Tap Kids for Their Creativity and Passion for Fundraising!
Take a cue from 14-year-old Lulu Cerone, founder of LemonAID Warriors, an organization designed to help you find ridiculously fun ideas to turn your compassion into action and start fixing the world, NOW. Cerone’s organization encourages youth to get involved with fundraising for the pure passion and creativity of it—she didn’t even know you could get paid for being a fundraiser until she recently found AFP.
Let Cerone take you back to the roots of fundraising—back to why you got involved in the first place—and let her passion lead you the way it has led her many ‘warriors.’
What sparked your passion for fundraising?
I did not like feeling powerless when I looked at a situation that had possible solutions. Feeling powerless, for kids especially, leads to feeling scared. When kids see tragedy or a need, we can get scared easily because we think it might happen to us or we feel like the world is out of control. Taking action means taking back some of that control.
All kids are naturally compassionate and to turn that compassion into action has always made sense. When I started I was five years old, so fundraising was the most obvious option since you usually have to be 13 or older to volunteer. To wait until you’re 13 doesn’t make sense—my youngest LemonAID Warriors are the hardest working and most passionate. They have not lost that very special childlike compassion and spirit of conquering the impossible that gets a little buried once you hit the teenage years and your life becomes more complicated.
AND, here’s a huge lesson I learned—if I can engage them in fundraising before they are 13, they will be a LemonAID Warrior for life. It will become part of who they are and they keep on doing it. If I try to get them started at age 13 or older, it’s way harder.
Can you tell us a little bit about your role at LemonAID Warriors?
I founded LemonAID Warriors to unite kids in my community to use the skills they already have to take action now. No one needs to wait to grow up to make changes. Kids have technology, amazing creativity and a natural sense of compassion that can be useful in our world right NOW.
I mentor kids one-on-one to help them identify a cause that speaks to them personally. Then we list their skills, interests and talents and come up with creative ways to put those skills to work as we plan their Philanthro-Parties, which are parties with a purpose.
I lead by example through my work providing sustainable solutions to the water crisis in developing countries. My water themed Philanthro-Parties have raised over $60,000.00 in three years. I also share my Philantro-Party action plans with major corporations as part of their pro-social campaigns to engage youth to become activists and fundraisers. I am also passionate about giving a platform to youth activists, so I hosted a radio show to spotlight their work and am currently editing video interviews of global teen leaders.
What do you think is the most rewarding aspect of fundraising for LemonAID Warriors?
Meeting this huge network of other young fundraisers from across the country and around the world has been so rewarding. There are a few conferences, award ceremonies and summits that bring together young fundraising leaders, and those friendships and contacts have changed my life. Connecting to kids who are passionate about fundraising and are willing to share their ideas and resources with each other is amazing.
Kids raise funds differently than adults. Our ideas are different than what has traditionally been used in the past. So meeting these leaders keeps me motivated and inspired. They also give me hope that my generation is going to make important positive change like no other generation before us, and that’s exciting.
Who or what has had the greatest influence on your life, and why?
My mom. She saw a spark of compassion in me and empowered me to follow that compassion and turn it into action. And she did it by letting me lead. She facilitated my ideas, but the ideas are always mine. I know she can make things bigger in my organization. I have had opportunities, because of the attention that my work gets, to really grow into something huge. But she inspires me to grow things at my own pace. I will make my organization bigger when I can do it myself. She makes sure I own this journey.
What is the best fundraising advice you ever received?
Don’t trust the numbers! There is a ripple effect of a good fundraiser that goes beyond the numbers you add up at the end of the day. If your fundraiser had a clear message, the energy is authentic and the event is creative and memorable, the result will be bigger than what is in the cashbox.
For example, I do this sweet little backyard concert Philanthro-Party, and suddenly it got all this attention and it grew. It got bigger and more complicated than I thought I could handle. A Grammy nominated band offered to headline, and I did not have the resources or experience to keep up. I did it anyway. It was truly an amazing night but we didn’t raise as much money as we would have if I had kept it small and simple.
