Funds for Freedom

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1. Make local membership dues a fundamental part of your fundraising plan.

2. Give a membership gift (usually called a benefit, and usually your newsletter) to thank members and keep them connected.

3. Seek annual membership renewals for easy, reliable, long-term income.

4. Consider charging a fee for services you provide to your community.

5. For no-frills moneymaking, consider volunteer service options.

Group Dues and Membership


Membership dues should be a basic part of your fundraising plan. They are an easy, dependable source of income from your constituents--the people who most want you to keep doing what you do.

Youíll hear many arguments against group dues: "Volunteers give time, they shouldnít be asked for money." "Our members already give to AIUSA. We shouldnít ask twice." "Those who canít pay will feel left out" Time, however, is not money. Group members know you need both to do your work. Churches ask for donations 52 times a year; thatís why so many stay afloat.

As for leaving people out, you can design a system that wonít offend any volunteers. Groups can offer a limited-income membership or "sweat equity," a waiver of cash dues for members who come to a certain number of meetings or take on specified jobs (i.e., Case Coordinator).

You play a role in your school, town, county, or neighborhood which no one else fulfills. Many people who appreciate your work cannot attend meetings; dues give them a chance to invest in the group.

If you collect $1 5 dues from 10 people who donít usually attend meetings and five who do. youíve got $225 before you even start to consider time-consuming special events. Mike McCloud of Bainbridge Island, Washington, reports: "For my Al group an appeal for donations at a meeting and to our mailing list is usually good for $150 a crack." Group 79 in Weston, Conn., raises most of their annual budget through dues.

If your group absolutely rejects the idea of dues, offer them opportunities to donate for specific projects: "Mariaís taking contributions toward her trip to the Regional Conference." "We can pull off the benefit if someone will donate $50 for the ad." "If you want to contribute so we can fulfill our pledge to AIUSA, now is the time."



The principles in Part II, Direct Requests, serve as basic guidelines for a membership drive. Analyze your prospective membership and ask, using the basic techniques for direct requests.

1. Invite people to join at each meeting and event. Wherever you display Amnesty materials, make a membership coupon available. Put one in your newsletter.

2. For a focused approach to recruitment, see the New Mexico project outlined later in this section; itís been a big success.

3. Divide up the list of contacts from your brainstorming session and ask each group member to locate three new members (or five, or one--whatever the group decides).

4. If you have a newsletter, start with a reminder: "Please renew your membership before Thanksgiving, to receive our special Human Rights Day newsletter."

4. Arrange a one-night phone bank at a local office. Call members to thank them for past support, tell them what youíve accomplished recently, and ask for a pledge. Promptly send thank-you notes and response cards (with return-addressed envelope) for pledge checks. Throw a Phone Bank party for core volunteers.

5. If you canít manage #4, divide your membership list among core volunteers and ask them to make the calls.

6. Send a letter describing your recent work and asking members to renew.

WARNING: this may seem easier than phone calls but the response rate will be much lower. Plus, phone calls are free if most members are local, while letters cost 29 cents plus stationery, envelopes, and printing. Itís usually better to call.

Members provide steady income. Keep a careful record of gifts so you can ask again. For most groups, one annual membership drive is sufficient to contact all the people who donated over the past year. Autumn is traditionally the best time for such a drive, but consider your own constituents: when are they likely to give?



You may want to offer members a concrete benefit as a thank-you. If you have a newsletter, this is a great benefit that keeps members informed of your work. Itís also a good forum for further requests. Each issue should include a coupon for gift memberships or donations.

If you currently give away your newsletter, take another look: could you introduce a "new, improved" newsletter as part of a membership drive? A good newsletter is a service. It offers unique information.

You can lower newsletter costs by applying for a bulk mail permit; if you have non-profit status under AIUSAís umbrella, you can get a non-profit permit, which is even cheaper. Also, the postal service will convert your address list to "Zip +4" format, free of charge, if you put your mailing list in the proper database format on a diskette. If all addresses are converted, you get a lower rate. Contact your U.S. Postal Service Business Center for details; a bulk mail guide is also available from the New York office.

If your group doesnít have a newsletter, you might consider starting one. You can also offer something else, such as:

· bumper stickers

· Amnesty buttons

· packages of notecards

· member packets (a letter-writing guide, Amnesty brochures, bumper sticker, publications guide)

· T-shirts

· SA V subscriptions (pass on subscription amount to Al USA)

· AIUSA memberships (ditto)

· copies of AIUSA annual report

Groups can also use premiums: incentives to join before a certain date. The group in Bethel, Ohio, used a very imaginative premium: members got a "Freedom Ride" on a local riverboat, including dinner and conversation with two former prisoners of conscience during the trip. Overhead costs were high (almost $1000) but the membership drive netted $700.

Some sample membership packages:

PACKAGE 1 [local group]

"For a $20 donation, members receive our newsletter. Special donors ($50 or more) receive a T-shirt. Special donors joining before May 1 become national members (the group sends $25 to AIUSA)."

