How I Organized My First Fundraiser

Debbi Mack
4 min readMar 26, 2021


Me standing beside my husband’s bike.

So, one day, I was sitting in the kitchen, feeling depressed over having a movement disorder that wore me out (because my damn hand was moving and twisting against itself constantly — as in every waking minute of my day). It was a Sunday and I happened to catch a movie not long after it had started. This was in 2008, I guess. It must have been, because what happened next took nearly eight months or so to organize.

The movie I saw was Ikiru and it prompted me to think about what I could do to make a difference in anyone’s life. At that point, I’d had one novel and one short story published by a small press that went out of business nine months after my book had come out. So … I had all sorts of reasons to lie around the house and watch TV and not give a shit.

But I continued to write more books after my novel went out of print, as well as querying agents and attending conferences the old-fashioned way, because that’s what you did — you went out and met people. Made contacts in real life. Even in 2008, this was the way it was done.

So, despite the fact that I could barely face getting up in the morning sometimes, that movie Ikiru lit a small fire under my ass. Because it was about a bureaucrat who felt like his life was meaningless, until he found a project he was willing to make happen no matter what. Also, he had cancer and … well, when you’re looking death in the face, you start to take stock of what you really should be doing.

That’s when I decided to organize a fundraiser for dystonia. I just decided then and there that I was going to do it, because why not? What did I have to lose?

Me with my husband, beside his bike.

And with that, I just did it. I got in touch with someone at the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation and told them about the idea for a fundraiser I’d developed (at my husband’s suggestion, for reasons that will become obvious) in which motorcycle riders engage in what’s called a “poker run”. A poker run is an organized event in which participants move between five to seven locations by motorcycle, boat, horse, bicycle, or other form of transportation (including walking) and pick up a card at each one. The goal is to end up with the winning poker hand.

My husband has ridden a motorcycle for years and participated in poker runs before, so he was able to explain how the event should be organized. After I explained the concept of fundraising with a poker run to the folks at DMRF, they seemed fine with the idea. However, the first step they said would be to create a budget. That’s something I had to learn. As I recall, they gave me a budget template, listing typical line items, which I adapted to serve the needs of my event. I also reached out to people, businesses, and/or organizations who might be willing to sponsor the event. That took time and effort to prepare outreach materials and make contact. I even spoke to a couple of motorcycle riding groups about the event and encouraged them to participate on the appointed day.

I gave each person, group, or business a written summary of what dystonia is — much of that material was provided by DMRF — along with sponsorship forms I’d developed. And with assistance from the event coordinator at Old Glory Harley-Davidson in Laurel, MD, I met with the awesome volunteers who gave their time and effort toward bringing off the event itself.

This was back in the days when Twitter was almost brand new. It required a lot of writing persuasive copy, organizing, coordinating, and driving around, talking to people. And I blogged about my efforts. (I would link you to the blog, but it seems to have been hijacked or modified since I kept it up.)

And that was how I started fundraising for the very first time.

From an article that appeared with The Laurel Leader newspaper article about the fundraiser.

PS: Here’s a scene from Ikiru that’ll give you some idea of what inspired me to do all this.

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Debbi Mack

New York Times bestselling author of eight novels, including the Sam McRae Mystery series. Screenwriter, podcaster, and blogger. My website: