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How to Adopt a Child | Part 4: Adoption Fundraising Tips and Ideas

For most of us, funding is a primary concern for an international adoption. First, let’s get over some hangups, and then let’s get to work.

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Table of contents:

Introduction

Step 1: Domestic, Foster Care, or International

Step 2: Choose a Country to Adopt From

Step 3: Choose an Adoption Agency

Step 4: Adoption Fundraising Tips and Ideas

Step 5: A List of Adoption Grants

Appendix A: How and Why to Blog Your Adoption Process

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IT IS OKAY TO FUNDRAISE FOR YOUR ADOPTION

If you have reservations about fundraising for an adoption, allow me to squash them right now.

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If you don’t, jump down the page:

Adoption Fundraising Tips

3 Types of Adoption Fundraisers

Adoption Fundraiser Ideas

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I did too at first, and I totally understand: It feels like you are the one choosing to do this, so you should find a way to fund it without begging/harassing/drawing on/etc etc your family, friends, church community, etc. And you will find random blog posts and forum threads and social media memes from people who agree with that. They will say things like, “If you can’t afford to adopt, you shouldn’t adopt.”

They are wrong.

They’re wrong because most people can’t “afford” an international adoption. I know few people who have $40,000 that they just don’t know what to do with. If the wealthy were the only people who adopted, the orphan crisis would be even more tragic than it already is.

They’re wrong because they’re focused solely on their own comfort, regardless of what they say. They don’t want to help and they don’t want to feel guilty for not helping. The fact is, there are countless children all over the world who need nothing more than loving homes and families, and the people who are uncomfortable with our fundraisers don’t care. Not really.

Because if fundraisers is what it takes to put one orphan in a family, then fundraise your heart out. As a parent—in fact or in hope, depending on what your family currently looks like—you know you would do anything for your children. Anything except tiptoeing around someone else’s offense.

Your child is waiting for you. Fundraise unapologetically.

YOUR COMMUNITY WANTS TO BE PART OF YOUR ADOPTION STORY

I get it. It feels presumptuous to say, “We’re going on an adventure! Come with us!” But the people who don’t want to come, won’t. And the truth is, most people do.

Most people who know and love you are excited for you (or are at least oddly curious) and they want to help. Fundraisers can be a great way to not only raise money, but also bring people into your story, raise awareness about the orphan crisis, and build community (for you and everyone else).

And if you’re a person of faith, then you know that God calls us into community. He has a plan for the work he is going to do in other people through their obedient acts of giving, as well as what he’s doing in your family.

If we’re being honest, it’s pride (sometimes disguised as false humility) that keeps Christians from reaching out to their God-ordained communities for help when they need it. I’ll skip all the scripture about family, community, the body, etc., ’cause you know where they are and we’ve got funds to raise. *exists soapbox*

ADOPTION FUNDRAISING TIPS

Before we get into specific fundraisers let’s talk tips.

1. “INVITE,” DON’T “ASK”

This is a mindset, not just a copyediting trick. Understand that the funds are out there, and that God has a plan to get them to you. You are not begging people to help you, you are inviting them to go on an adventure with you.

Because when they give, they are. Jesus said that where a person’s treasure is, there his heart will be also. When they buy a t-shirt or a raffle ticket, they invest, whether they intend to or not. They will most likely become more interested in your progress, your story, your child, etc., even if they didn’t mean to and even if they don’t realize the connection.

2. MIX UP FUNDRAISER TYPES

(More on these three types below) My advice for mixing it up is generally an investment, exchange, event, exchange, investment, etc. Most people won’t just keep giving into a void, but people don’t want to just keep buying stuff either. Start with an investment fundraiser at the beginning, then find some sort of product for an “exchange,” then plan an event, then find another product, etc.

3. DO YOUR PART AND SHARE YOUR STORY

If you’re inviting people into your adventure, you have to let them into more than just the finance department. Share as much of your journey as you are willing to (or more) in whatever way you are comfortable. Some ideas:

  • Start a blog. When you get to grant applications in a few months, a lot of them will ask for this URL if you have one, so bonus. If you’ve never done this before, there are lots of platforms that will let you do it easily, and for free. I like WordPress. I help a friend who uses Wix and it’s pretty easy too.
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  • Set up a Facebook page. Go to where the people already are. Facebook pages are great options because people whom you might not want to actually connect with your personal account can still follow the journey, and because you can post updates and fundraisers without feeling like you’re spamming your network with your adoption journey.
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  • Start an email newsletter. If you’re not comfortable putting your family online for all to see, start an email list. You can do text emails from your normal email server, or set up a free account with a service like MailChimp that will let you very easily set up pretty emails with pictures, etc.
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  • Send a print newsletter. This is going to cost more, obviously, but if you’re just not a computer person, this is legit too. Collect mailing addresses at events, etc. This also gives you the opportunity to include a self-addressed, stamped envelope for donations.

