September 30, 2021

#ThoughtSpace: Fundraising 101

Working at the policy level mostly, I do miss on-the-ground action and interacting with patients. The short end of the story is that the Operation Smile discovered me during a One Million Youth Leaders (@1m2030) webinar last year. When I had been approached to be an Operation Smile Ambassador for South Africa, I knew immediately the universe was calling me towards soul-filling and meaningful work.

I do live by the mantra, ‘Go Big or Go Home’, always doing everything with extreme passion, perfection and dedication.

This year with a strong team in place, we launched a fundraising campaign #RaiseASmile (, here are some lessons I hope you find useful in your fundraising ventures –

  1. Friends and family are great supporters for a cause!
  2. When fundraising don’t be shy, just ask, pester, beg, badger. WhatsApp was such a great medium to reach out and request funds.
  3. You need resources to fundraise, i.e. you can have all the ideas in the world, but you do need a pot of campaign money to get started. Nothing is for mahala (free)!
  4. It is time consuming, putting in place a task team of stellar leaders is what made the Campaign a success, from ideas, to social media posts and just the compassion and dedication to the cause.
  5. Working with little children/ schools turned out to be the BEST! Besides the cuteness, the enthusiasm and support is unmatched, half of our funds were raised through schools such as King Fisher Learning Centre and La Salle College (all thanks to my nine-year old niece Zaara)!
  6. Non-monetary support goes a long way. Take time out to speak to people and engage! Connections and collaborations are everything, setting up lasting partnerships is the key.
  7. It’s extremely tough to fundraise during #COVID19 so many charities need support, the competition is there and everyone is under financial strain.

So many of you have contributed, shared, supported, my heart swells, the impact is there, you have helped changed lives and raised smiles, thank you #WorldSmileDay2021!

Dr Shakira Choonara is an award-winning public health practitioner, Operation Smile South Africa Ambassador and pens #ThoughtSpace with a touch of inspiration, critical thinking, and creativity.

Tweet the author: @ChoonaraShakira

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