Occasionally people approach me to ask for help with what I call personal funding campaigns – raising money to cover their own medical bills, education costs, living expenses, etc. I think we’re going to see more of these as the cost of living crisis hits more people in the UK, and more people bump up against unexpected financial emergencies. I don’t think it says anything good about our society or our government that people need to meet these costs through crowdfunding, but unfortunately I always have to say I can’t help professionally. Here’s why.

A major difference between a personal funding campaign (let’s say, to cover medical bills) and an organisational funding campaign (let’s say, to start a new pop-up arts venue) is who’ll benefit if the campaign is successful. Funding someone’s medical bills means that individual will benefit enormously – and funding a new arts venue means lots of people will benefit (as visitors, performers, staff, etc). Neither of these are necessarily more important or valuable, but there’s a big difference in numbers.

When it comes to looking for backers, that makes a difference. A new arts venue will likely appeal to quite a lot of people (potential audiences, local businesses who’d benefit from having something like this nearby, performers who’d want to see a new venue, suppliers, event organisers, etc). But funding someone’s medical bills will usually only be a priority for the friends and family of the person affected. There are certainly some people who’ll donate to crowdfunders for strangers – often because of perhaps a shared community or heritage or similar experience – but you shouldn’t assume those people will necessarily find you.

If the donors for your personal funding campaign are mostly going to be your friends and family, there’s not much of value I can add to your work. Anything you say about your funding campaign will be better and more powerful if it clearly comes directly from you, rather than written by someone else. Ethically speaking, I really don’t want to take your money if I don’t think my help will make much difference to your campaign.

What’s more, I advise everyone I work with to be open and transparent about their budget. And if people are donating to help you out on a personal level, they – quite rightly – want to see their money go where it’s most needed, not on paying for a consultant.

There are certainly a few things you can bear in mind, though, if you need to raise money this way.

  • Make sure you’re using a zero-fee fundraising platform like Gofundme or Crowdfunder, so that you get to keep everything that’s donated.
  • Explain clearly what you need the money for, what impact it will have on you, and what your plan B is if you can’t raise the funds this way.
  • Keep sharing your link and reminding people what you’re doing and why – but try not to approach people on an individual basis for donations (certainly not more than once). It can leave people feeling uncomfortable and may not have the outcome you’re looking for.

Nobody approaches something like this lightly and it’s never the easy choice. If you’re planning a personal funding campaign, then the very very best of luck.