When my brother was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder 15 years ago, it was a challenging thing for me to comprehend and to accept. I wasn’t comfortable talking about it with friends or opening up to others. It was my mother’s example that helped me to gain the knowledge, awareness and acceptance that I needed to fully support my brother. I followed her lead and shifted my focus to making a difference for people who live with mental health conditions.
My career has been established online, so I figured this was the best way to leverage my knowledge. My goal was to create a fundraiser that would not only increase funds but also spread awareness. Awareness was what I lacked early on in my brother’s diagnosis: I had no idea of what mental illness actually meant. I knew about cancer, MS (multiple sclerosis) and Parkinson's, but the details about mental illness were foreign to me—as it is for many people. So this became a centerpiece of my campaign.
I believe the key to a great fundraiser is to make it stand out. Also, it’s important to foster both discussion and engagement into the cause. There are many different ways to get involved and raise money for NAMI. The idea of this fundraiser was for all the males in our company to grow beards for the entire month of January, which would be sponsored by our family and friends. We also encouraged the female employees to donate. The name of this fundraiser was Mental Health Menuary, in order to represent the three components: men, January and mental health. Over the last three years, we have raised over $25,000!
Here is my advice based off my experience with Mental Health Menuary:
Pick a Catchy Name
You want something that will stand out and stick in peoples’ minds. Also, something that is inclusive and easy for people to join. For example, Movember in November to raise money for cancer. The name of your fundraiser is what people will see and hear first, it is the biggest piece of your brand. It’s important to pick something that people will not only remember, but want to tell their friends about.
Create a Visual Representation
Think about an image that can epitomize your efforts. Our idea was that everyone who participated in Menuary had a beard, which is a noticeable image that became a logo of sorts to our campaign. Having a visual representation that stands out will help to make your fundraiser more memorable.
Choose an Easy to Use Site as Your Vehicle
There are many different platforms to use for your fundraiser. We used Crowdrise and found it to be incredibly effective. There is also GoFundMe, Causes, DonorsChoose and many more. Most will take a small percentage of the proceeds to collect all the funds, so make sure to check the rates for the difference sites. NAMI also has its own personal fundraising pages that you can use. With these resources, you can set up an account and launch a fundraiser in less than 15 minutes. This allows you to quickly get your fundraiser off the ground.
Take Advantage of All the Social Media Platforms
Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat are all great for this. The more people who see your message the better, so put it out there on as many platforms as you can. You will be shocked at who views your postings and who will donate. I personally received huge donations from high school classmates who I have not spoken to in 10 years, but mental health is close to their hearts. Most importantly, conversations were opened.
Stay Active with the Online Community
Once you post a link to your fundraiser on your Facebook page, keep the post pinned to the top of your page. For every person that donates, go back to your original posting and thank them in your comments. Tag that person in the comment as well. This will put your post back to the top of all your follower or friends feeds and will remind them to donate.
The Internet is an amazing tool that needs to be leveraged more in the mental health community. We raised $25,000 without a massive effort, just a will to help. You already have the passion to make a difference for the millions of Americans affected by mental health. Hopefully this blog will give you a few ideas that will help you in your efforts to make a difference.
Chris DePatria is the vice president of revenue at Signpost, a marketing platform that drives new and repeat customs for local businesses. Chris resides in Hoboken with his wife and dog. He can be found on any given Sunday in section 146 of Metlife stadium watching the New York Giants.