Last February, Aggies For Feminism decided that we were going to the National Young Feminist Leadership Conference – but living across the country in New Mexico made it kind of nerve wracking to think about! The thought of funding travel, lodging, and registration for eight different people was overwhelming – not to mention figuring out the logistics of traveling alone. But Theresa Illgen, our great leader at the time, was incredibly motivating when it came to fundraising, and she never questioned our ability to make it to the conference.
And then, we did.
The first thing Theresa did to start our fundraising process was lay out a budget for us to look over. She incorporated all the costs of the trip: food, lodging, airplane, and conference fees. We decided that if we were going on the trip, we would do whatever it took to get each person there – but that each person was therefore responsible for organizing at least one fundraiser. (We put on quite a few!) Some worked, and some were less than perfect.
One of the first fundraisers that we put on was the belly-dancing workshop, which was graciously facilitated at no cost by a fellow feminist and bonafide belly dancer in support of our cause. We charged $5 to get in and also encouraged more generous donations. Folks also hosted garage sales and yard sales, which I understood made a good amount of money. In addition to bake sales and burrito sales, our idea for a “Make Your Own Sandwich” table (think gender roles) was really successful and created thought on campus in addition to bringing in funds; to put it together we asked each member to contribute an ingredient like bologna or bread. The most successful fundraiser was a raffle to win $100 toward a tattoo, donated by a local shop in support of us young feminists. Young college kids love tattoos, so our $1 tickets sold easily. Throughout, we also wrote letters to our relatives asking them to send their favorite feminists (hint: us) to DC by donating toward our goal.
Looking back, I would say that our supportive community drove our success. Making connections and talking to your community is essential. I know that going into local businesses and talking about feminism sound like it could be pretty intense, especially if you’re from a community that might not be so open-minded and you get blank responses or the run-around. (I still can’t get used to it.) But don’t be discouraged! When you make it to the conference, you are surrounded by hundreds of people just like you! And in the meantime, you will also be surprised by the positive responses that you get from your community and how supportive they are of your work.
What I hope to improve upon this year in reaching our NYFLC goal is better promotion for the fundraising events that we put on. Sometimes the key to getting people to events is making personal connections and remaining authentic. Another improvement will be working with our student government to (hopefully) get 50% of the trip reimbursed; this requires writing up a bill and completing community service hours beforehand, which we are working on, and we also plan on reaching out to different academic departments to get more students interested in going on the trip and create a stronger support for the cause.
In the end, only one thing is certain as we start another year of fundraising: we are so excited to attend the 2014 NYFLC!