There are many different ways to raise funds for your project and there is no absolutely correct method to adopt.  In the end you will have to gauge for yourself what works and what doesn't.  The only way to get wet, is to put your toe in the water.  The following hints and tips are just suggestions.


Before you begin, you should ask yourself what you can offer the potential contributors. They say you should walk a mile in a potential sponsor's shoes.  What this means is: put yourself in their position, before the approach.  That way you may help yourself to identify obstacles.  Mostly, it will be that their budget is already allocated, or that sponsorship is something new to them - hence they might not appreciate the exposure that will be generated.


Most individuals want to feel they are helping a worthwhile project.  Most companies want that too, but they also want some public recognition in the form of branding for their shareholders.  The association generated justifies the expenditure for corporate sponsors in terms of advertising.  It may well offer your sponsors good value in this regard and for that reason it makes good business sense for them to get involved.



Adopt A Solar Cell

Many schools, colleges and universities have an "Adopt-A-Cell" program in which they ask for contributions in increments of solar cell costs. For instance, if your solar cells are going to cost 4 ($6.50) each, you may want to assign an approximate cost of 5 ($8) to a cell to cover taxes, shipping, installation materials, etc. Hence, your Adopt-A-Cell program would offer people the opportunity to contribute @ 5 ($8) per cell, which will help your team buy the 600 - 900 cells you need - or 30,000 - 45,000 you need to raise.  In return, the contributors know that you have recorded their name and the number of cells they have contributed.

Residential door to door fundraising with Adopt-A-Cell forms could work if you have a large number of team members that don't mind spending a day on the street.  I would  suggest door to door only at weekends to avoid missing people. Remember that people can adopt as many cells as they feel comfortable with.  



Small Business Sponsorships

Business door to door also works well, but the initial focus should be on significant contributions ($25, $50, $100, $1000?). You should take an information packet that includes a current list of sponsors, an introduction to the team and the Solar Challenge Event, the budget, etc. If the business person you are talking with declines any general contribution, it has been found that many of these people will still adopt one or more cells. Your information packet should include any interesting information about your team, how it was started, your goals, etc. The cover of the information packet can have a picture of the car or a drawing of what it may look like when completed.



Corporate Sponsorships

Remember that it is easier to get smaller donations than large ones. It is not unusual for small businesses to give in the 50 region, but you will have to make your best guess as to what to ask for with large companies. 


Be prepared to be asked "How much do you need?" or "What is your budgeted cost and how much have you raised so far?" Set a minimum contribution amount for those companies that will be listed in your packet as contributors or prime sponsors. Let them know that the contributors list will be seen by many other business people. Explain why the project is educational. Always ask to speak to the owner and don't give your prepared speech to just anyone. I've experienced success with companies related to automotive and construction as they can more easily relate to the project efforts.

The larger the company, the more professional the presentation should be. A Powerpoint slide show does nicely if you explain it well. To approach a large company, call their corporate office and ask to speak to the person responsible for sponsorships. If they like what you say over the phone, then you will probably be asked to make a presentation to a group of people at their location. Let them know the set price to get their name on your car (I suggest a minimum of 500). It may take several phone calls to get to the point where you can make a presentation, but it will be worth the time once you get there.



Public Presentations

Community service organizations are one of the very best places to get funding. The local Lion's or Rotary type organizations are concerned for the benefit of their communities -- of which you are a part. Be prepared to make presentations to these organizations.

Large gatherings of people are a good place to fundraise. For example, fairs and city farmers' markets are usually pretty successful. In order to get into city functions, call city hall and ask about an event. They are usually very helpful. At large functions, get a booth or site and set up a table with photos of your progress so far. Have team members there ready to answer questions. The car is the best thing to attract attention, even if it is only partially complete. People like to see what they are contributing for and like to help. You may even develop contacts with companies that can do welding, machining, or furnish wiring, etc. as a result of having your car on display. Make sure you have permission to fundraise at an event.


Remember that it is sometimes easier for a company to contribute a product or service that to give cash. Be sure that if you hold a raffle, that you get a hold of the winner! Also, the winner should be drawn at the event so that there is no suspicion regarding how the drawing was performed.


