Using Your Birthday For Good

Recently I put out a call looking for people who used their birthday as a platform to raise money for a nonprofit like I did with my (and Doug Campbell’s) Cause It’s My Birthday campaign.

I have received emails over the past two months from people telling people how they were inspired by my campaign to start one of their own and I thought (like the good little blogger I am) that it really hit the nail to do a series of blog posts around these amazing people who donated THEIR birthday to cause. Coming from different parts of the country with different fundraising methods (and fundraising experience) this was a fun experiment into reaching out to people and doing email interviews. Absolutely something I’m looking to do more of in 2010.

Yesterday’s birthday blog post about Beth Kanter’s birthday wish to send 53 Cambodian children to school kicked it off and today we continue with the next in the series of “Using Your Birthday For Good” kicking off today with Matt Rosen.

I first met Matt in person at my Cause It’s My Birthday campaign but it turns out we both share something HUGE in common. New Orleans! He went to Tulane and so we continued to connect over the fall (he graciously gave me a coworking space while I was in NYC in November). When his birthday came around he threw a great birthday campaign and I can think of no one better to kick off this series. Ok, here we go.

**1) Tell me about your birthday and fundraising campaign. What was your inspiration? What nonprofit did you partner with? Did you tell them in advance? What was your fundraising goal (if you had one) and did you reach it? ** For this year’s shebang, I held a charity b-day, where I asked friends to donate to my cause of choice in lieu of buying me a drink. I’m 29. I can buy my own drinks (though, the sweet consequence: “I mean, you’re already at the bar, so you may as well buy me a…”). A friend of mine held what she coined a “Charitini” birthday last year, and I loved the idea. And your cross-country “Cause It’s My Birthday” jaunt was absolutely inspiring and just drop-kicked all expectations as to what one person can do by leveraging the social multiplier effect of two friends telling two friends who tell two friends who…

I chose to donate to Operation Gratitude, an organization that sends care packages to the troops overseas. I figure our men and women in uniform could use the love a lot more than I could use another Jägerbomb. They were planning their 500,000th care package! Just an $11 contribution pays for shipping, and they receive all of the contents, i.e. food, DVD’s, toiletries, letters, etc. from donors. I’ve donated to them on a regular basis in the past and recently assisted them with an outreach campaign for one of their events. I mentioned the party to the group’s founder, Carolyn Blashek, in advance and she was floored. I didn’t set a fundraising goal this time around. I’m usually the one railing on the copious amounts of birthday’s it seems we’re all swept into celebrating with Facebook and such making it to easy for people to guilt you into feting them on that momentous occasion when they hit that milestone 26th year of their life.

Co-opting Sartre, “Hell is other people’s birthday parties,” I like to say. Not wanting to look like a hypocrite or make anyone feel obligated to come out, I simply asked that they come and stop by and give what they could, or alternatively, I provided them a link to give online on their on time. If I made one soldier’s day I’d be happy, but I’m very pleased to say that everyone was extremely generous, they loved the idea and they loved the cause. I’m still receiving word from people confirming donations made online. Love that long tail. ** 2) Did you use online tools? Did you have a birthday party in person? What was your way to connect with people and tell them about this?**

I don’t love evites and such. A little impersonal. I sent an e-mail around. I called in advance. If I didn’t have either contact method, I reached out on Facebook via direct message. I made a post on my Tumblr blog about a week prior to put the word out to a few colleagues I connect with on there. Again, for this year’s event, if I was going to celebrate, I wanted it to be with close friends. I’d definitely consider doing other events in the future for the community at-large. Once you’re bitten by the cause bug…

I came across a site called charityhappenings.com a day before my event after I attended another fundraiser earlier in the week that used it as their platform. I made an announcement about my event on that site the day of, so I can’t comment on its effectiveness as I didn’t really utilize it to any extent.

I’ll also give a shout-out to a friend’s company: pingg.com - If you like that sort of thing, Pingg’s taking evites to a new level. Check it out.

**3) What have you done for past birthdays? ** Again, haven’t been one to make a thing of my b-day in the past. Being in mid-December, my birthday always fell during finals week while in school, or now during the prime holiday party circuit! My close friends and I always go out to dinner around our respective birthdays, and I’ll invite a few people out to a bar to raise a glass, but nothing major.

**4) Would you do a fundraiser for your birthday again? Was it easier or harder than you thought it would be? ** Absolutely. Didn’t find it all that hard, though I would likely send word and organize a bit more in advance than I did. I wasn’t sure if I was going to do anything given the scheduling. Thanksgiving, then a wedding on my actual birthday, and then the week before Christmas left just one open weekend at the beginning of the month. I mentioned the idea to a few friends and they motivated me to do it. And I really did love the idea of brightening the faces of those overseas, in harm’s way and away from their families for the holidays. It’s the least I could do for them.

**5) What was the best part? Did you connect with someone you had lost contact with? Any one story you’d like to share? ** Great question. A few great moments:

-I mentioned already how I joked that I was “guilting” everyone into supporting my cause of choice under the veil of celebrating my b-day, though my friend put it best when she said, “You know what. I didn’t feel that at all. In fact, you simply showed me how easy it is to help out in so many ways.” All I was trying to do. All I’ve been doing since April with GPICT - Night wasn’t about me.

-One of my former campers popped in for five minutes just to buy me a shot before he had to go to work. He said one of his best friends from growing up was a Marine and is heading to Afghanistan soon. He couldn’t thank me enough for doing what I did and sent my message to everyone in his address book.

-A friend of a friend showed up who just got out of the Army. He was in Korea and Iraq. He had no idea about the fundraiser, in advance, but when I told him, he emptied his wallet. Never met the kid before.

**6) What advice would you give to someone else who wanted to throw a fundraiser but didn’t know where to start? ** Charity Happenings is a great resource.

Don’t be afraid to ask. Make it easy for your friends by providing a donation link or collect small amounts at the event and they’ll be happy to do it. Just bring it to their attention. You’ll be surprised. Use the tools that your peers use, i.e. email, Facebook, Twitter, etc., wherever they may be.

If you’re thinking big, look no further than Sloane’s Cause It’s My B-day effort.

Leverage all the tools at your disposal. You never know which ones are going to be the most sticky.

Thanks Matt! Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post about Denise Wakeman’s 50th Birthday Bash!

_If you liked this post, you might like:_ Giving Back On Your Birthday; The Doug Campbell Interview Show Transparency In Your Projects Los Angeles Video Update

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