2015 Birthday Fundraising Debrief

It has been one week since the "end" of my fundraising campaign around my birthday. I do have the added benefit of having a birthday around the holidays so I may have a few more donations trickle in, in lieu of holiday gifts, but not many. So I'm gonna call it here.

That is before any matching donations! So we definitely hit our goal of $2000. (If someone wants to work out the number of QUALYs here I would love to know the firm number) I am pumped about how much money we were able to raise. I'm also sort of amused with my friends that figured out how to game the matching pledge by donating $27 several times. It seems like a dirty trick perhaps, but I think it is in keeping with the spirit of trying to maximize the amount of good you are doing. After all I'm always a fan of a good ploy. And I don't think our generous donor will mind overmuch, nice young gentleman that he is.

Though I did notice a distinct difference in how fundraising felt this year compared to last year. It felt easy. Which is good I suppose, but it also got me wondering if I really reached my real goal. Sure for this year the monetary goal was raising over $2K, but my overall goal for the project is to spread the idea of being selective and thoughtful about charity donations and inspiring people to give more often. I feel much less successful in this goal, primarily because it did feel so easy. I didn't have to convince anyone, or explain why I was raising money.

Probably because most of my friends, and those who donated, are effective altruists.

They didn't need to be convinced that AMF is a great organization; it has consistently been among GiveWell's top charities (with the exception of 2009 & 2013). So it didn't take much convincing to get friends and acquaintances from the EA community to pony up $27 to the fundraiser. Actually it took no convincing. I just posted it on Facebook 4-5 times and let money come in.

There were of course larger donations from close relatives etc. but in general it was friends affiliated with EA. Great friends! Close, wonderful, lovely friends, that I am very thankful for. But if one of my goals is to disseminate effective altruism ideas to people that otherwise wouldn't be exposed to them, well then these friends aren't my target audience.


I think there is a combination of things happening:

- My main avenue of advertisement was through Facebook & email.
- It is harder to see what emails were successful in garnering donations
- EAs are exceptionally active on Facebook compared with other groups
- The percentage of EA contacts I have on Facebook has grown hugely since EAGlobal & helping to organizing SeattleEA
- Other peers don't use or check Facebook, most of whom are people I don't have email addresses for
- My posts likely don't get a high ranking on the newsfeeds of those that do use Facebook frequently, such as extended family
- I didn't feel the pressure to advocate/advertise as strongly this year since I knew I would get support from other effective altruists
- I knew who was likely to donate based on last year's donations so I primarily targeted those individuals


So while the monetary goal was reached I still feel like I could have done better this year because I did not reach very many people. Last year I spent a fair amount of time putting myself out there and candidly asking for donations from family and coworkers. I also asked many people to share the fundraiser with their friends. Next year I should do more of this direct solicitation, and I am hoping to advocate more for the dissemination of the story by people that support it. Hopefully this will mean that I reach a broader audience.

This hesitance to solicit people also leads me to the uncomfortable conclusion that over the last year I have done a less than fantastic job of maintaining friendships with those outside of the effective altruism community. Because of this I felt uncomfortable asking for donations directly without warming them up first. While this conclusion is uncomfortable I think it is highly likely and is something I should think more about.

I would love to hear other ideas of how to effectively market the fundraiser for next year or ways to prevent this year's failure modes. I find that I can create lots of marketing ideas for others, but when trying to apply it to myself I fall short. My restrictions are needing things to be time and cost effective.

The obvious solution is to simply aim to raise a larger amount of money in order to pressure myself into action. One thought that came to mind was filming part of getting the tattoo this year and using the video somehow. Though honestly getting a tattoo is mostly boring, so I don't know how well this would play out.

What would convince you to share a fundraiser with friends & family? Is there an obvious or easy way to get more people interested that I am missing?


Otherwise I'll fall back to my default:

Bad jokes, scantly related to the topic at hand. And no one wants that.