvy, global do-gooding…   CultureMutt will help you understand global cultures and politics in the context of the powerful forces for good that are being unleashed daily by creative, cosmopolitan do-gooders the world over.  These social innovators are brilliant people that are architects of positive change. CultureMutt is all about celebrating their creations and brainstorming ideas for how to build on them.  It will show you how to join this tribe of ambitious game changers.”

An opportunity to give to something that really matters

Today, as I was working my way through the latest creations of my favorite bloggers, I came across this Tim Ferriss post (yes, I am a fan of preposterous proportions” : “My Unusual $20,000 Birthday Gift (Plus: Free Roundtrip Anywhere in the World)”   Tim is absolutely one of the “architects of positive change” that I aim to emulate and write about.  He’s turning 34 and instead of b-day presents he’s asking people to donate to Room to Read – World Change Starts with Educated Children that, among other things, builds libraries in Asia and Africa.  His post invites readers to give to the cause and includes the hook that if you give and spread the word according to the conditions below, he’ll include you in a drawing for a free round-the-world air ticket:

No later than 11:59pm PST this Sunday, July 31st:
– Spread the word however you can. Send people to this post or to my library page.
– Leave a comment below telling me what you did (Facebook, Twitter, e-mail blast, add to your e-mail signature, encourage employees/friends to do the same, etc.). Measurement of any type gets huge bonus points.
– Lastly, answer the following question at the top of your comment: “What does education mean to you?”

Yes, if you are like me, the RTW air is a great incentive.  But the cause is even more compelling.  I am absolutely convinced that lack of education contributes heavily to our biggest problems world wide.  Literacy seriously makes a difference since it allows for education and self-improvement.  Libraries are an absolutely vital service for a community.  And Tim is putting his money where his mouth is.  Each library costs $20,000 to build and Tim will match $20,000 brought in by donations with $20,000 of his own money.  The charity stresses sustainability, guaranteeing that the libraries “will also benefit from three years of librarian training and on-going support from Room to Read. Most importantly, over 6 million children in Asia and Africa will have access to life-changing educational resources”

So please do what you can for this project.  You and I choose to live generously by making small daily moves like the decision to give here.



Bjorn Karlman



To Wall or not to Wall? Egos and Fundraisers

No matter what your cause, one of the keys to a killer fundraising strategy is recognizing your donors.  This can be tricky since culture, religion, opinion and taste all come into play in deciding what works as a “thank you”.  A common yet much-debated form of recognition is the donor wall.  You’ve seen them in the lobbies of hospitals, libraries and performance halls – they list the names of contributors to a fundraising project.  Some love them.  Some hate them.  Here’s a starter list of pros and cons for this kind of a wall.

Arguments AGAINST Donor Walls

1)  People might give simply to flaunt their generosity on the wall.

2)  Fundraisers are pressured to focus on stroking donor egos to get them to give.

3)  Religious arguments such as this one:  “‘But thou, doing kindness, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doth.” – Matthew  6:3 (Young’s Literal Translation)

Arguments FOR Donor Walls

1)  It’s only right to say “thank you” and donor walls are a very public way to do so.

2)  Rather than appealing to ego, donor walls allow people to honor the memory of loved ones or to leave a legacy and set an example.

3)  A lot of people would not give unless they were recognized.

The Juggling Act

I definitely struggle with the question of how to recognize and motivate donors that give to the causes that I raise money for.  My feeling is that while I may not be able to influence the reasons people give, I can make sure that the ways I motivate them to support my cause, are positive.   If people understand the cause, connect with it and make it their own, then whether or not you have a donor wall is not the key question.

Bjorn Karlman

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