Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Ideas that work -Go to the old 5 & 10

idea iconLast week I had the honor of attending the 3rd annual 5/10 Club of New Jersey Dinner. The dinner recognized the donations of individuals throughout the Garden State that have made operating gift commitments to the New Jersey Learning Centers of $5,000 or $10,000 ... and sometimes even more.

An idea born from adversity

Verdon Skipper, then Scottish Rite Deputy for the state of New Jersey faced a desperate dilemma in 2005 - a sponsor of 3 Learning Centers was stopping future funding. Skipper and his board members were adamant that the Centers would remain open. So, they first reworked the budgets. With this new (and lower) goal this team set about finding financial sources to make up for this large need. Special events could only do so much. Skipper concluded that he must find a committed core of people with the means to make a substantial dent in the fundraising goals each year.

In this light, the 5/10 Club was inaugurated.

Ducks in a row

Skipper started this endeavor the best way one can. First he pulled a team of volunteers together who were committed to the cause of supporting the Learning Centers. Next Skipper led by example and donated enough to earn the right to be a member of the 5/10 Club. He asked his volunteers to join him in this (they did). Then the team determined who might also be interested and capable of joining and determined how best to ask them. Finally they determined how best to acknowledge participation in this effort (an annual dinner).

The first 5/10 Club dinner was in 2007. More than $100,000 was committed by its members that year. Each year since, the size of the group and the amount this group has committed has risen.

The dinner held the last Friday in May is an affair befitting the generosity of the group. A hallmark of the event is a graduate of one of the Learning Centers describing his or her experience. This year's speaker was a young woman who came to our Centers as a freshman in high school, reading only at a 4th grade level. She and her parents would drive 2 hours a day just to get to the Learning Center. The transformation was enormous. She went from an inhibited girl barely hanging on academically to a confident National Honors Society student who is looking forward to attending college with scholarships.

This is the greatest return the members of the 5/10 Club could receive, as their many damp eyes attested. This is what helps to grow the Club every year.

Why not here?

There are people who have the capacity to make major annual gifts to your Learning Center. You can start a similar club if you follow these guidelines:
  • Determine a giving threshold high enough to be significant. Don't be afraid that it is a small club. It will grow.
  • Make sure the committee is composed only of those who are givers. If you skirt this, the success of the effort will fail.
  • Celebrate appropriately. If the level of giving is high, a good dinner is not inappropriate. It is an investment that will pay back.

Remember, this is a flexible high end program. 5/10 is a great idea, but 1-2-3 may work better for you. Or nickle, dime quarter. Go with what's best for you.


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