There is no better way to improve your leadership skills than to attend a LEAD Conference. You will return reenergized and brimming with new ideas that will positively affect your school and community.
But your first challenge is to figure out how much it will cost to attend and how you will raise the funds you need. This fundraising guide provides a simple, four-step process to help answer these questions and offer assistance in securing funds for this year’s conference.
Step 1: Determine Total Estimated Cost
You have two or three major expenses to consider when you attend a conference—registration, transportation, and housing. You may have some additional expenses depending on how many meals are included in the registration package and any personal expenditures associated with travel, such as souvenirs, snacks, personal items, etc. You should always know exactly what is covered by the registration fee to ensure that your cost estimates are accurate and all additional expenses are accounted for in your fundraising totals.
First, consult the Conference Costs and Hotel & Travel pages for the conference you plan to attend. Then use the grid below to determine the total estimated cost for your trip and how much money you will need to raise.
Step 2: Identify Potential Funding Sources
Now that you have determined how much money you need to raise to attend the LEAD Conference, you must identify individuals and organizations that can help provide those funds. While this may seem difficult, you will be surprised to find that people, businesses, and groups willing to contribute money are not all that hard to find!
Start Close to Home
Always remember to start with family. Parents, grandparents, and other relatives might be disappointed if you didn’t ask them first. Next, work with your adviser to see if there is any money available from the school or district that could be given. Your guidance counselor or principal may also know of federal programs that have grant money to be used for at least part of your costs.
Look to the Community
The next step is to approach civic and service groups whose members include community leaders. Use the internet to find out how to contact them. Before contacting any of them, you will need to collect some names of their officers, their titles, addresses, phone numbers, and emails. Don’t rule out lesser-known community groups or clubs either. Even the local garden or bridge club could be a good source of support!
Contact Local Businesses
When you are ready to start contacting local businesses and companies, begin with those where your parents, neighbors, or family friends have ties. For a list of others, you will want to contact your local chamber of commerce and/or visit their website. They may also be able to suggest specific businesses or companies that have histories of supporting students and schools.
Step 3: Make a Request
Once you have identified some potential supporters, you must contact them to make a formal request for financial assistance. This section will provide you with some tips on the best ways to make a request and what you will need to consider before approaching possible contributors.
Letters/Emails vs. Person-to-Person Visits
Family, friends, and neighbors are the easiest contributors to contact. Simply call them and arrange a time to sit down and make your pitch. For family members, you may find that an informative phone conversation will be enough to persuade them to contribute.
Contact with civic groups and businesses usually begins with an email that requests a contribution and an explanation of how the money will be used. You should also be prepared for a follow-up phone call or a meeting with possible contributors to answer questions and explain further why you came to them for financial assistance.
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
In order to write an effective letter of request, it is important that you introduce yourself and express the reasons you want to attend the conference or program in a concise way. This includes an introduction of you, the purpose of the letter, explaining a little about the event, why you want to go, and the specific amount of money you want contributed.
Another key to your letter is to keep it to one page in length. Because of the demands of their jobs, most leaders in the business community consider communications that are short and to the point to be the most effective.
The questions below will help you gather the information you need for your letter. You should always start with an outline to help you organize your thoughts.
- What school do you attend?
- What student group do you belong to and what is your leadership role?
- What leadership skills, activities, and knowledge do you expect to explore during the event?
- What are some of your leadership goals and how do you think going to the event will help you reach those goals?
- Why is it important for you to have the opportunity to spend time with other student leaders?
- How do you plan to use your experience to help your leadership group?
Every letter should provide basic information about the conference, including some of the skills taught and who sponsors it, to help the contributors understand the importance and value of their investment. You can make the process simpler by using the same format for all of your letters, but if you are very familiar with an organization you can personalize the letter to make a stronger case for their giving you financial support.
Be sure to make a list of all the people you send letters and keep a copy of each letter. This is important if you need to refer to the date a letter was sent or any specific information you included in it.
Think About Timing
Timing is everything with your letters. Civic groups may only meet once or twice a month. To increase the odds of getting a timely response, you should find out when groups meet and time your communication to arrive within five working days before their meetings. This will help ensure your request makes it onto their meeting agenda. Remember that similar timing is true for businesses as well. Depending on the time of year, businesses may be hectic, making it hard for management to act on your letter.
Step 4: Follow Up
It is very important to get your letters/emails out on a schedule that provides sufficient time for the recipients to consider your request and respond. Make follow-up calls to your letters/emails approximately one week later.
The purpose of the call is to confirm that your letter/email was received and to draw attention to your request, not to get an answer regarding a contribution. Introduce yourself, and ask to speak with the person to whom you sent your letter, and state why you are calling. In your conversation, ask if they need any more information pertaining to your letter. Keep your calls brief.
Everyone Deserves a Thank You
Immediately after you receive notice that your request was approved or turned down, you should send a letter/email thanking the organization for making a contribution or for taking the time to consider your request. Be specific and brief in thanking them for each part of the process—considering your letter, speaking with you on the phone, contributing ‘X’ dollars, and for providing you with a response to your letter/email. Sincere thank you letters demonstrate your character and leave the organizations with a positive impression of you.
After the Conference
Following your return from the conference, you will want to send each of your contributors a letter briefly telling them about your experience and thank them again for making it possible for you to go. This will confirm that they made the right decision in making a financial investment in you and may increase the odds that they will contribute to future requests from student leaders.