Anatomy of a successful Hug an Atheist Week


Hug an Atheist WeekDevidyal Givens is the Beyond Belief Network team leader for the University of North Georgia Humanist Student Union. They recently participated in Hug an Atheist Week to raise money for the Foundation Beyond Belief Light The Night team. In this post, she describes how little time and effort went into the fundraiser, which was wildly successful. She also shares some tips for other teams to make their events as successful.

The event by the numbers: One hour to prepare signs and fill out forms; $8 in supplies; one hour per day of tabling; hundreds of hugs; $300 raised for cancer research!

I had never heard of Hug an Atheist Week. I read about it on the Internet at 6 on Sunday the night before it was supposed to start. I immediately got in my car and went to the store and got some poster board, markers, and crayons. I bought five poster boards, crayons, and markers for a total of $8. I came home and posted on our group Facebook page that I had just found out it was Hug an Atheist Week and we should have a fundraiser. Within an hour everyone in the group had seen the update and volunteered to help, and I had made all five posters.

First thing Monday morning I went to the student involvement office and told them it was Hug an Atheist Week, and I wanted to have a fundraiser. They said I had to fill out a fundraiser request form. It took about 45 seconds. It was immediately approved. I then requested to set up a table from noon to 1 pm Monday through Friday in the student center. It was approved.

Hug an Atheist WeekI put together tabling materials, too. First, I spent about 5 minutes on Google images looking for some fliers and info I could print out about The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and Light The Night. I printed them out. I also printed out our club flyer and a flyer I had made before titled “What is humanism?” I had some stickers and magazines from the American Humanist Association and I put them out. I also made a spaghetti monster out of pipe cleaners, pom-poms, and googley eyes and put it in a colander to collect donations.

Every day at noon at least one other member of the club joined me to give out hugs and request donations. We made an effort to make eye contact and say hello to everyone who passed by. I must have said over 1,000 times this week, “Hi! We’re raising money for cancer research over here.”

My hints for other groups

Cute, eye catching gimmicks are always good. Everyone wanted to know about my spaghetti monster and the colander. Once you have their attention, it’s easier to get them to support your cause.

Fundraising is not hard. There is absolutely nothing difficult about it unless you consider being friendly difficult. In that case, why are you having a fundraiser? Isn’t that a friendly thing to do? Look people in the eyes. Smile at them. Talk to them. Tell them what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Don’t get discouraged by the people that don’t stop but be inspired by all the people that do stop and give.

The biggest hint I can give anyone when it comes to fundraising is to be friendly, make eye contact, and speak to every single person that walks by. You have to get people’s attention and draw them over to your table or else they just walk on by. There was another fundraiser on campus this week and they only raised $21. I saw them. They were sitting in chairs behind their table and texting the whole time. They were not engaged at all. They gave people no reason to look at them.