Either before or after the Solar Event, it is a good idea to have some kind of get-together where all of the supportive people (parents, sponsors, etc.) can see the car and be thanked for their support. You can probably get your school or college to allow the use of a gym or cafeteria. be sure to show off your car. The sponsors who see this may decide that yours is a worthwhile project and donate twice as much next year.






  1. Ask, ask, ask.  If you don't ask - you will never find out.

  2. Sponsorship allows people to help others through you. 

  3. When you participate in an event, you also represent all those who donated to your campaign. 

  4. Make sure everyone realizes that their contribution will last much longer than the 30 seconds it takes to write a check or make an online donation. 

  5. Mention your efforts whenever possible - you never know when a corporation has not committed their maybe substantial advertising budget.

  6. Involve everyone you know, because, most people find that their daily contacts supply plenty of potential contributors. You'd be surprised at how many people you know - even casual acquaintances - will support your efforts, or know someone else who is interested - and so on.

  7. Start early! There's a lot to be said for those people who get all of their fundraising done so that they can concentrate on their project.

  8. The best way to fundraise is to use a combination of techniques, fundraising letters, emails, online fundraising, and corporate involvement, etc.

  9. You do not need to know all of your potential donors; it's okay to cold call on and accept donations from companies you do not know. Companies in the EV business already have a vested interest, tyres, batteries, motors, engineering, etc, provided they are not competitors.  Consumer electronics firms might appreciate their name on your car.  

  10. Remember to thank sponsors in public and in correspondence.

  11. Use those who are close to you as a "mini-committee" to reach your goal. Ask them to share their Rolodex, send out letters, 

  12. Do not discount anyone.

  13. Do not think of fundraising as asking for money or a loan. You are asking as an advocate for a worthwhile project.





Once you take on the fundraiser mantle, you should give some thought as to how you are going to reach your fundraising goal.  I understand that raising this much money can be more than a little intimidating, but you can be successful if you plan ahead, start early, use the resources given to you, be creative and have fun!


The No. 1 way of raising money for such projects is through a personal solicitation letter. This is a letter that you send to persons you know, wealthy individuals and company bosses and just about anybody else that you can think of.  When approaching companies, be sure to telephone first, to obtain the name of the Marketing Director.  The bigger corporations have a sponsorship manager or department.


Just sending out letters does not guarantee that you will reach your fundraising goal, even if you have done your homework and followed up telephone calls expeditiously. Everybody is a bit different, and you may need to also think of an alternative way to raising money through corporate sponsorships and special events.



The Process

What makes the solicitation letter so successful is how little time it takes to send to a lot of people. Once you get your letter written, copied, placed in the envelope, and sent out - all you have to do is wait about two to three weeks before you see the first of hopefully many donations come in. 


Be sure to include the URL address to your project Web site, so your potential donors can see your good work for themselves.  Include a pledge form and your URL address on your pledge and also a return addressed envelope. Send it to everyone your selected prospects and let them decide on your proposals if they wish to become involved.  Do not hard sell or badger people - either they are interested, or they are not.  Most people are already under pressure at work, you do not want to make life harder for them.  You want to make an association fun and rewarding.  An association with a two way stream of benefits.  They give you funding, you give them an event and spread their good name.



Start Now

The key to a successful fundraising campaign is starting early.   Some of the more expensive EV projects, such as land speed record attempts, may take several years to achieve a goal.   Solar car projects must achieve funding in time to build a car and arive at an event in a state if readiness.  


Therefore, it is important to get on the phone and get your letters out at the beginning! Keep in mind it usually takes two to three weeks before the donations or pledges come in.  You will receive many more negative replies, than positive ones.  A negative reply is another step to achieving a positive - Yes.



Writing a Good Letter

The key to a successful letter campaign is writing a good letter. Here are some suggestions to writing a successful fundraising letter.

  1. Make it personal
    We all love to get personal letters, so make sure it is addressed to the person that matters.  Thank them for their interest.  Let them know how the project in proceeding concisely and accurately.  Then slide into what the event is about and why you are personally involved.

