When we began our first adoption journey in 2015, we were walking in faith that along with our savings and careful budgeting, God would provide the funds to meet the financial expectations of the adoption. The month before our son was born, it was clear that our final payment would not happen without some intentional planning and execution on our end. While we struggled with asking others for financial help, in the end, our decision to host an adoption fundraiser was truly one of the best decisions we made in our adoption process, and we continue to look back on that evening with humility, joy, and gratitude.
While a fundraiser can take many forms, our prayer was that our event would be a relational opportunity for others to join our adoption journey and feel profoundly connected to us, our future child, and the adoption community. For this reason, we chose to host a meal event, along with a silent auction.
We began by securing a local community room that we could host our 100+ guests, open house style. Hosting our event in December, we had to get creative with our location, and found a great room in our city’s Historical Society building, which even boasted access to a small kitchen. Think outside the box when searching for a space: Can your church accommodate your event? What about Uncle Dale’s old barn or the beach pavilion? Is the city Art Center available for rent? Wherever you choose, be mindful of the location of your village. Try and place your event near much of your support system.
Can your church accommodate your event? What about Uncle Dale’s old barn or the beach pavilion? Is the city Art Center available for rent? Wherever you choose, be mindful of the location of your village.
I’m a little old-fashioned, so in addition to a Facebook event, I also sent out physical invitations to our wedding guest and Christmas card lists through Shutterfly. For older family members and friends, this is much more powerful than the convenience of social media, and it is especially sweet to have a physical memory of our wonderful night. Social media was also an easy way to rally excitement for our silent auction items, which we posted frequently for our guests to peruse before the event.
Social media was also an easy way to rally excitement for our silent auction items.
It’s no wonder that Jesus was often found teaching from a spot at the table or hosting parties for his disciples; when he wanted to explain something to them, he gave them a meal. We also wanted to give our village a meal; to show them our deep gratitude and love by filling their bellies and welcoming them into this holy journey of adoption. We began with planning what and how we would serve our dear friends and family. There are so many great food options for feeding large crowds, including spaghetti, burgers and hot dogs, soups and salad, pizza, and tacos. Hosting in the winter, we wanted something warm and cozy, so we chose chili and cornbread, which was also easy to “assign” to family and friends that wanted to contribute to the meal. It was extremely important to me that everyone got their fill – I’m a classic over-feeder – so in the end, we cooked 10 batches of chili ourselves, along with three other families contributing to the “pot.” Our ability to divide the work of cooking allowed us to have plenty of chili for “seconds” and “thirds” for our guests… and eat chili for the next three months. Cornbread muffins, chili toppings, and beverages accompanied the meal, paired, of course, with sweet little chalkboard labels.
We charged an entrance fee of $10 per person or $30 per family, with an additional giving area located inside the event space. We attempted to keep the expense right around the cost of dining out, as many of our friends have kids and larger families. Although it may be tempting to reduce your entrance fee (or skip it altogether) don’t forget that you are hosting a fundraiser. Your guests are aware of your intentions with their donations and will be more than happy to contribute.
There are so many great food options for feeding large crowds, including spaghetti, burgers and hot dogs, soups and salad, pizza, and tacos.
A large portion of the funds we raised were made through our silent auction, which ran simultaneously to the meal. Coordinating this aspect of the event easily required the most time and effort, but also yielded the best results. We began by drafting a request letter that we addressed to stores, restaurants, and shops in our community. This type of letter is often required for businesses to receive a charitable deduction for their donations.
Telling your story may be the way in which you meet your fundraising goal and make life-long friends in the process.
On an unfortunately rainy afternoon prior to the event, my mother-in-law and I traveled throughout our city hand-delivering our letters and talking about our adoption with store clerks, bartenders, and business owners. A face and a story are always more impactful than a piece of paper! It was such a blessing to connect with our community and talk about adoption with the men and women whom I had encountered many times before but had never known they shared a connection to the adoption community. Let me tell you, this was way out of this introvert’s comfort zone, but again, so worth the time and extra courage required. The adoption community is wide-reaching, and we are often quick to help others on the journey – telling your story may be the way in which you meet your fundraising goal and make life-long friends in the process.
Don’t hesitate to ask! The worst they can say is “no.”
In addition to local businesses, we tapped the resources and talents of our friends and family, who were quick to utilize their skills and connections. My cousin’s dear friend, who worked for the Minnesota Vikings, hooked us up with a Chad Greenway signed football; our friends that own their own construction company donated brand new tools; our season ticket rep for the Minnesota Twins secured us a Tony Oliva signed baseball bat; and the small groups at our church put together baskets for game nights, spa days, and holiday events. We overcame our fear of asking for help, which allowed dozens of individuals to contribute to our event and be part of our son’s story. Don’t hesitate to ask! The worst they can say is “no.”
Each donation was assessed on its monetary value, which became the “starting bid” on the silent auction card. We closed the auction fifteen minutes before the end of our event and announced the winners. We notified winners that were not present and delivered items throughout the next week.
Online Crowd Funding
For those whose villages are wide-reaching, crowd funding sites such as GoFundMe and YouCaring are a great way for people that love you to contribute to your adoption in a tangible way. We found that our crowd funding site was helpful to friends and family that were unable to attend our event or that appreciated the secure form of giving these sites provide. For our first adoption, we chose YouCaring to facilitate our giving site because of its fee-free platform. Since then, YouCaring and GoFundMe have combined to continue to provide fee-free fundraising for non-profits and private groups.
Other Important Details
Through the event, we assigned the operational tasks (collecting admittance, refilling the cornbread, emptying the garbage, heating chili) to our family and friends that offered to donate their time. This allowed us to greet our guests and mingle throughout the event. Much like a wedding, your guests are there to see you and hear any exciting updates you may have to share; they don’t want to feel as though they’re interrupting your work.
We asked all our guests to “sign in” when they arrived at the event, including recording their address and phone numbers. An old-fashioned “thank you” goes a long way in our digital society, so collecting their addresses was imperative to our follow-through. We sent hand-written cards to all our guests and any businesses or individuals that donated to our silent auction.
Our true delight came from reflecting on what an incredible village we had around us.
Sitting on the couch in our living room, comfy clothes promptly adorned, our bodies running solely on the adrenaline that four hours of prepping, decorating, and hosting provides, we sat and counted all the amazing gifts our family and friends had contributed to our son’s arrival. And recounted. And recounted. We just could not believe that by their attendance, silent auction purchases, and online gifts, our community had helped us hit what we considered an exceptionally lofty financial goal! Relief washed over us as we embraced, giggled, and our eyes welled with tears. We could barely get through our prayer without those pathetic cry-gasps and deep sniffles. God is good. While it was a great surprise and relief that we had exceeded our fundraising goal of $5,000, our true delight came from reflecting on what an incredible village we had around us. We had spent an evening surrounded by our most beloved friends, family, and even some strangers, who were eager to see us become parents. It was an incredible gift, one that we continue to reflect on with joy and humility at God’s kindness and faithfulness.