PACKAGE 2 [campusl "Membership is $5 for students, $10 for teachers, and includes an Al button. Weíre holding a special raffle just for members who join before September 30--one of those members will win dinner for two at [local restaurant donating dinneri."

Offering national memberships as a benefit and sending on $25 (or $15 for students) is especially helpful to AIUSA, which will count this toward your pledge.

Again, the fact that a few members of your group cannot pay dues should not lead you to argue that "all of us are poor" or "no one should have to pay." Those who care about your group should contribute to its health however they can. Most can afford the equivalent of one dinner at a restaurant, one round of golf, or one compact disc (make the most appropriate comparison for your group).

Services Offered by Your Group


Look at your Group Inventory and consider services you offer or could offer. Here are some possibilities to stimulate your thinking cells.

LETTER-WRITING TABLES. Yes, you offer your community the opportunity to write letters and save lives. Your service, their privilege I At one public event, an Amnesty volunteer told visitors, "Right here, for one dollar, you can write a letter and help save a lifel" The response was very positive.

Christine Holub of Group 471, north of San Diego, California, reports that they cover the cost of tabling by asking for 50-cent donations. She says, "We have been able to collect quite a few individual letters for our prisoner by doing this, at no cost."

Some groups have found shopping malls are effective places to set up a table and ask for donations. (TIP: If you put out a donation jar, make sure itís large, made of see-through plastic or glass, and "seed" it at first with a dollar bill and some change.)

Tower Records permits Al groups to set up tables in their stores (incredible crowds on busy pre-holiday Saturdays). You canít sell anything, but the local store might allow you to take donations.

AMNESTY-O-MATIC. Another way to make money from letters: construct an Amnesty-O-Matic, pioneered by the group at University of California School of Law, Davis. This is a quick, one-stop box containing copies of a current Urgent Action, Amnesty brochures, paper, and envelopes; there are slots on the side for 50 cents and the finished letter. These are particularly effective on campuses. Students and faculty can drop by to write letters at the most convenient time.

HUMAN RIGHTS LIBRARY. Does someone in your group own a growing collection of Amnesty reports and human rights books? You can start a Human Rights Library as the benefit you promote in a membership drive. (For students, the library would be a special resource for term paper research). Or, charge $5 for a library pass.

SPEAKERSí BUREAU. Are group members willing to research and speak on Amnesty-related topics? Start a Speakersí Bureau and ask a fee ($50 or more) for presentations to local civic clubs, classrooms, or other forums. This is a great excuse to read that book about Africa, or find those statistics about rape, that youíve meant to do all year. Make money and increase your expertise I

COMMUNITY WORKSHOP. Experienced members could hold a workshop to teach an Amnesty-related skill:

· Gaining Access to Public Officials

· Effective Public Speaking

· Bringing Human Rights to the Classroom

· Successful Fundraising

Market your seminar to members of other non-profit groups, teachers, or another specific audience and charge a modest fee (check the going rates in your area and undersell them).

VIDEO LIBRARY OR SPEAKER. Does someone in your group keep a video collection, with films like The Killing Fields and Closet/and? You can offer to show educational movies with a 15-minute introduction and a question-and-answer session at the end. (Ask for a "suggested donation" for your services and expertise, rather than charging a fee. Charging a fee to show a rented movie is illegal.)

LECTURE SERIES. Panel discussions and visiting speakers are services many groups offer their communities. You can ask for an admission fee, but this may reduce attendance unless the speaker is Bishop Tutu. Some groups have run successful fundraising lecture series by choosing the subject carefully and devoting many hours to good publicity.

Unless the situation is formal, with an honorarium, you can always pass the hat and ask for donations to cover speakersí costs. These should be kept to a minimum (for example, itís fine to ask visitors to stay in a private home rather than a hotel).

NOTE: Many former victims of human rights abuses show tremendous commitment to Al, taking time off from work and family to tell their difficult stories over and over. AIUSA now requires groups to pay honoraria to former POCs. Ask your AC or regional staff rather than contacting a former POC directly.

The reason a lecture is often a poor fundraiser is that the event speaks to your groupís needs, not necessarily the publicís. A Speakerís Bureau takes your work to different forums. Civic groups and churches desperately seek speakers for their own meetings. Afterwards, they are too tired to go to your meetings. Go figurel

Donít automatically look for a speaker. Ask yourselves why you want the speaker. If there are important reasons (visibility, inspiration) you can do it and still pass the hat and/or mention your membership program. Or plan a fundraising event to coincide with the speakerís visit (see Part V, Special Events).

"STUDENTS FOR STUDENTS. Group 122 in Santa Fe launched an all-out effort to bring Amnestyís message to local schools, grades 1 to 12. They wrote grant proposals and asked local businesses to underwrite; they gained the support of many parents who became interested in Amnesty through their children.

The group followed a six-step process:

1. They put together two sets of materials for teachers in grades 1-4 and 5-12. These included newsletters and lesson plans from the Human Rights Educators Network, letter-writing info, brochures about Al, and for older students, information on starting a student group.