  2. Use humor
    Everybody loves a chuckle, so use humor where appropriate. Start your letter with something like "Have you heard that (your team) has gone off the deep end again. Your team is thinking about competing in the Darwin to Adelaide this time"

  3. Short and sweet
    Try to keep the letter to one page. If it is too long, you will lose the reader's interest.

  4. Use your honored teammate
    Let people know that you are not just competing in this event, but mention the importance of competition for development of future technologies and markets.

  5. Ask
    Very important! What separates this letter from normal letters is that you are asking them to act. Don't just tell them you are doing this, but that you need their help.

  6. Suggested giving levels
    I recommend suggested giving levels. Include your overall target in your letter, otherwise sponsors may not know how much you need to raise.    They will need  suggested giving levels to gauge what size donation they think is appropriate to their circumstances. So, if the event is 2,000 miles, perhaps ask them to contribute 1 for every mile.  Ask them to be a racing suit sponsor (donate $1000+ and their name will be written on the suit and helmet at the starting line.) $ 5000 for their name on your vehicle, or website.  Be creative. Finally, think about setting at least a lower giving mark (20 - 200). Individuals will not feel comfortable giving more, but if someone does feel generous - congratulations.

  7. Set a deadline
    We give you a deadline for your own fundraising, but we recommend you set a deadline earlier than that. People are always motivated by deadlines. This way you can assess your fundraising before the real deadline.

  8. Let them know how to donate
    Tell them the procedure for making a donation. If they are confused, they are not likely to send a donation, so walk them step-by-step through the procedure. Be sure to include your URL and land address, telephone numbers, etc.

  9. Keep a list
    Keep a list of all the people you send letters to. You can then learn from this list and maybe see who hasn't donated and why. This is important for the next step.

  10. Be prepared to send a reminder
    A lot people will get your letter and say, "What a neat idea. Sure I'll help out," and then set the letter down - only to forget about it. The best way to send a reminder is to give project updates. Write to your sponsors and tell them, "Tje project is going well" and "We're doing such and such this month." Let them know that fundraising is going well, but you still have a bit farther to go. Ask them nicely if they would consider making a donation to help you to the next stage. I've seen reminder letters that have been more successful than original letters for bringing in the pledges. You can also send an email reminder and don't forget to thanks them for donating.

Send a thank-you card. It is really nice to receive a note that says that your donation was important, not to mention that your sponsors probably want to know how well their money is spent. A good thank-you card will set you up well for the next event, should you have the stamina.







  1. Considerations

    1. What is the cost to rent the space?

    2. Is there a deposit fee? What are the guidelines for getting it back? When do you get it back?

    3. Is the cost of the space going to balance out the funds raised?


  2. Tips


    1. Look for donated space before renting space. Good places to check are vehicle show, trade shows, shopping centers, community centers, schools and universities.  Many establishments will be eager to work with you, especially during a time of the week or season when business is slow for them.

Set-up and Clean-up

  1. Considerations


    1. What is the procedure for set-up and clean-up? Is there staff available to assist you? Or should you ask friends to help you?

    2. Do you need to bring supplies like trash bags, trash cans, ice buckets, mops, dust clothes? Is the facility equipped with tables, chairs, a podium, a microphone, speakers and the like? Will you be required to pay for the rental of these items?


  2. Tips

    1. Most facilities, donated or rented, will have staff available to assist you. There may be a building manager or other contact at your disposal, but often you will need additional manpower for setting up/cleaning up and perhaps even coordinating the event.

    2. Be certain to leave the facility in the condition that you found it, if not in better condition. This way you will be certain to get your security deposit back and will be able to use the facility in the future.

Food and Beverage

  1. Considerations

    1. Are you bound to use an on-site caterer or a recommended insured caterer? Can you bring donated food and beverage?

    2. Can alcohol be served as one pleases or is a permit required to serve it?


  2. Tips

    1. Try to choose a location where you may serve donated food and beverage items. Have everyone bring something or solicit donations from catering companies and restaurants - this will reduce your overheads dramatically.