Set up a cadence and don’t get lazy. Weekly emails or blog posts and monthly print newsletters are pretty standard. Consider it part of your adoption process. The more you let people in, they more they will want to be in.

4. BE AWARE OF THE SEASON

Pay attention to the season you and your community are in so you can avoid conflicts and so you can develop meaningful fundraisers.

People don’t have time for events, for example, in December, but they will buy a cute/meaningful Christmas ornament. Kick off summer with a new t-shirt, celebrate traditional holidays from the country you are adopting from, provide jewelry in time for Valentine’s Day, time a travel-related fundraiser for when you get travel approval, etc.

5. ALWAYS USE FUNDRAISERS TO TELL YOUR STORY

Fundraisers that tie into and tell your story make an emotional connect and draw people in. Always tie the fundraiser to the story: choose meaningful numbers, celebrate traditional holidays from your child’s country, choose movies that highlight adoption or your child’s country of origin, etc.

6. KEEP TRACK

This is hard when things get crazy, but do your best. I was good at this at first, and then it seemed less important so I slacked off, and then later I wished I hadn’t. There’s a “Donations” tab on the Adoption Resources spreadsheet to help you keep track. (Reminder: You’ll need to make your own copy of the spreadsheet to edit it.)

3 TYPES OF ADOPTION FUNDRAISERS

There are essentially three “types” of fundraisers: investments, exchanges, and events.

INVESTMENT FUNDRAISERS

Investment fundraisers are the ones where you just ask. You set a goal and you ask. These are easier at the beginning of your adoption journey than at the end, because partners don’t get anything tangible in return for their investment.

Some tips:

  • Choose numbers with meaning. Always tell a story. We asked for 30 people to give $30 for National Adoption Awareness Month. You could ask for $30 donations on your 30th birthday, or $15 on your 15th anniversary, or $84 for the 84 pieces of paper you just submitted for your dossier (example number, actually count the pages, it will mean more), etc.
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  • Do this first. People get excited when you announce that you’re adopting. It’s a huge step. You will get offers for help. Harness that excitement. We found that this type of fundraiser was much harder to share after a year of fundraising.
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  • Share progress (often). Simple text updates on your Facebook page, etc., are good. Graphics are better. Canva is a great (free) platform that even a noob can use easily. Create a simple “thermometer” can you can raise the red bar on. For a birthday campaign, we used a graphic that included 50 unlit birthday candles; every week I “lit” one candle (I deleted the small white box I had used to hide the flame in the image) for a certain amount and posted the update.

EXCHANGE FUNDRAISERS

Exchanges are the fundraisers where you basically, “sell” stuff. Your community gives financially and they get something—a t-shirt, a Christmas ornament, a clean car—in return. These don’t raise quite as much, of course, because there’s some cost involved, but there are lots of options here.

Tips:

  • Plan ahead and schedule these well. Announce what’s coming next a week or two ahead of time.
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  • Set a limit. If it’s something you’re making yourself, decide ahead of time how many you are going to make and make it clear. Decide how many you think you could actually “sell,” and then shave about 25% off that number. You don’t want leftovers and you want to create a sense of scarcity. (This will help you too. If something goes really well you do not want to be working on back-orders for weeks.) If it’s a third-party, there will usually be a time limit, but if not, set one: available this month only, etc.
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  • “Charge” too much. You’re not starting a business, you’re raising funds, and people get that. If it’s something you’re making yourself, consider how much it might actually sell for in a store, and then double or triple it. If it’s a third-party product prices may already be set, but if not, pad the tag a bit.
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  • Offer them as “thank you gifts.” This helps you remember that you’re inviting, not asking. And if you’re a stickler for tax laws, it keeps you in the clear. All of our handmade exchange items were, “thank you gifts for [MONTH] donations of $X or more.” Now you’re not actually selling anything, just giving gifts to supporters and partners.

EVENT FUNDRAISERS

Events are … events. These are sometimes a gamble because it’s hard to know how many people will actually attend. They’re also a much bigger effort to organize and pull off. You can do it with minimal financial investment, but it will take time and energy.

  • Plan well in advance. Leave yourself a couple of months to promote this ahead of time. Depending on the event you’ll need time to collect raffle donations, sell tickets, etc., but also to built some excitement through your blog or newsletters, etc.
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  • Deliver. You want to provide a good experience with every fundraiser, of course, but events even more. You are now inviting people to share their finances and their time (which is, arguably, more valuable), so make sure its worth it. This doesn’t mean spending lots of money (because, counter-productive), but be thoughtful and thorough and provide a fun, unique experience.

ADOPTION FUNDRAISER IDEAS

This list is going to grow forever. Bookmark the page and come back when you need some fresh inspiration.

1. NATIONAL ADOPTION AWARENESS MONTH INVESTMENT FUNDRAISER

We started our adoption journey in the fall and November—National Adoption Awareness Month—was quickly upon us. I published blog posts and designed simple social media posts announcing a campaign. We asked if people could give $1/day for National Adoption Awareness month, and said we hoped to find 30 people who could give $30.

