The 365 Ways Blog

Michael Norton is author of "365 Ways to Change the World", which provides an issue for each day of the year, interesting facts, inspiring case studies of people doing things to address the issue and ideas for action. Originally published in the UK, versions with local content have been published in Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and the USA. To find out more visit our website:

30 May 2008

Get some great fundraising ideas

At the International Workshop on Resource Mobilisation held in Kuala Lumpur in 2008, one of the speakers asked the fundraisers in the audience whether they liked asking for money. Only one person put their hand up. Most people are good at writing fundraising proposals and organising events, but when it comes to asking for money they feel embarrassed.

They should not be. They are asking people to join with them in addressing an important and sometimes urgent social problem. They are giving people the opportunity to do something about it – which they may really want to do. And without their support, less can be done. So if you are involved in a campaign or a project which you feel passionate about, and if you need money, volunteers, gifts in kind or other support, then go out and ask people. Besides asking family, friends and colleagues at work, or organising receptions to tell people about what you are doing or speaking in public, there are lots of other opportunities for asking. Here are some whacky ideas for asking contributed by participants at another workshop:

1. Get talking to the person behind you in the supermarket queue. They will be just as bored as you, and will have to wait longer than you to pass through the checkout. Why not use the opportunity to tell them about the importance of your cause, and even ask them to support you.
2. Go and ask one person at random in the street if they can spare you a minute to hear about a really important issue. Do this once a day. Most people will not want to talk to you. A few will. Someone may decide to support you. You will get better and better at it with practice.
3. Go and speak at Speakers Corner in Hyde Park, London. Just take along a crate to stand on, dress colourfully and bring along some leaflets to hand out. Start talking. People passing by will stop to listen. Eventually you may attract a crowd. Participate in one of the iconic symbols of freedom of speech.
4. Develop a ten-second pitch to give to people in an elevator as you zoom up from street level to the 51st floor. See how many you can convince on the way up. Do it again on the way down.
5. If you happen to go sky diving, talk to your fellow divers on the way down. See if you can sign them up to make a legacy in your favour (which you will only benefit from when they die). Perhaps their ’chute will not open!
6. Organise a dress-in-green day at your workplace, and fine people as they come in if they are not dressed in green. As you fine them, tell them about how their fine is going to help change the world.

If you have any great ideas for how to ask for money, then submit them to

If you want to get some great fundraising ideas, then visit the Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration:

Over 100 great examples of fundraising successes are showcased. Browse the website, or submit your own example of a creative idea that worked really well for you. Here are two of the case studies.

Jeans for Genes is a national appeal in the UK where everyone across the country is asked to throw out the usual dress rules, jump into their jeans and donate £1 at schools or £2 at work to help children with genetic disorders. In order to get people to know about Jeans for Genes Day and to sign up to organise something at their place of work, iconic statues all around the UK were dressed in jeans. Some statues wore denim jeans, others had cloaks, aprons or specially eye-catching denim clothing. It all cost about £100 – the denim was donated, the jeans were made by volunteers. The media picked up the story which helped promote Jeans for Genes Day.

Jeans or denim wear were put on:
The Bull in Birmingham, Dylan Thomas in Swansea, Captain Cat in Swansea, Gareth Edwards in Cardiff, Lady Godiva in Coventry, Sir Stanley Matthews in Stoke on Trent, Beau Brummell in Jermyn Street (London), The Cordwainer in Watling Street (London), The LIFFE Trader in Walbrook Street (London), The Shepherd and Sheep in Paternoster Square (London), and Eric Morecambe in Morecambe Bay.

Covenant House Candlelight Vigil. For over 16 years, Covenant House (USA) has used a candlelight vigil to draw attention to the needs of homeless and street youth. The main vigil is held in Times Square, New York with surrounding billboards lighting up with advertisements and information about Covenant House and the youth it serves. The 2006 vigil was held at 17 locations in North and Latin America with audiences of up to 750. The event itself is a simple half-hour programme: a proclamation and/or greetings from local government individuals, inspirational messages from street youth and a short address by a distinguished member of the community. All vigils include the lighting of candles as a symbol of caring.

