Module 6: Practical Advice From Alumni Volunteers

The Impact of Fundraising on the Unite For Sight Volunteer Experience

Jackie Madison discusses the impact of fundraising on her Unite For Sight experience.

"How To Fundraise More Than $5,000," By Christine Yeung

Christine Yeung's Online Fundraising Page:

Fundraising was a little daunting at first because I had never fundraised before. You should prioritize your list of donors based on how well you know the person and how much you think they can afford. The people who I found, as a student, were able to donate the most in descending order were nuclear family, close relatives, extended family, teachers, parents’ friends, and then my own friends. Another thing that definitely helped was having a pledge form handy with me so that wherever I went, I could give them out if it came up in conversation. I also took the opportunity to make a short 5 minute speech at my parents’ alumni gathering in Toronto. Another thing I found useful was to have an amount in mind that you wanted your donors to donate. It’s easy and polite to say “I’d be happy to accept anything you can afford,” but it generates much better results when you give people a suggested donation (and you should ask close friends and family to figure out what are reasonable amounts to suggest), because it gives them an idea of what to give, and also helps you to achieve your goal of reaching your fundraising target. So what I told my friends and relatives is that, “My goal is to raise $3,000 US for Unite for Sight. I’m asking people to donate about $50, but I’d be happy to accept anything you can give.” In the end, I raised $5,241.

"The Key to Successful Fundraising for Unite for Sight," By Brian Fowler

Unite for Sight requires fundraising in the form of eyeglasses and money in order to volunteer abroad. In retrospect, I have realized my fundraising efforts were equally as important to my work in Africa as being in Africa itself. In fact, when I left my two week stint in Africa to return home to Virginia, I realized the money I raised and the glasses I brought with me would be donated and utilized in Africa for at least another month. In essence, my fundraising efforts far outlasted my trip to Africa in regards to time. I cannot express enough the importance of Unite for Sight's fundraising efforts and what they mean to those without access to regular eye care throughout the world. The caring act of connecting people across the world through simple donations should not be underappreciated. One donation that I received was particularly special. A close family friend donated her husband Roger's eyeglasses. Roger had recently passed away from Cancer and she was excited that something of his would help someone halfway across the world. I brought these glasses with me to each village outreach. On my third outreach, one woman told me while crying that she could no longer read the bible. She was truly distraught. She needed the exact prescription of Roger's glasses. After giving her his old reading glasses and realizing she could read, she literally rolled on the floor with laughter and happiness. I was able to take a picture of her in these glasses and send it back to Roger's wife. She printed the picture and keeps it in her office at work. Another man couldn't see because of dense cataracts. Luckily, I saw him after Dr. Clarke surgically removed his cataract. He was truly overjoyed because he could now see with 20/60 vision. The numerous joyful stories I have from my experience in Ghana will be with me forever. Importantly, without Unite for Sight volunteer donations, these stories would not have the same happy ending.

There are several important steps I followed when I went about fundraising.

  1. I set a goal for myself so I had something to strive for.
  2. I wrote a letter asking friends and families for donations. In this letter, I included Unite for Sight's role in the world, what my function would be as a volunteer, and how important their financial and eyeglass donations are for those who do not have access to eye care. I also outlined in this letter exactly how people could donate to make it as easy as possible for them. Unfortunately, if donating takes a lot of effort on someone's part, they will often not do it.
  3. The next and most important step for me was including several people I knew would work hard on fundraising with me. I spent time teaching my mom, my wife, and my brother about the efforts of Unite for Sight and how important these donations would be. Then, I gave each of them my letter I'd written and asked them to fundraise with me. First, I asked them to email the fundraising letter to everyone they knew. Second, we made a list of everyone we emailed. We then called every single person who did not respond to the email to request their help. Sometimes this took several phone calls, but in the end most people donated what they could.
  4. Next, we began contacting businesses. We started with local optometrists and ophthalmologists. They are often a great source of eyeglasses. We then contacted local restaurants. One restaurant agreed to do a fundraising dinner where 20% of the proceeds went to Unite For Sight.
  5. Next we each spoke with our local churches. Sure enough they put out boxes for eyeglass donations and one went as far to take an offering for Unite For Sight.

In thinking about all of this, these are my key aspects to fundraising:

  1. Be methodical about it.
  2. Expect to have to talk to some people many times.
  3. Expect to hear no's which often can be converted to yes' by explaining to people how even one pair of eyeglasses or $5 can make a difference.
  4. Make the sale- People want to be educated about something first to fully understand the importance of donating. You may feel awkward in doing this sometimes, but the donations raised in the end for people who truly need help far outweighs a temporary feeling.
  5. Use this fundraising project as a means to bring joy to those who are donating in addition to those receiving the donations throughout the world- I created an email grouping of all those who donated and sent them my personal journal and all my pictures from my experience. Many said reading the journal and seeing the pictures of Africa had an impact on the way they view the world.
  6. Last and most important- Involve several friends or family. A committed group can reach far more people than you can by yourself.

YouTube Online Video

Christina Kim developed a YouTube video to explain Unite For Sight's programs to her friends and family:

Go To Module 7: Thanking Donors >>