Visiting Haiti was incredible, but the other 51 weeks of the year matter even more. I hope to inspire myself and others to make a difference in everyday life.

Meet A. Way

Where are you from?

Halifax, NS, Canada

What made you want to go to Haiti?

Once in a while, life answers you in a way you don’t expect. The afternoon I found out about this, I was feeling disillusioned with the consumerism and thoughtlessness I saw… designer-outfitted kids with bags of stuff they openly admitted to not really wanting, ignoring homeless people standing outside the mall. Like Maya Angelou said: “The need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my mind.”

That afternoon, I read the project announcement. It felt like everything clicked into place at once. I was raised a volunteer from a very young age, but I haven’t been able to do much lately. I have wonderful business clients who feel like they want to help, but need to invest what money they have into their businesses. I’ve always wanted to do a trip to a place that needs help, and just give without expecting to get anything back.

I did some research on Haiti then, and the conditions pre- and post-quake. My heart broke and I was sold on the project.

What are you hoping to take away from this experience?

I know the “right” answer here is that I expect to get nothing back, but when we give, we always get something back anyway, even if it’s simply that warm feeling of happiness at sharing what we have. Honestly, I’m hoping to be rattled enough by the experience that I permanently shift my focus to caring however I can and sharing whatever I have. I want to lead an unconventional life, and I hope that getting involved hands-on will inspire me to do it again and again.

How did you approach the task of raising $5,000 in donations?

First, I looked at all my resources. For some people, that includes a lot of friends and family members, and a wide social network. For others, it might be skills or services you’re really good at. For still others, it might be ideas about huge, attention-grabbing projects. I wrote out a list of ideas on how to raise money using my own unique resources, and worked from there.

Since I’m a freelance writer, I already have contacts online, a good reputation among certain forums of webmasters, and knowledge of how to start up a freelance business fast. I knew people would be generous for a good cause. I tried a few different approaches, and the one that “stuck” was an exclusive, three-month discount on my services, with 75% of the proceeds in my little “club” going to this project, and 25% to a respected member of the community in dire need. And then I wrote my fingers off.

What are a few of your best fundraising tips?

–Figure out what unique skills, abilities, and resources *you* can bring to the table.

–Are you a social butterfly, and good at talking to people? Raise donations by word of mouth, and bug people until they donate!

–Are you an introvert who’s shy about this kind of thing? Me too! It’s still worth spreading the word to your friends and family, because a few hundred dollars in donations is less you have to raise using other methods.

–Are you a good writer, artist, crafter, or do you have any other particular talent? Figure out a way to monetize it for the cause.

–Do you have any special skills at all? (Heck, knowing English is a skill, so I’m willing to bet the answer is “yes” if you think hard enough!) Teach what you know. Help people learn how to use a computer, design websites for people, teach them yoga — whatever you can dream up.

–Are you more of a “one huge burst of effort” person? One big event that raises $5K can do it, and you only have to find 50 people willing to pay $100, some companies willing to donate space, services, or products, and the motivation to follow through every single day on making it happen!

–Marketing is key. You NEED to get the word out however possible, so use social media, Kijiji, Craigslist, post up flyers, and send emails about what you’re offering.

–Figure out how much you have to raise per week and try a few different ways of fundraising until you find one that’s working, then ramp it up another level or two. Change your weekly goals as necessary, but check in every week to see how you’re doing relative to those goals.

–Keep some concrete reminder of your goal nearby. I changed all my forum signatures to a ticker of how much I’d raised, and how much remained. Draw out a fundraising thermometer and put it on your wall, colouring in another bubble or section for every $100. Keeping your brain engaged in fundraising every day will help the ideas and motivation flow faster.

–Break it down a little. I always tried to think of it as raising just 50 x $100. Can you persuade someone to donate $100 in exchange for [insert your talent, product, or winning smile here]? Only 49 people left to persuade.

Can you offer any words of encouragement to those still working towards their fundraising goal?

You — yes, you! — can do it. Seriously. You’re awesome, and I can’t wait to see you in Haiti.