But months later, I heard that as a result of that event, a huge donation was made that put us way over the top. Then, the next event I had, people were already so invested in my cause because of that special night that they gave more. That was a good lesson.
What are you most proud of in your fundraising efforts?
I am really proud that my Philanthro-Party ideas are so successful. I created ideas and action plans to turn every celebration or gathering into a chance to give. Birthday parties, backyard BBQs, sleepovers, play dates or even a trip to the mall can be given a creative twist to make giving a part of the fun. These ideas caught the eye of Mattel, who partnered with me to share them with their Monster High brand as part of their pro-social campaign to engage their MILLIONS of young customers to take action in their communities.
My goal is to make social activism part of my generation’s social life. Instead of an ANNUAL fundraiser or a community service DAY, my thought is that we make service and fundraising a part of things we are already doing on a regular basis. So it’s not an isolated EVENT. It’s a part of our daily life.
Name at least three things you like to do when you’re not fundraising!
Music! I play drums and keyboards, and I play in a few bands. Filmmaking. I love to film and edit movies. Travel. I have not been to many places yet but I love to explore.
Fortunately, the way I fundraise, I make sure I center my fundraisers on the things I love. I have many Philanthro-Party ideas that center around music. I film and edit all of my events. And someday I will get to travel to see the communities that I have helped with my fundraising efforts.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
I have NO idea. I actually didn’t know that you could get paid for fundraising until I learned about AFP. It didn’t occur to me. But even if I don’t do it professionally, I know it will be a part of my life, since that’s my platform—make social activism part of your social life! I would love to make documentaries and of course I can’t imagine my life without music.
Is there anything about fundraising that still surprises you?
It surprises me that adults don’t look to us kids for ideas and help. There is a silent army of LemonAID Warriors out there. I am not that unusual! My generation was raised on technology. We see problems in the world and we Google solutions. We have the skills and technology to crowdfund and create online campaigns and connect and partner with businesses via email. We need very little help from adults to do this.
Our ideas are out-of-the-box and that leads to creative events and really cool marketing ideas. We are full of a type of unedited creativity that adults sometimes lose touch with. I’m surprised adults don’t ask us to help more—we have a lot to offer.
What advice would you give to a fellow fundraiser?
Mentor a kid in what you do. Teach them what you know. Learn from the kid you mentor.
You will both be better off!
What is your go-to fundraising technique?
How about two go-to ideas…
- Make a movie! My little under-two-minute movies are my most useful tool. I film the event so I can share it through my ‘thank you’ emails and use it in my online invitations for the next event. Press always wants it. I NEVER post anything on Facebook without adding media, so there are many uses for my little films.
- Every event has to have a totally unique creative twist that gets the messaging out and makes people remember the event, preferably on a physical level that uses the physical senses. For example, my Pucker Face Contest is a huge hit. I have a booth with lemons and people suck on a lemon and I snap a photo of their pucker face. They have to go home after the event and vote on the best pucker face or get their friends to visit my site to vote. Everyone remembers LemonAID Warriors after that. Everyone—even people who were not at my event—will learn about my cause when they visit the site to vote.
Or at my annual Water Walk to build wells in Africa, we walk for two miles carrying jugs of water so my guests can physically feel what the young girls go through every day. Then at the Philanthro-Party afterwards I set up a Dirty Water Dare—I get two jugs of swampy water from a local natural water source and purify one jug so it’s perfectly safe, but is still nasty, murky and smelly. I leave the other one unpurified so we can see the actual water to compare. I serve the purified water in fancy glasses with little umbrellas and call them Swamp-tinis! I dare people to drink it—some do, most don’t.
The bottom line is that everyone leaves my events understanding why they are helping my causes because they have physical memories and experiences to go along with the dry information. And they have fun. And they talk about it to other people long after my Philanthro- Party, which raises awareness.