    2. It is unlikely that a shopping complexe will let you sell food or beverages, as this is where they make their money. If you must offer refreshments, keep it light.

    3. Remember, if you plan to serve alcohol at an event always serve food. If people drink, they should designate a driver.


  1. Considerations


    1. Is the facility equipped with a microphone, podium, TV, VCR, CD player, radio, loud speakers and stage. Is there lighting? Is there a fee involved for use of AV equipment? How much will it cost?


  2. Tips


    1. If you plan to have a band or DJ, determine their equipment and space needs as well as their usual set-up time. Many DJs bring their own CDs, loud speakers, cords and microphones, but may require a long table. Facilities like hotels have an AV department that will service your needs, but fees can be costly. Again, aim to get AV services donated or discounted. Try recruiting a fledgling DJ service or local band that is just getting started - they may be more apt to donate or discount their services.



  1. Considerations


    1. Where are you going to make your money? Are you going to charge a flat fee, ask for contributions or both? What money will you have to take out of your pocket to support the event? Are you going to hold an auction or a raffle? How many people are you going to invite? Realistically, how many do you think will show up? Does the facility accommodate the number of people you hope to attract? What time can you start setting-up and what time must you vacate the premises?


  2. Tips

    1. Plan a budget and itemize each cost. Make sure the money you charge is reasonable. To increase profit, plan an auction or raffle. Allow people to purchase raffle tickets prior to the event and make ticket sales available to those attending and not attending the event.

    2. If you must guarantee a number with the facility try to hold off until a few days before the event. Write down all the people you plan to invite to the event - do not just make a mental list - so you will be certain not to forget anyone.

    3. When reserving the space, give yourself enough time to set up and clean up. You will not want to rack up charges for additional hours.


In summary, there are great deals to be made on event space, but beware of hidden costs. Plan in advance, and if you need guidance in planning an event, please contact the chapter staff. We are all eager to be you turn your idea into a smashing success. Good luck!









If all else fails, consider asking professionals to assist your cause.  They may offer their services at a discount.  My experience, is that most professionals would not take on this kind of project, simply because the sums that need to be raised, would not make it worth their while giving their expensive office space and staff to the project.  However, there may be some kind souls out there willing to input their time by way of sponsorship.  You never know.  Accountants and lawyers frequently give of their time.


The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) represents 26,000 members in 172 chapters in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and China working to advance philanthropy through advocacy, research, education, and certification programs.

AFP believes that to guarantee human freedom and social creativity, people must have the right to freely and voluntarily form organizations to meet perceived needs, advocate causes, and seek funds to support these activities. To guarantee these rights, AFP's purposes are to:

  • Foster development and growth of fundraising professionals committed to the preserving and enhancing philanthropy.

  • Establish a code of ethics and professional practices.

  • Require member adherence to a professional code of ethical standards and practices.

  • Provide training opportunities for fundraising professionals.

  • Implement programs that ensure cultural and social diversity in our membership and leadership.

  • Collect, research, publish, and disseminate historical, managerial, and technical information on philanthropy and philanthropic fundraising.

  • Promote public understanding of philanthropy and philanthropic fundraising.

  • Conduct activities that maintain and develop legislation favorable to philanthropy.

  • Enlist, organize, and support members to achieve our purposes.

  • Foster international cooperation, knowledge exchange, and education among fundraising professionals worldwide.

  • Use all necessary and proper means to accomplish our purposes.

  • Provide a valid and reliable certification program for fundraising professionals.



















Lastly, fundraising is a year long task. Don't wait until late in the year to start. Get organized and divide up work so that it doesn't become overwhelming. Expect to get more people saying no than yes. Think of it as treasure hunting. You will get contributions and some will be modest, some will be significant!


Please remember, that these are just suggestions of things I've seen work in past years.





1. Chassis - and seating

2. Mechanics - suspension, steering, brakes

3. Motor and drive train

4. Motor controller

5. Solar Array - usually part of body

6. Batteries or fuel cells

7. Electrical System - and instruments

8. Driver Controls - switches, lighting, etc

9. Bodywork - Screen, etc





A taste for adventure

Solar Cola - a healthier alternative.




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