Fundraising Masterclass: Four Lessons from a $28,000 Debut

W680 110049 01 00069 0000b29 1 Update 6/6/19:

When we deservingly gushed about Eric Vishnevetsky reaching $28,000 in fundraising during his first year in The D10 one year ago, we had no idea that number would so quickly become dwarfed by his 2019 sophomore campaign.

Rather than resting on his 2018 laurels, Eric chose to challenge himself and his team to raise $100,000 for pediatric cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center for 2019. So bold was their confidence, Eric and his teammates (Lance Dotzman, Brian Klapow, and Bucky Aronoff) named their 2019 team: 100K FTW. 

FTW precisely. This week Eric and his team surpassed the $100,000 funds-raised goal. This remarkable achievement in the context of what it means to beneficiaries of this charitable raise becomes that much more noteworthy. Every D10 athlete deserves a handshake for their charitable efforts; when you see Eric and Lance and Brian and Bucky, add a backslap. 

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In his first year as a D10 athlete, Eric Vishnevetsky was thrilled to reach his initial fundraising goal of $3,000. For a moment, he thought he was done. 

He wasn't.

Come Game Day in NYC, the 24-year-old Letterman had added more than $25,000 to his total, nearly joining the 10K Club three times over, and securing his place in the annals of spectacular D10 success stories. 

Here's how he did it. 

1) Don't be afraid to make the ask
"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take. It can be daunting to approach senior people at your firm. You feel that pit in your stomach. But - we're all human. At one point, the managing director was in your shoes too. 

"One of the unique things about senior people, from my perspective, is their self-awareness. A lot of them acknowledge they would not have gotten to the point they're at without having mentors, or without seizing chances to go the extra mile. If someone has the courage to seek out their guidance, they're happy to give it. Someone who has the audacity to make themselves available, and even vulnerabie, especially around a cause as worthy as The D10 - that's somebody who's going to go on to do bigger and better things.

"I was always happy to talk about what I was doing. I was proud of it. People want to feel like they're donating to a person as well as to a cause. When you care about something bigger than yourself, people will respond."

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2) Turn your network into a community
"Follow-up is so important. If you never circle back, and it becomes a one-way street, people may think, Why did I waste my time? I did regular email correspondence when we hit big milestones. I kept my network in the know about where I was in relation to my goals, and what the process was. Make people feel like a part of something, and it becomes a 'we' thing, which is much more powerful than 'this is about Eric.' Nobody thought I was going to raise what I did, myself included. I couldn't have done it without everyone who helped out, and I made sure they knew that."

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3) Get creative and make it fun
"I tried a lot of different things in order to discover where the momentum was. I hosted a spin class through an instructor friend of mine. I priced the seats to raise funds and utilized the company match from UBS. I followed that up with a happy hour. 

"Did I know my social media presence would be as effective as it was? No. It just sort of happened. I was constantly updating my Instagram stories and posts to make the fundraising process interactive. From one Thursday to that Sunday, I announced my donations like a dating game, where I'd write a sentence or two boosting my donors who were single. People bought in and had a good time. 

"In college, I was the kid who lifted to get ready for spring break - that's pretty much it. Suddenly I'm at the track, running, and I show that. People want to know, What are you doing? Let them in on what you're doing, and why it's working."

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The D10 2018 Individual 10K Club

4) Play to your strengths
"My fraternity at Penn State raised funds to fight pediatric cancer through the Four Diamonds Foundation and Hershey Medical Center. Becoming aware of the disease and the families battling it, and seeing the impact that philanthropy could have, gave me a passion for continuing the fight. A school as big as PSU makes for a logical touchpoint to build community around this cause. Next year - knowing what I know now - I'm going to play to my alumni and professional networks even more. 

"I really value the relationships that I have. I went through a two-year rotational program when I started at my company: six different jobs, different teams, different management styles. It exposed me to hundreds of people in a relatively short time. I found I was more successful when I was able to build a personal relationship with my boss, when there was an open conversation at all times. When you show that you're more than a cog in the machine, that you have complexity and passions, you can build higher quality relationships. 

"As I got more and more involved in the fundraising for The D10, people I didn't know that well began to approach me. People I'd never met were sharing my content on LinkedIn and Facebook. I was given unsolicited opportunities to get in front of crowds and talk about this. It was a humbling experience. Telling rooms of 50 people I didn't know what I was doing helped me raise funds and also refine my messaging. This is about finding a cure. And it's about each of us using our skill set and our network to make the biggest impact we can."

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One hundred percent of D10 athlete donations go directly to The D10's beneficiaries in the fight against pediatric cancer. Eric's 2018 total is still going up. Donate to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in his name here.