2. They called the Superintendent of public schools and the heads of private and parochial schools, asking for permission to launch the program. Where necessary, they made presentations to school Boards.

3. They presented the program to teachers at start-of-the-school-year staff meetings and asked interested teachers to sign up.

4. Individual members of the group "adopted" schools and teachers, calling them to check on their progress. In some cases they visited classrooms for a letter-writing demonstration and promoted the program by speaking at school assemblies.

5. They publicized the program. In the first year. they held a presentation at a downtown hotel (donated space) in which eight children, grades 1-8, read from their letters on behalf of disappeared children. The group sent press releases to local newspapers and advertised the program at all their events. The result was "a fat handful" of press clips (including an editorial praising the program) to show to potential donors and schools who are considering the program.

6. They sent thank-yous to everyone who participated or helped in any way, building goodwill to help the program grow.

Lee Purcell, who initiated this project, reports that Group 122 has grown from three members (in February, 1991) to 20 active members, 10 members for special events, 15 more who pay dues, 10 major donors ($100/$300 per year), and five business donorsl In the first year, eight teachers and 170 students participated; the second year grew to 200 teachers in 23 schools. Itís still growing and "funds are rolling in." For more details see the April 1992 Monthly Mailing or send a self-addressed stamped envelope to Lee, 324 McKenzie Street, Santa Fe, NM 87501.




You can market group labor without an Al tie-in. Be sure to weigh the time involved: will the group feel they are exhausting themselves on a project with no human rights component? Is it worth it, as a onetime capital-raising venture? Can you add a human rights component? If you plan a carwash, for example, you could set up a human rights info table and ask drivers to sign petitions while you wash their cars. You could also give each customer a free Al bumper sticker and offer to install it immediately. More ideas:

BALLPARK CONCESSIONS. Group 206 in Minneapolis has raised money by working concessions at the Metrodome (home of the Twins and Vikings). About 1 2 group members worked behind the counter "selling hot dogs, pop and beer to die-hard Twins fans." Some minor league stadiums have similar deals; sports facilities seem desperate for service crews.

According to Jeff Scharlau, Group 206 brought in $200 to $400 for each nightís work. Jeffís suggestions for other groups:

If the stadium offers a percentage cut, pick dates early and ask a fan which visiting teams will draw the biggest crowds. Send several people to the training session so there will be more than one authorized cash manager. Also, enlist friends and supporters. This will give you maximum versatility for staffing a series of games. Get ready to be a "sweaty, stinky, avowed vegetarian" by the end of the nightl

BIKE RACE VOLUNTEERS. Group 223 in Mansfield, Ohio, provides workers to keep pedestrians off the road during an annual bike race. They get acknowledgement and publicity, plus part of the proceeds--usually over $300 for three hours of work.

AMUSEMENT PARKS. Theme parks rely on summer workers and suffer drastic staff shortages on spring and fall weekends. Some pay excellent rates to non-profit teams who work for one day; each parkís program is different, so call to inquire.

ODD JOBS ON CAMPUS. The University of Virginia group made $200 by helping campus staff conduct a building census (counting traffic flow). Many campuses offer odd jobs to student organizations--from cleaning up after concerts to punching tickets at sports events.

COMMUNITY WORKSHOPS. Is one of your members an expert golfer? Can someone quilt? Repair transmissions? Talk about the history of blues music? There may be a local market for a class. Assess potential interest, ask around, and see if itís worth a try. (If you teach waterskiing, check out the insurance situation I)

EXCURSIONS. A group member may own a boat and know where and how to go whale watching; or may be willing to lead a wildflower walk, camping trip, or fly-fishing expedition to the areaís best trout stream. Relaxing fun-raisers!

GROCERY COUPONS. Some groceries offer coupon-based fundraising aid for local charities. One Al group purchased tickets worth $5000 of groceries, at a cost to them of $4000. They resold the tickets door-to-door and to friends and colleagues for $1000 profit. (This requires a big investment upfront--collecting purchase pledges in advance might be a good idea.)


Here are some services your group might offer; Al groups have used many of these ideas. Be sure to check out the basic principles of merchandising, Section IV. Start small, and find a marketing consultant before you launch anything big.

· Childcare

· Car washes

· Singing telegrams

· Shopping/running errands

· Tutoring

· Yardwork

· Pool cleaning

· End-of-the-year cleanup of classrooms, bookshelves, labs, etc. (for teachers)

· Moonlight serenades

· Painting

· Haircuts (if you know howl)

· Makeovers (ditto)

· Painting

· Playing music for a reception or party

· Curbside house numbering

· Housecleaning

· Window-washing

· Recycling pickup (if your community does not have curbside pickup; in some areas you can sell the cans and bottles for further profit)

· Cooking meals

And finally, you could follow the example of two Texas women who ran an "Old Goat Removal Service." As part of a massive drive to save a local hospital, the ladies took their goat into local businesses and charged a $5 fee to take him away.

BOTTLE RETURNS. If your state has a bottle bill, Tom Gill of California suggests asking neighbors to set aside returnable bottles. Going house to house, a small group made $200 this way.

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