Covenant House now wants to increase the number of vigil sites to more than 1,000, to create a ‘blaze’ of concern at the start of US National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week and to raise $10-12 million dollars in sponsorships to fund its programmes.

A garden in a bag

Two London architects, Ulrike Steven and Gareth Morris, started WHAT IF: projects to develop ideas for the urban landscape. Their aim is to build on what’s already happening in local communities, and to unlock resources and enable people to find new ways of doing, thinking responding to everyday issues.
Through their architectural practice and as college lecturers they are testing ideas through small-scale interventions. A particular interest is Void Spaces and the opportunities that these could offer neighbourhoods and cities.

Vacant Lot: one question they have tried to answer is “How might you meet the demand for ‘grow-your-own’ within dense urban areas where available land is scarce?” 
 Together with local residents of an inner city housing estate in Shoreditch in East London, they have come up with a novel solution. They have transformed a formerly inaccessible and run-down piece of vacant land on a housing estate into a beautiful oasis of green. Seventy 500kg bags of soil have been arranged to form an allotment space. The bags are the sort that builders use for the delivery on site of sand and gravel. Within their individual plots, local residents are tending a spectacular array of vegetables, salads, fruit and flowers. A new sense of community has emerged as a result of this... plus fresh, healthy and virtually free food for them and their families. They have called the project “Vacant Lot”, and it was commissioned by the Shoreditch Trust, funded by the Arts Council and developed for the London Festival of Architecture in 2008 in association with the Charles Street and Pitfield Tenant and Resident Association and Groundwork East London. What a lot of organisations for a little project! But a really creative way of growing vegetables on your doorstep.

Other WHAT IF projects include:

Out-Post: a shipping container wass placed on some unused land in the Toxteth area of Liverpool to be used for meetings, exhibitions, rehearsals. Workshops and gatherings of all kinds.

During the Liverpool, European Capital of Culture Year 2008 unheard voices were given a say through an exhibition of stories exhibited at the Out-Post and in the surrounding streets. The collection of personal stories from within Toxteth aimed to give expression to the different cultures and identities within three marginalised neighbourhoods. These areas lacked amenities and meeting places, so the container provided a central public space for local people who were invited to fill it with their experiences, memories, fears and aspirations.

Also in Toxteth, the Cow: the Udder Way project brought 5 cows, 5 calves, 3 milkmen and a milking parlour to a piece of green space in Toxteth for 9 days. Imagine waking up in the city, and seeing a farm suddenly appear nearby!

The Travelling Shed sought to promote environmental awareness. A garden shed appeared at shopping centres offering people digital garden make-overs so that a more sensible use of their gardens would help them reduce their ecological footprint. Each person’s ecological footprint is about 800 times the size of the average suburban back garden. 60,000 square metres is the area needed to produce the resources each of us consumes and to absorb our waste. If the earth’s available land was shared evenly between the global population, we would each have 18,000 square metres of space. This is the space available to us sustainable living (as a planet).

Using more than our fair share will eventually lead to ecological overload. If every country had Britain’s level of consumption we would need 3.1 worlds to cope with the demand for resources.
 Reducing our “ecological footprint” means becoming more aware of the origin of our food, how our energy is produced, where our waste goes, where water comes from or drains to… and then taking action to reduce it. For 3 weeks the Shed advertised the beauty of a productive plot or a wildlife habitat in our back gardens, with the slogan: “Don’t mow it, grow it!”.

Also on the WHAT IF: projects website are ideas for constructing low-cost greenhouses out of bamboo and polythene to grow tomatoes, and green roofs to grow things which also retain water during periods of heavy rainfall and act as an insulator helping keep the heat inside the house.