Fundraising Tips from an Experienced Shad!

When Benjamin Dunkley applied to Shad, he knew he would need some help to meet the cost of the program. He decided to reach out to members of his community for support through a fundraising campaign that included sharing information about himself and the Shad program, and how the experience would help him achieve his future goals.

Below he shares the details of his easy-to-follow fundraising strategy to help other students start their own amazing Shad journey!

Benjamin at Shad2023 at the University of British Columbia

Why did you want to attend Shad?

 Shad was an opportunity for me to meet other people like me. Coming from a small Northern Ontario community, it was hard to find people who were as interested in STEM as I was.  I hoped that attending Shad would allow me to forge connections with other youth who shared my interests and passions. Also, as someone who loves to travel, Shad provided me with the opportunity to spend my summer somewhere new and exciting – in my case, that was Vancouver, BC!

What was your plan for fundraising?

I decided to focus on gaining sponsorship from local corporations. My fundraising strategy consisted of writing one-page letters describing who I am, what I do, where I’m from, as well as what Shad is, and then sending these letters to various organisations. The letter gave specific details about my future goals, my accomplishments and work experience related to STEM, as well as my hobbies, interests, and sports. I also described the Shad program as well as I could and explained the cost of the program, including travel costs.

The potential sponsors I reached out to included mines (the biggest industry where I live), my city, my school and school board, service organisations like the Lions Club and Kin Club, my town’s historical society, my local science centre, and other community-focused organisations.

What are some of the challenges you encountered?

The biggest challenge that I encountered throughout the entire process was how many organisations chose not to support me or simply ignored my outreach. That is the nature of soliciting money, and it was to be expected, but it still proved frustrating at times. I would say that maybe one in five of the organisations that I contacted replied to my outreach, and even fewer offered to donate to me.  

Yet, despite the challenges of raising funds, I still received enough support to make a significant dent in the cost of my participation at Shad, which made the experience worth the effort.

What surprised you most about fundraising?

I was surprised how straightforward it was to receive monetary donations. I simply reached out to community organisations, and they agreed to write me a cheque. There was no extra process, no need for extra correspondence, at least in my case. Many people were willing to simply support my cause. I suppose it’s kind of cynical to suggest that I was surprised by the generosity of my community, but I really wasn’t expecting to get any sponsors at all. I was pleasantly surprised to see the support I had garnered from my community.

What fundraising advice would you give to future Shads?

I have a couple of big takeaways from my experience. The first: Ask everyone you can – you could be surprised by who might be willing to help you out. The more people you reach out to, the more who might respond. I initially though there were only a few organisations I could reach out to but soon realised that many community organisations jump at the chance to sponsor a local youth in a big endeavour, which really changed my mindset about seeking sponsorships.

My second piece of advice is this: be resilient. When asking for donations, you will be ignored, denied, and refused at times. That is all part of the process. But even if some people turn you down, there will be others who won’t. Make sure you play every card in your hand – everyone has unique attributes that might make someone want to support you, from who you are to where you live to where your parents work. There are so many connections you can make to organisations that might encourage them to sponsor you.