Fundraising - Taking the First Step

As I began to awake from a long period of denial on my journey with Parkinson's, one of the first things I wanted to do was make a meaningful contribution to the Parkinson's community. At the time, I decided that one obvious way I could contribute was through fundraising. Some online research revealed that there are many wonderful regional and international organizations worthy of support, but there was no way I could support them all. After careful consideration, I decided that supporting the funding for research was a good place to start.

How do I get started?

Comparatively speaking, settling on an organization to support was the easy part. The hard part was figuring out how I would fundraise. I had no fundraising experience. And, as confirmed by my long delay in sharing my Parkinson's diagnosis with friends and family, asking for support is not exactly my strong suit.

Through some discussions with my husband, I decided that I should take something I already enjoyed and use it as a vehicle to fundraise. I've always had a passion for fashion, so that was a natural starting point. I contacted a local boutique to ask if they would host a portion-of-proceeds event, and I was surprised to find that they were thrilled about the opportunity. Within a couple of months my first fundraiser was in the books.

Lessons learned

I learned valuable lessons from that first fundraiser that I still apply years later. First, there is nothing wrong with starting small - the key is to get started. In fact, I still find that smaller fundraisers are often the most rewarding. For example, portion of proceeds events with retailers are simple to put together, require very little up-front cost, and go a long way toward raising public awareness. Over the past few years, I've had the good fortune to partner with some major retailers for portion-of-proceeds events. I've found that small beginnings help to cultivate relationships that lead to much larger opportunities over time.

Another lesson I learned (or relearned) is it never hurts to ask. The people in your life are anxious to provide support - you just have to ask. I do my best to make sure that my friends, family and acquaintances understand that any contribution, no matter how big or small, makes a difference. Some people prefer to give their time, others prefer to make a monetary donation, but every contribution is essential to a successful fundraising endeavor.

Combining a personal passion with fundraising

Over the past year, I've discovered another passion that has opened the door to more fundraising opportunities - running. I've found an abundance of opportunities to participate in runs/walks hosted by various Parkinson's organizations, or to join a team of runners/walkers supporting the cause in larger race events. I've found that my personal network is more than happy to support a healthy endeavor in support of a worthy cause. And the fundraising can be kicked off with something as simple as a Facebook post or an email blast.

To sum up - find something you are passionate it about, feel free to be creative, don't hesitate to ask for help, and don't worry about how much you raise in the beginning. Together, we are fighting for a better quality of life and, ultimately, a cure. Every contribution to that fight is incredibly valuable.

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