I’d been volunteering for Homes First for a few months. They provide safe affordable housing for the homeless in Toronto.  I’d joined a committee and helped out when and where I could.  Then Marie (the ED) told me about a new event concept they were launching called Homes For Dinner. She said it was a “celebration of home in support of those who don’t have one”. I’ve loved hosting dinner parties and having people over all my life and I have a lot of great memories from around our dining table. It really hit home thinking about all the people in our city who don’t have that experience. So I went to the Homes For Dinner website and they had pictures of people who signed up to host a dinner party and fundraise for the organization. Food, friends and raising money for something so important? It was perfect!

 

I clicked the button to start my own campaign. Setting it up was actually pretty easy; I could register by just connecting my Facebook account. My page already had Homes For Dinner colors, logo, and a banner picture. I just had to add my name, picture, and fundraising goal. The default goal was $1,000. It seemed like a lot, but I started thinking about how much I spend on a dinner out with wine and tax and tip, “Maybe my friends really could help me reach $1,000.” I went for it. In just a couple of minutes, I had my own fundraising page.

The next day I got an email from Homes First. They were writing to give me some tips and help me get started. They thanked me for making my page and gave me some first steps.

Homes First had filled in some information on the fundraising page, but the email said it would really help if I told my own story on my page. I added a couple of sentences about how my aunt had ended up at a Homes First shelter, how she struggled with mental illness and how kind and dedicated the Homes First staff were. They reconnected our family and gave my aunt what she needed, a home.

 

I was nervous about asking people for money to come to my dinner party, but Homes First sent me an email template and said to start with close friends and family. After I sent out my first email, my brother, 2 colleagues and my  best-friend from college all agreed to attend and made donations. My parents couldn’t attend but they made a donation anyway because they know how important housing is.

Now that I had a few confirmed guests and half the donations I needed, I shared my campaign on social media. I only really use Twitter and Facebook, but I’m friends with a couple hundred people on each network. Only a couple of my friends confirmed and donated over the next two days, but every time someone gave, it was really exciting. The best part was when my friends donated, it showed up on my fundraising page’s activity wall and Homes First commented. It was really cool to know that the organization had noticed my campaign.

 

That weekend I went away to a cottage. To be honest, I didn’t really pay attention to my campaign for a few days. Then, I got another email from Homes First. I was worried they’d guilt trip me for not having met my goal yet, but instead they congratulated and thanked me. They told me I was already making a difference. They ended the email with a couple of tips to help me make it to the finish line. It made me feel like the organization was rooting for me every step of the way. I just needed to confirm two more guests to meet my goal. So I invited a few people I play hockey with. Score! I confirmed 10 guests and raised $1,250.

When people I invited told me they were coming I sent them a message: “Hey guys, I’m super glad you’re coming to dinner. There’s only 3 days left to help me raise money for Homes First so please make your donation on-line today to confirm your place at our table!”

I posted again to social media, too.

 

Asking people to share my campaign helped out a ton. Five people posted it on their own Facebook pages, and I got a few donations from people I don’t even know.

My campaign ended at midnight on Dinner Day – November 21, 2015, and I ended up raising $1,250. I surpassed my goal of $1,000, and for someone who never fundraised before, it felt awesome to raise that much money. I couldn’t have given that much on my own. I’m definitely hosting a dinner again next year!