Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Ideas that Work (102)

idea icon Keeping things simple

Thanks to all of you that contributed comments to the Century post and survey. On behalf of the the team at Scottish Rite Charities, I appreciate that you find this blog to be helpful to your efforts on behalf of your Learning Center. We will continue our work to support you. As requested, we will try to keep our postings to the point. We'll get a little more grant information up as well. As for today, however, I am going to give you the most useful information I have learned in my 27 years in the field:

Make your own gift first. Make a gift that is personally important and bespeaks your role as a board member of your Learning Center. And make it a straight out donation, not an event participation (the Learning Center shouldn't need to incur fundraising costs for your donation. Besides, the expectation on most dynamic boards is that you give and you participate as well as you can - one doesn't absolve you from the other).

The rationale for this statement isn't simply monetary. Most non-profits do not have a generous body like the Scottish Rite behind them. They need to have their closest allies ante up first to set a base of funds. The board is the closest set of allies. Second, the most important role of most boards is to ensure the financial stability of the program. Often that means asking others for support. If you aren't well committed to the LCs financially, how likely will you be to ask others to donate generously?

Do you want to get a leg up on your fundraising? Take the base you've gotten from Lexington, add to it personally generous commitments from the board. Have board members ask former board members to give as well. That is a good starting point that then defines the height of the remaining fundraising goal. I have found that the more you can acquire your reliable gifts and lower the net goal, the more easily attainable the ultimate goal is.

Good luck.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Ideas That Work (101)

idea icon
The Canton Learning Center has found an Idea that Works.

Last month marked the Center’s 7th annual Teddy Bear Rock. The 1950s style sock hop is open to all ages and features dancing, ‘50s themed food, and even an Elvis impersonator.

“Everyone has a great time. We have kids from 3 years old and adults up to 80, and they’re all out there dancing and having a good time,” said Center Director Carol Jones.

Bad weather threatened this year’s event, forcing volunteers to reschedule it for the following week. Carol said she thought rescheduling would kill the event, but she was pleasantly surprised when it still raised over $6,500.

A planning committee made up of local Scottish Rite members, their spouses and board members, head up the event. They decorate the Masonic temple ballroom with crepe paper streamers and retro rock and roll posters to look like a ‘50s style gym.

The event raises money serveral ways. There’s a jail, where attendees are locked up and can only be released if someone pays to get them out. A used book sale and table sponsorships also add to the proceeds. 

A highlight of the night is the basket auction, which brings in about a third of the funds. Center supporters, including everyone from Eastern Star chapters to local businesses, donate themed baskets that are sold at a silent auction. The bid sheets include a starting bid and bid increments to ensure that the baskets go for a legitimate price.

The size and value of the baskets vary. A few of the basket themes over the years have included scrapbooking, fishing, art supplies, pasta, dinner for two, movie night, and even an exercise-themed basket, complete with a workout mat, weights and an exercise DVD.

“The baskets are always fun,” Carol said. “People come up with different themes, and we get some really neat ones.”

This year more than 40 baskets were donated, raising over $1,800 dollars.

Almost everything at the event is donated, from food to services. Volunteers sign up to donate food items like hamburgers, hotdogs, buns, fries and nachos as well as beverages.

One couple owns an old fashioned milkshake machine that they bring every year and donate the ingredients for shakes and sundaes. The Elvis impersonator and disc jockey volunteer their time each year.

Committee members have discussed changing up the theme. But for now they’re going to stick with what works.