Before making any initial solicitations, at a minimum a group should be able to answer the following questions:

  • For what purpose are funds being raised?
  • How much is needed?
  • What is the story being told that will compel donors to give?

What is the Purpose?

General/Annual Use

Student organizations often raise funds to support their annual operations, events, and activities.  Annual appeals are helpful in keeping alumni engaged in the life of a student organization. 

Special Project

A special project might involve a summer tour, a conference hosted infrequently at Harvard, or some other one-time event or activity. 

Disaster Relief, Charity Drives, and Raising Funds for Partnering Organizations


Selecting an Organization

Student organizations should exercise care and intention when selecting a beneficiary or partnering organization.  For 501c(3) organizations, this includes confirming recipient’s charitable status through the IRS, reviewing non-profit reports through a resource such as GuideStar, and researching any recent news stories related to the organization.  Student organizations are ultimately responsible for accurate representation of the recipient organization to the donors and due diligence in seeing that the donated funds are used as represented.

Charity Drives

  • Charity drives and the collection of goods can be highly effective on a residential campus when planned appropriately. Groups should collaborate with an established charity or relief agency that is prepared to receive and distribute the collected good on a specific timeline.  Otherwise, such efforts are often a waste of time, goods, and energy. 
  • Collection of cash is discouraged: instruct donors to donate directly (online, via text, etc.) or write checks payable to the agency with which you are partnering.
  • For drives that include collection or donation points, you must first obtain permission from the building supervisor.  For the Houses, contact the House Administrator and Building Manager, and for the Yard contact Yard Operations. Be sure to establish a pick-up date and get appropriate permissions for parking from the House or University Operations for Harvard Yard.

Disaster Relief

  • Student organizations are often best positioned to be major drivers behind disaster relief efforts on campus.  Historically, the most successful relief efforts on-campus have been the result of collaborative efforts between student organizations, offices, departments, and centers. 
  • The DSO serves as a point of connection for student organization leaders to the broader College and University community.  If your organization is interested in taking part in disaster relief efforts, contact Alex Miller.

How much is needed?

It is important to build a realistic budget with projected expenses and income.  Donors want to know that there is a solid and well-documented plan in order to consider supporting it financially.  Consult the Financial Management section of this website for guidance and budgeting templates.

What is the story?

It is well worth the time and effort to construct a compelling narrative that describes the nature of a fundraising project, the impact it is intended to have, and how it's purpose relates to prospective donors.  Donors are more likely to give to projects that are both inspiring in terms of how they are presented and realistic in terms of how they are planned.