Fundraising Masterclass: Let Yourself Be Known

W680 jl2 0380 Before signing up for The D10 NYC last year, the most Morgan Stanley SVP Crystal Ho had ever raised for charity was $1000 for a 5K run. The D10’s $3000 fundraising minimum struck her as “quite high,” and she “didn’t even know where to start” with the ten athletic events.

Crystal’s only sport since high school had been adult kickball. (“We were pretty hardcore,” she’ll have you know.) Drawn to The D10’s quantifiable results and its “amazing cause” - benefiting pediatric cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering - Crystal bit the bullet and installed a pull-up bar in her New York apartment. “The more I learned about The D10, the more motivated I was to train harder.”

As for the fundraising component: “Conceptually, I thought it was going to be hard, but I hit $5000 pretty fast.”

Like so many of The D10’s most accomplished fundraisers, Crystal didn’t realize quite how strong her network was until she asked. Her two-year fundraising total stands at $23,000, and these are her four tips for taking your own fundraising to the $10K level and beyond.

When you define your career, and who you are as a person, what are you being defined by?

When you catch up with people, they often ask the standard canned question. “What's new?” Or: “How's it going?” When your answer is that you’re training and fundraising to compete in The D10, people suddenly pay attention. It’s not an answer most people have heard. They’re always impressed that you’re challenging yourself to do something outside of your comfort zone.

Suddenly you have a captive audience. Be prepared to make the pitch interesting. I’m also involved in Legal Aid, but with The D10, I think I have a little more skin in the game. Every physical effort I put into this becomes a monetary output that helps human beings….some of whom I got to meet at Sloan Kettering on a D10 visit.

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To help you with fundraising, The D10 provides guidelines and form letters. My first year, I think I ended up sending out two or three of the form letters, modified slightly for my own personal story.

Make your communications clear but concise. Don’t leave any room for confusion about how donating works. For instance, I’ve tried to be very explicit about the flat donation versus the performance-based donation.

Visuals are really important. I made sure to include a picture of myself training in all emails, so people knew I was putting the work in. This year, I used more humor on social media, pictures of me looking silly, and Who Wore It Better-type captions. I got a lot of traction from that.

Gauge your audience, too. I compiled one list for friends and family, and another list of professional contacts. I find it’s better to communicate separately to those different groups. The bottom line is making sure people know what you're doing and why.

If your network knows what you’re doing, they'll be happy to give.

I keep an Excel list of people I've reached out to.I write physical thank you cards to my donors and mail them out.

There’s another sense in which thankfulness is important. When I signed up originally, I thought, I’m just going to challenge myself. Making quantifiable progress does do wonders for your confidence.

But I would say that an added benefit of joining The D10 and connecting to the cause is being grateful that I have a body strong enough to compete. Not everyone has full use of their body or their physical abilities. I do, so I’m going to push myself.

That resonates.

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Heading into my second D10, I did worry, Will this be old hat? There are so many worthy, wonderful causes out there.

What I found is that you can really build year over year. Having a network is the foundation to making sure you have good fundraising, and it’s best not to reach out to people only when you need money. Now that I had people with genuine interest in what I was doing, I could keep in touch with them during the “offseason,” have conversations about how much time I spent training.

Doing a D10 can distinguish you at your office. This is something your colleagues will remember you by. A group of us at Morgan Stanley created a group around this, and we try to stay in touch.

You can build a really virtuous circle. Once people see other people donate, they want to be part of it, too.

Forbes recently featured Crystal Ho in its 2018 Next-Gen Wealth Advisors series. Read the piece here