Fundraising Tips & Ideas

Fundraising Tips & Ideas

Make your fundraising page unique. Setting up your page is very easy, but it's important that you put thought into your message and use your own "voice".

  • When your registration has been approved, you will receive an e-mail from with the subject “Welcome to Surf For Life.” Click on the link within that message and enter your user name and password to access your volunteer dashboard. Once you're logged into your dashboard, click on My Campaign to personalize your donation page and track the progress of your fundraising campaign. Don’t forget to upload a photo.
  • A template is provided for you with generic text regarding Surf For Life, but we encourage you to use your own words to show your friends and family that this is a matter close to your heart. Create a compelling message on your page that tells your potential donors YOUR story. Why is this experience personal to you? 
  • Once you have crafted your story and included a photo, hit “Submit” to complete your page setup.
  • You will then receive an e-mail from Surf For Life with the subject “Your Fundraising Page is Live!” The link to your personal fundraising page is included within that e-mail.

Share your fundraising link with everyone you know! Import your contacts from Gmail, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Outlook to create a master e-mail list. Include family, friends, old bosses, distant family relatives, coaches, co-workers, clients, former classmates, childhood friends. Include casual acquaintances, as the worst anyone can do is not respond. The best that can happen is they will actually donate. Don't leave anyone out!

Increase your fundraising goal: As an individual fundraiser, you want to do everything you can to maximize your impact. Raising your fundraising goal is a proven fundraising best practice that is sure to maximize your total donations. Ask Surf For Life to increase your goal as you get closer to reaching it! You will not be committed to reaching the goal once your reach your minimum commitment.

Take advantage of Matching Gifts. Many companies match every single dollar raised or donated made by their employees. Check out some of the companies that offer matching here, and Review Corporate Matching Instructions to see how you can double your fundraising!

Set up face-to-face time. Talk about your trip all the time! Mention it to co-workers, clients, friends you see at a party, family members you see over the holidays, etc. Invite people to coffee so you can explain more about what you’re doing and how their contribution will help. People will take interest in this endeavor, and it gives you the opportunity to add a personal touch and to follow up with a request for a donation. Use social media. Share your fundraising link at least once a week on Facebook, LinkedIn & Twitter and provide fundraising and project updates. Tag @SurfForLifeTeam in your updates, and publicly thank donors by tagging them so it shows up in their feed. Share links to project videos and photos so people can get a clear idea of what you’re working towards.

Draft a personal e-mail or letter. You can refer to some sample e-mails from past volunteers and template e-mails, but the personal touches are what makes people want to give. Include a narrative, add color, attach photos, share videos and links to the project, and don't forget to include a link to your fundraising page and an address where they can send a check. Show your friends and family why this cause is personal to you.

  • Ask. Include a call to action. Tell everyone all about the project you'll be working on and make it clear that you need their support to make it a reality. Include details about where the money is going, and let them know that all donations are 100% tax deductible. Ask for donations, and give them a deadline. People are motivated by deadlines.
  • Follow up. Keep a spreadsheet of those who donate so you can remember to thank them. Send a reminder e-mail or letter to those who have not yet donated. Include project updates in your reminder, and let them know that fundraising is going well, but you still have a bit farther to go. Sometimes, follow ups are more successful than original letters for bringing in the money.

Host your own fundraising event. Inquire with your favorite restaurants, coffee shops, bars, fitness studios (Yoga, Karate, Boot Camp, Pilates) to see if they will sponsor a fundraising event. Many businesses will be happy to support the cause, especially if it will bring them more customers. If you have a friend who is also raising money for their trip, you can co-host the event and split the proceeds. Insider tip: if you receive cash donations from the event, you can donate the total amount to your page and apply for a match through your Matching Gifts Program and double the event proceeds! Our volunteers have organized some pretty fantastic events in the past that have been very successful. Here are some ideas that have worked for past Surf For Life volunteers:

  • Donation yoga/kickboxing/karate/aerobics class. Ask your local fitness studio if you can host a donation class. See if one of the teachers will lead the class for free. Stand up and talk at the beginning and end of class about Surf For Life and your project. Ask for a suggested donation of $20 per person.
  • Put on a clown show. Yes, you read that correctly. One of our past volunteers is a professional clown, and she raised over $4,000 by performing in the streets of San Francisco and collecting donations from passer-byers.
  • Bowling Night. Rent out two lanes at a bowling alley (ask the manager to donate the lanes or waive/reduce the entrance fee). $20 gets participants an evening of bowling and pizza (you provide) and a raffle ticket. Try to have one great raffle prize (a Kindle, tablet, etc.) and sell raffle tickets for $3 each.
  • Guest bartender night. Ask your favorite neighborhood bar to donate a portion of drink sales from the night to your cause and to let you keep all the tips. Learn how to make 1-2 specialty cocktails from the country where you’ll be volunteering such as the El Macua from Nicaragua. Invite all your friends and co-workers to come party with you and donate to your cause.

San Francisco bars that have hosted guest bartending nights for Surf For Life volunteers: Tonic, Soda Popinki, Royal Tug Yacht Club, Olivia Ringo Events Coordinator, Tonic Nightlife Group (818) 800-2802

Toronto bars that are supportive of Surf For Life: Fox on the Bay, Amsterdam Brew House, Miller Tavern

  • Put on a concert. A father/daughter duo who will volunteer with us this year is going to throw a concert and charge a suggested donation. How could anyone say no to that?
  • Host a bake sale. Bake up some of Grandma’s famous chocolate cookies and brownies and bring them to work. Set up a table at lunch time with information about Surf For Life and the trip you’re working towards, and sell the goods for $3 each. If you work at a company that offers Matching Gifts, those cookies will bring in $6 a piece!
  • Throw a party. Everyone loves a reason to party so host a fundraising party at your house (or a park or beach on a nice day). Super Bowl Sunday, your birthday, etc. would be great days to do it! You provide the pizza/wings/BBQ/beer. Show some Surf For Life videos, and tell your friends or family all about your upcoming volunteer project. Remind them that you are paying for the flight out pocket and that almost all the funds you raise will go directly to project costs. Then pass around a hat to collect donations.
  • Group Fundraising Events. If a few of your colleagues or friends are also raising money for a Surf For Life trip, combine forces and throw THE fundraising event of the year. It might take some detailed planning, but a group could: host a Date Auction Night (potential to make lots of money!), an 80s Prom, a beer tasting event, etc. Just divide and conquer tasks to get everything you need (alcohol, band, liquor, food, event space) donated to your event.
  • Want 80 more fundraising ideas? Check out this list consolidated by the National Aids Marathon Training Program.

Send Thank You's. Acknowledge every person who donates to you, no matter how small the amount. Send them a personal e-mail, publicly thank them on Facebook by tagging their name in a post and send a hand-written thank you card. Keep your donors updated on the project every step of the way by sending updates and pictures from your trip.

Ask Surf For Life for help. If you have never done this before, it can be intimidating, but rest assured that every single volunteer who has ever signed up for a trip has met their fundraising goal. Do you want us to connect you with a Fundraising Mentor? We are here to help you! Send us an e-mail and let’s figure out a strategy together to help you reach your goal.



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