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How to Raise Funds on Obscure Holidays and Awareness Days

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July is National Wheelchair Beautification Month here in the USA.  It’s also Cord Blood Awareness Month.

I’m not telling you this in order to mock these awareness holidays. There are no doubt quality nonprofit organizations that use these days to raise funds and/or awareness for their issues. More power to ’em!

But if they try to use those awareness months (or weeks or days) as reasons for donors to give, they will almost surely fail.

The fact that it’s one of those made-up “holidays” is rarely a reason people give.

In fact, if you’re saying, “Give to help fight leprosy because this is World Leprosy Awareness Day” — you have a non-starter on your hands.

World Leprosy Awareness Day carries no emotional weight for nearly everyone. (I personally know a small number of people who are, in fact, very moved by World Leprosy Awareness Day — but trust me, they aren’t typical donors!)

Fundraising based on holidays is among the strongest fundraising on most of our calendars.  The reason it’s powerful is that certain holidays have deep emotional meaning for many people.  Obscure awareness holidays don’t have that. They are just days for most people — no memories, no traditions, no connection to the heart.

In fact, most “real” holidays have little to no emotional impact that might push donors toward giving. Even widely observed ones like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Even, amazingly, Flag Day has only shallow emotional content for most donors!

That’s why these are not strong fundraising propositions:

  • “World Hunger Day is coming up, so you should give to fight hunger.”
  • “Honor your Dad by making a special gift on Father’s Day.”
  • “Stand with other patriotic Americans by giving on Flag Day.”

These things are not harmful to fundraising.  They just aren’t sufficient to move very many donors. If you do everything else right, these holiday statements won’t hurt.

The holidays that promote people to give are those that have deep emotional associations.  In the US, that’s two — maybe three:

  • Thanksgiving.
  • Christmas.
  • Easter (for some Christians).

There are other holidays that have resonance for specific groups. For people connected to the US Marines, the Marine Corps Birthday (November 10) is a huge deal, dripping with emotional resonance. If your donors are Marines, you can raise a lot of money connected to that holiday.

There are others like that.

But if a holiday or awareness day is itself a reason for people to give … be ready for failure.

Fundraising is about connecting with people by the heart and giving them a way to take meaningful action. You can do that any day of the year.

Please share your experience raising funds on little-known holidays by leaving your reply below. We’d love to learn from your experience.

Want to learn more secrets for connecting with donors? Join The Fundraisingology Lab and get access to all of our courses.


  • Jeff Brooks

    Jeff Brooks is a Fundraisingologist at Moceanic. He has more than 30 years of experience in fundraising, and has worked as a writer and creative director on behalf of top nonprofits around the world, including CARE, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Feeding America, and many others.

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