2. SELL CHRISTMAS ORNAMENTS IN DECEMBER

You don’t have to be super artistic to pull this off (*raises hand*). This was our Christmas ornament and people loved them:

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panda ornaments

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Those are white, glass ornaments (because plastic just felt too cheap to me) and a black paint pen. High art? Nay. Amazing craftsmanship? Nope. Awkwardly cute? Yes. Very closely tied into our story? You betcha. I had one order from an old highschool friend halfway across the country who paid double the price I was asking so I could package it delicately.

3. HOST A MOVIE NIGHT

These are fun events that require next to no financial investment. We adopted from China, so we did three movie nights and watched the Kung Fu Panda trilogy with our community.

(Prior to which I never actually realized how much those movies deal with adoption issues! Po has to deal with discovering his identity, he meets his biological family, his adopted father deals with the return of his biological father. I never thought anyone would cry at Kung Fu Panda, but I did. I do.)

  • Ask your church to host. Most churches have big teevees or projectors that are great for movie nights. It’s also a good/easy way for the church to be “officially” involved.
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  • Provide popcorn and ethnic candy. We popped a lot of popcorn (cheap) and got a couple bags of hard Chinese candy (also cheap) for some extra fun. The church provided water and coffee.
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  • Do an outdoor movie in the yard. We did this for our second night. We have a projector but you can get one for fairly cheap these days, or borrow one. A screen is as easy as tacking a white sheet to the side of the garage, etc. Throw some blankets in the yard, set out some chairs (and invite people to bring their own if they want), provide bug spray, make a special point to invite your neighbors (even if they don’t come, they’ll be less likely to be upset about any noise/disruption after dark).

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Popcorn with chopsticks and Chinese candy, and two raffle prizes from our first movie night.

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4. ADD A RAFFLE TO EVERY EVENT

These are easy, cost very little, and every time we did it they raised more than I thought. They’re also great for your community, because raffle tickets are a low investment, so everyone can participate.

  • Ask local small businesses to sponsor a basket. I provided options: They could provide the entire basket, or they could “sponsor” a basket for $30. I used that $30 to buy stuff and put together a basket with their name on it and they were welcome to include whatever product or branded swag they wanted. Most gave me some product or swag and the $30 to fill it up. Make sure to thank and promote the businesses on event pages, etc.
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    I got baskets for cheap at GoodWill, and filled them in with good stuff from GoodWill and our local dollar/discount stores. I never went over $30 and frequently did it for less. You can get those big, clear plastic bag/wrappers at dollar or craft stores.
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  • Theme the baskets. Make it make sense. A friend who does hand-lettered signs donated a Christmas sign with a quote from Elf, so I put together a basket of “candy, candy canes, candy corn, and syrup” (and, I think, some hot chocolate). Our insurance agent donated some Farmers swag and I used the rest of her investment to get a toy car, a toy house, etc. to fill up the basket. A missions organization donated some of their merch, so I spent their sponsorship on small globe and some good coffee to go with the mug. You get it.
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  • Sell tickets online. We did one big event and put together a big raffle prize that friends from all over the country wanted in on. I shared our PayPal.me page and my Venmo account and turned on notifications on my phone for the night. People sent digital donations and I wrote their names on raffle tickets for them. (We also mentioned ahead of time they would need to pay for shipping if they weren’t close enough for us to arrange a pickup/delivery.)

5. CELEBRATE [YOUR ADOPTION COUNTRY HERE] HOLIDAYS

These are awesome because they also let you share your child’s culture with your community. Google “[country] holidays” and you’ll get lots of lists. There is no shortage of websites that will tell you both traditional and modern ways to celebrate. Host a party. Invite your community.

Make it a fundraiser by leaving a donation jar by the food, raffling some prizes, or “selling” something they “need” for the festivities: paper lanterns, masks, noise makers, etc.

You can also get creative with ways to give. A Chinese New Year tradition, for example, is giving money in red envelopes, so get a pile of them off Amazon and let people know that there’s no “fee,” but there will be red envelopes available at your Lunar New Year party, etc.

6. MudLOVE

You need to apply for a MudLOVE fundraiser, because they get more requests than they can facilitate, but DO IT. This was one of our BEST fundraisers.

MudLOVE works with you to set up a campaign page on their site. You provide text for a mug and a wristband, and then choose from a small selection of mug designs. They stuff is awesome, the prices are good, and the percentage that comes back to you is the most generous of any other third-party fundraiser I found. We raised over $1000 in three weeks with MudLOVE.

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Tip: As you are thinking about mugs/wristbands, tell your story, but tell it in a way that makes sense for someone in your community to own in a month, six months, and years later. They’re going to have those mugs in their homes for years so design a mug that tells your story, but that will also make sense for them.

More coming soon!