Fundraising Made Easy

For 33 years of his life, 48-year-old Jonathan Cheris has battled Crohn’s disease- mostly in silence. Shortly after a series of Crohn’s-related health scares slowed him down, he received a Team Challenge brochure in the mail that would give him a whole new purpose. Instantly inspired, he started training for Team Challenge in 2009, not realizing the lasting effects it have on his life and on those around him.

“I learned and was shocked at the people at work that had this disease and just didn’t share it,” Cheris says of his Team Challenge experience. “By sharing my story so openly, especially at work, it has been good for the people I connect with. It was kind of like a coming out for me.”

Cheris and his Long Island team of 50 Team Challengers would go on to raise $250,000 and he would go on to be the 9th highest fundraiser of that year out of 600 national participants.  Since then he has completed four races and made it his mission to raise awareness about Inflammatory Bowel Diseases using his marketing expertise as Senior Vice President of Citigroup. To date, Cheris has singlehandedly raised more than $40,000 and is currently training for his 5th Team Challenge race.

“I had never been a fundraiser before and I was shocked that I could raise money just by telling my story,” says Cheris, who has made a name for himself as the creator of the website Leading With Guts, a trusted website dedicated to raising awareness for IBD. “I learned a lot about myself and my capabilities.” Here he shares some of his best tips for fundraising success.

 Start writing all the names of people you know-your aunts, your uncles, your friends, your colleagues and email them sharing your story in order to spark a connection. Try creating a video sharing your story and put it in an email.

• Leverage social media. “Build a buzz around it,” says Cheris who goes by @LeadingWithGuts to his legion of Twitter followers and online supporters. “Send a personal note on Facebook to your friend. I do the same thing for email and I got a huge response.” 

• Create a page while you are training for Team Challenge, so people can see your progress and will be encouraged to donate. If people are not inclined to donate one year, still maintain contact for the future.

• Always be gracious. Try writing handwritten thank you notes to your supporters. Always try to build relationships with people. Think of it as “friendraising instead of fundraising” advises Cheris, who is now training for his 5th Team Challenge race. Foster as many new relationships as you can.

• If you see a company in the community paper that supported a cause, it is likely they may be interested in supporting another cause. Try reaching out.

• Instead of going after several corporate sponsors at once, make a list of ten companies then   look for a decision maker-either someone in community support or a regional marketing  whose job it is to support local charities. Contact them explaining why your cause is so important. They will be happy you reached out.