I have the distinct pleasure, privilege, and truly humbling responsibility of serving as Chair for the 2013 Retreat for LGBTQ Muslims and their Partners resource mobilization efforts. This is the third consecutive year the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity (MASGD*) organizes the Retreat, which takes place at the end of May.
The Retreat is a uniquely diverse, radically welcoming and inclusive, safe and affirming place for LGBTQ Muslims and their Partners (not all of whom are Muslim). It is a rare place we can gather and be our whole selves, re/connect with the Divine and our faith traditions, and build community. For most, it is a time of meaningful reflection and necessary healing. It is also a remarkable moment of joy, seeing old friends, and making new ones.
Our fundraising helps us offer 15 scholarships to attendees who could not otherwise attend, and to offset operating expenses. We are at about 2/3 of our $6,500 goal, having raised a little over $4,500 so far.
I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has given, and those who have asked others to help. We would not be where we are without every single one of you. Beyond material and financial support, it has been enormously heartening to receive the moral support that each gift communicates.On the behalf of the Retreat Planning Committee, Scholarship Recipients, Retreat Attendees and, of course, myself, I thank you.
We are not done, however. In this final month before the Retreat, we must close the gap to our goal amount.
Can you help?
In this time of widespread Islamophobia, Muslims need community and support. Some LGBTQ Muslims may not feel safe or be accepted as they are within their home and faith communities. This is an especially difficult time for all of us, and the Retreat is a unique setting fostering healing, spiritual renewal, and connecting people to a loving community. With your assistance, we can help people in need find this safe community embrace.
Can you give $15, $25, $50, or another amount both meaningful and possible for you, today?
If you can't give, can you "get"? Meaning, do you know folks you could ask to donate? $5, $15, $25? Every amount helps! If you ask 5 people for $5 and get that, it's $25 raised! If you ask 10 people for $10 and get that, it's $100!
It can be uncomfortable to ask for money, but I hope you will find courage in this project's worthiness. Like me, you may find motivation in a shared commitment to facilitating access for folks who otherwise could not attend.
If you are willing to join me on the adventure of fundraising for the Retreat (or if you are interested in fundraising in general), I offer the following tips. I hope you will find them useful:
Tip #1: Set A Personal Goal.
This can be pie-in-the-sky, if you like a challenge, or it can be a realistic goal adding up what you think everyone you plan to ask can give (see Tip #2). Some people suggest Tip #2 comes first. I find that setting a goal and writing it down sets the intention out into the Universe and can be a personal motivator. After I've set my goal, I can make my list as long or as short as it needs to be to reach my goal. As with all activity, making a plan gives me a better chance of realizing my goals.
Tip #2: Map Out Who You Know & Set Individual Asks
Make a list of who you know. Estimate what you think they might be able to give or what you think is reasonable to ask of them. Make a game of it! I took this as an opportunity to draw and get my creative juices flowing. I had fun, drawing simple shapes:
You can use my examples, or draw whatever shapes you want, or simply make a list (and you don't need to stop at 5!). I never got around to designing:
- A computer tower: write names & amount on wires hooked up to it
- A book shelf full of books: write names & amounts on the spines
- A subway map: write names & amounts on the train lines
Tip #3:Make Your Ask In Person Or By Phone.
Personal requests usually work best, followed by emails, posting on FB, etc. One suggestion: practice asking with a friend. I'll role play the asks with you if you want! It's OK to follow up, people are busy. I know I appreciate follow up.
Tip #4: Ask For A Specific Amount.
I've heard people give both sides of this, to ask a general, "Give what you can," or a pitch that is more specific, "Can you give $20?" Normally, you ask for one amount, not a range (like I have above). But I'm bending the rules. You can too! (These are suggestions.)
Tip #5: Every Gift Matters.
Some people feel if they can't give a certain amount, it is not worth giving at all. I've solicited and seen gifts of all amounts (our smallest gift was $1 and our largest was $500); they all add up. I've suggested to folks who feel challenged that if they can save a quarter a week for four weeks, that $1 will help. And if they have 10 friends who can do the same, that is $11 they could mobilize. Every bit helps. Plus, it's very important to us to have broad participation and support. With this in mind, don't forget to ask if your prospective donor has a matching gift program at their job.
Tip #6: Always Mention Donations Are Tax-Deductible.
The Retreat's fiscal sponsor, Muslims for Progressive Values, is recognized by the IRS as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, so gifts are tax-deductible to donors to the fullest extent allowed by law. If your prospective donor is Muslim, they may care to know that gifts to MPV are zakat-eligible (zakat means "charitable giving," and is one of the basic tenets of Islam).
Tip #7: Get Creative!
If you don't feel comfortable asking for money out of the blue, maybe you have a birthday coming up and can ask people to make a donation in lieu of a gift. Or you can host a potluck with friends and have a suggested donation jar. Or ask an artist friend to donate artwork for which you can have a silent auction. Or if you are a poet, offer to craft a personally commissioned poem for a specific donation level. Maybe donate your Starbucks money for four Fridays in a row. Be creative! Have fun and make a game of it!
Tip #8: "No" Is An Acceptable Answer.
It can be hard to say no, almost as hard as it is to ask for donations. Have some compassion! Say thank you regardless of whether your pitch succeeds in generating a donation. A person's refusal is not personal, it reflects their capacity to provide financial support at that moment or their giving priorities (which are not about you). You brought the project to their attention, which is great, and have offered an opportunity to be an Ally. You connected intimately by virtue of doing something difficult (asking for money). Maybe they can't give now but will next year. It's all good (mashallah!). :)
Tip #9: Be Gracious.
Always thank people, whether they are able to give or not. They have given you their time in listening to you (as you have given me your time in reading this—so thank you!).
Tip #10: Stay Positive.
All will be well (inshallah). A month ago some of us on the Planning Committee were unsure we'd have the $4,500 in hand as we do today. With positive thinking and faith, followed up by honesty, willingness, courage and action, we are here and we will proceed. We can do it, together!
Tip 11: Share, Share, Share.
Those of you on Facebook & Twitter who are comfortable doing it, can RT my asks or modify them or create your own. Let's amplify the call for donations and keep at it. Persistence pays off as folks mean to give and then forget. Also, you never know who will be interested in the project unless you talk about it with them.
Tip 12: Don't Give Up.
Fundraising, or resource mobilization, can be daunting and disheartening. Reach out for support. Vent with your friends and teammates. Pray or meditate if this is your tradition. Then get back to it. You are not alone, and you don't need to do this alone.
Thanks for reading this. I hope you found it helpful!
Love, Light, & Peace,
*Here's a short video announcement about MASGD, with the mission statement shared at minute 5:35 (MASGD is pronounced masjid, like the Arabic for mosque).
PS If you want to donate by check or money order, make it out to "Muslims for Progressive Values" with, "LGBTQ Muslim Retreat" in the notes field. Or, make an online donation, if you prefer. Checks should be sent to:
LGBTQ Muslim Retreat
PO Box 1562
Easthampton MA 01027-1562
To help us track check/money order donations, we ask donors to fill out this downloadable form.