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Family philanthropy

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Giving, together

Every year in May, we turn some of our family energy toward raising money for a walk for local hospital. We ask friends, family and colleagues for their support and, with the kids, brainstorm other ways to raise money. Thanks to Alfs' keen early Saturday morning observation at a Tball game several years ago, selling coffee is key part of our fundraising.

Giving, together
Our decision to commit to this annual fundraising was made after this hospital saved Alfs' life. Alfs became very suddenly and very critically ill just after his 7th birthday. Were it not for the skilled staff there, he would not be here. That experience changed our lives forever and we are grateful every day. Saying thank you with this fundraising seems just about the least we can do.

Giving comes naturally

I've observed that kids are fabulous philanthropists. Giving seems to come naturally and easily. It seems logical to build on this natural generosity to teach some lessons in charitable giving and the wider world. With some careful planning and directions, fundraising as a family can be rewarding and fun.

To that end, how do you get started with fundraising as a family?

Plan your efforts

Choose a cause close to your heart. Has your family, immediate or extended, been affected by a specific disease or condition? Look up related organizations and foundations on the Web to learn about fundraising events.

Consider the scope of the event carefully. Is it something you can truly participate in as a family? If it's a walk or a ride, how will the kids complete it? Perhaps you can borrow a jogging stroller for a day to complete a multi-mile walk.

Explain to the kids what you will be doing and why. Then ask for and listen to their ideas for raising money. Just because no one has done a fundraising third-grade bake sale before doesn't mean it can't be done. Unless it's really out in the stars, try to figure out a way to make one of the kids' ideas happen. Keeping the kids involved and committed will go a long way toward the success of your fundraising.

If you want to fundraise for your event at another event, or sell a product, make sure you have permission from event organizers to do so. For example, when we sell coffee at Tball games, we are careful to get the permission of the local baseball officials at the start of each season.

Act

Ask family, friends, neighbors and colleagues for their support. Don't be shy. It's not for your personal gain, after all. We take out our holiday card list twice a year and send out a mailing about our walk to everyone on it.

Conversely, don't take it personally if someone doesn't donate. It's not about your personal gain, after all.

Advertise your efforts in other ways. We had hats embroidered with our team name and wear them all over town most of the spring. People ask what the hat is all about, and you have an opening to tell them (briefly) about your efforts, and perhaps garner a donation.

Keep the kids informed of fundraising progress, and praise them for their help. The sense of satisfaction and achievement in my kids is palpable when they hear we've attained a certain fundraising goal.

In addition to the fundraising, make sure the kids are physically ready for the event, if appropriate. Have a stash of snacks and waters for walks. Nibbles can make a six-year-old walk just a bit farther.

Enjoy the actual event. You have already worked hard to get there, and you are now among people with shared goals. It's an invigorating feeling.

Follow-up

Thank, in writing/print, every person who donates. You can send hand-written thank you cards, or use a postcard service on the Web. If possible, include a photo from the event. No matter how you do it, the thank you notes/cards after the event are key to continued fundraising.

At the end of the fundraising and after the event, evaluate what worked really well and what didn't. Make notes so you can plan and fundraise accordingly in the future.

Stick with your cause. Participate in the same event and/or fundraise for the same cause year after year after year. Soon your fundraising efforts will become expected queries, and the donations more consistent – and meaningful. It will also become a regular, meaningful event in your children's lives.

Fundraising as a family is far more fun than fundraising alone. For us, it's an easy and meaningful way to say thanks to the people who helped Alfs (and us) so much.

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