How to have a quick-and-dirty fundraiser for a cause

Have some friends, some beer and a bucket?

This weekend, the Project 1461 team tried out an experiment: could we, with less than an hour of planning, pull off a fun, in-person fundraiser to further our mission of supporting progressive causes? We're pretty excited to report that the answer was "yes, absolutely." Here's how we pulled it off, and how you can too.ac

Choose your cause.
We were really inspired by the $24 million that the ACLU has raised, and decided to capitalize on this by picking two other legal organizations -- the International Refugee Assistance Project and Lambda Legal -- as our fundraising targets. It split the funds we raised, but we also found it inspired people to give more. 

Find a spot.
For us, this was our favorite neighborhood bar in Brooklyn, with a laid-back owner we've been friendly with for years. We kept it simple: instead of asking him to close down the place for us, charge a cover, or even offer a drink special, all we asked was to put out some boxes to collect cash donations. Bonus: we didn't have to worry about providing alcohol or food for our guests.

Tell your friends -- all of your friends.
This is the most important part: tell everyone you know. Your best friends, your old coworkers, your boss, the people you lived with ten years ago. Ask them to come, and tell them to bring people. We started on Facebook, then sent texts and emails. Emails are great because they can be forwarded to other people. 

Get set up.
In keeping with our quick-and-dirty, informal planning, we got two boxes from the UPS Store and wrote in them on Sharpie. Amazingly, this didn't deter anyone -- including people just hanging out at the bar -- from contributing! We gave out our new Project 1461 cards, but you can also print out some info about your cause so that people have confidence in what you're doing.

Find a way for people to contribute even if they can't come.
Almost half of what we raised came from people who said, "I can't come but I want to help!" We accommodated them by setting up sites for each cause on CrowdRise, which lets you create fundraisers that go directly to the cause. This also let us keep track of how much was coming in. 

Count what comes in, and celebrate!
At the end of our fundraiser, with only an hour or so of planning, two boxes for cash, and two easy-to-set-up online sites, we raised over $1,000 for each of our causes. We kept our expectations pretty reasonable given how last-minute it was, so for us, this met what we hoped to accomplish! CrowdRise came in handy here: when we were ready to wrap, we contributed the amount we'd raised in cash through the CrowdRise fundraiser.

Do it again!
We heard over and over from our friends how great it was to combine hanging out and doing good, and by the end of the afternoon, we had decided to make this a monthly or bi-monthly thing. Since--let's face it--you'll never get everyone you know to show up, expect a rotating group every time where people come out for the causes they care about most.