When the dream of a trip to Switzerland started with an idle conversation over a cuppa, the Guiders at 1st Somercotes had no idea that the following two years would morph us into female Richard Bransons (minus the beards!). We also had no idea how much fun we would have, how much we would learn, and how much money we would raise.

Having never done any serious fundraising before, we set a modest target, aiming for enough money to get us to Switzerland. Then we thought we ought to have a couple of days out, so we raised a bit more. Then we asked the Guides what they wanted to do on their trip of a lifetime – and they told us – so we raised a bit more. Then we thought it might be nice to have a few ice creams and a hot chocolate at the top of a mountain. So we raised a bit more…

When the day finally came to press the button on the totalizer, I cannot say that I didn’t cry, as we had raised a grand total of ten thousand pounds! And we really did have the trip of a lifetime.

Now we’re on the other side of the trip, having caught up on sleep, I would like to share our experience of fundraising to help other leaders who might be sat round a kitchen table with a dream and a cuppa.

So, here is the 1st Somercotes fundraising survival guide:

Arm yourselves with a pen, paper and calendar

Plan what you are going to do, and when, as soon as possible. It’s amazing how quickly time passes and you still haven’t made that phone call. Plus, with plenty of notice, there will be more people around to help.

Go for sales patter and a big smile

If you stand behind a stall and let people walk past, they will. If you ask them to buy something, they generally will. Even better, go out and bring them in! This is also a great way to get people talking about Guiding – we always took Guiding postcards with us and gained quite a few new recruits along the way. And the more you smile, the more people give!

Raffle tickets

People love a tombola. It raised far more money on stalls than anything else we did. Having one made up in a box at the back of the cupboard was also very handy for last minute school fairs, or church open days.

Some big ideas

After the eighth Christmas fayre in three weeks I was ready to donate a hundred pounds just to have a Sunday afternoon to myself! We found that organising one big event was the same amount of effort as organising one small one, but with a better return for your time.

A captive audience

We raised as much in one evening, by inviting the Brownie and Guide parents to an evening of entertainment, as we did in a whole day at a summer gala –  but with much less effort. Once the parents were through the door, they stayed and spent money.

Motivate your Guides

It’s their trip so let them put in the effort. Of course we know that teenagers sometimes need more immediate gratification, so we ran the ‘Apprentice Challenge’ with prizes for entrepreneurial flair as well as the most money raised. The sponsored walk was also surprisingly lucrative.

Shameless cheek (and a really persuasive letter!)

Ask people for money. And if not money, things! We got donations from lots of local businesses for our Grand Prize Draw, which also made us feel more like part of the community. We asked for money from larger local companies, the parish council, the district council, the round table, the freemasons, the rotary club….you name it, we asked them! We didn’t always get it, but you never know until you ask.

A great letter will help with doing all this asking, plus you can often use the things you write in the letter as a starting point for filling in grant applications. There is some excellent guidance on writing letters on the Girlguiding fundraising web pages.

The internet

Fantastic for sharing ideas with other Guiders, it’s amazing how many companies have funds for local communities once you start looking at their corporate webpages…

Good friends

I would be lying if I told you that we didn’t get stressed, disheartened and fed up during our eighteen months of fundraising. However, one phone call or a group hug and we were back to our normal overexcited selves!

The dream

Don’t forget why you are making all this effort. The smiles on the girls’ faces the whole week through made every penny we raised more than worth it. In fact, it was absolutely priceless.