Oct 23rd Fund Raiser Post Mortum

mib2112

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This currently posted in the Schools and Instructors sub forum, but a couple of friends said it would be a good article also, as not a lot of people may hit the sub forums.

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Well, it’s been quite a ride, setting up and organizing a fund raiser event like the Kick-a-thon at the Black Dragon School. Going back to the start, it was a very rough time at the school. We were on the verge of closing our doors and teaching kung fu in the park. I am not sure how many students you need to keep the doors open at a martial arts school, but I know we didn’t have enough to do it. We got very lucky when Stephen Tomko stepped in and worked with Ike Bear to take ownership of the school.

Back around early June is when I spoke with Ike Bear, the head instructor, about doing a fund raiser event, which was shortly after I was informed that we’re not closing. And as the way it is with Ike, when you ask about doing an event or organizing something, the person asking is given the responsibility of doing it. I had never done anything like this solo, so it’s been an interesting learning experience.

The charities we usually work with are ones who raise money for the armed forces. Last time we worked with A Soldiers Wish List, which put together care packages and sent them to soldiers stationed over seas. This time, we were supporting Camp Hope, a non-profit that was setting up a hunting lodge for combat wounded veterans to hunt, fish, hike, all of the things that we might take for granted. I got in touch with Camp Hope and explained that we were doing a fund raiser and wanted to donate the money to them.

We have done events in the past, kick-a-thons, conventions, and we always had a small attendance. So I pondered some ways to get more people to come to an event. People who normally would not be interested in something like this. I had been talking to one of the local radio stations about getting the school an informational booth at one of the music festivals, and decided to find out what they need to come broadcast live from an event.
Which, turns out, is a load of money.

So I put that on the back burner while I pondered more ideas, that would involve less money. I love music, all kinds of music. So I decided I would try some bands, ask them if they would be willing to donate something, anything. This idea lead me to doing a silent auction, with donations from anyone I could get something from. Originally we were just going to do a raffle, with people buying tickets and putting them in for the items they wanted to win. But I started to get a lot of donations, and the raffle seemed to be more time consuming than we liked, so we moved it to a silent auction. And tickets are a major pain to deal with.

One musician, Paul Thorn, bless his managers’ heart, sent us 10 copies of his new album. Just for being polite and asking. Here Come The Mummies sent us each of their studio albums and their live DVD. This was a great start.

So I thought about who else to contact, and eventually the list of people and businesses I contacted was over 400. I kept a list of people I contacted, and the ones who replied and those who didn’t.

I figured, the worst anyone will say is No, so why not ask as many people as I can. So at the time of the fund raiser, twenty one companies had made donations. And I contacted all kinds of places. Toy makers, book publishers, local breweries, food companies, candle makers, clothing stores. I seemed to have the best luck with smaller businesses. Not local ones, but smaller ones.

Not to say that some local businesses didn’t come through, several did with some great donations for the silent auction. But if I had limited myself to only local businesses, I would not have half the items we had to auction.

While I was working on that portion, I thought about what else would interest people to come out and see. I am a big believer that all martial arts schools should be open and communicate with each other in a local area. I know the economy is terrible, and everyone is competing for students, but we are all trying to achieve the same goal, of getting more people active, training in the martial arts, and to keep a school open.

So I put together a letter explaining what we are doing, and contacted every school in the area I could. There are some great schools around our area, and I wanted anyone who was willing to come demonstrate their art to join us. I will never bad mouth another school, or another Art, and sometimes encourage people to look at different schools and styles, to make sure they find something they like. But there almost seems to be this refusal to work with other schools, at least with events at that school.

We did a convention about two years back, held at a VFW hall, and about five different schools came out to demonstrate for that. That was amazing, and everyone had a good time, but we had a very small turn out. So maybe it’s the fact that our fund raiser was held at our school, that most of the other schools didn’t want to participate.

I did try getting one of the local shopping malls to let us use space there for the event. They never did get back to me. It seemed logical to me, it would bring more people to the mall itself, helping the stores there, and the mall is more centrally located than our school is, which would hopefully bring more people to the event. Maybe next time.

We did have one group come out and help demonstrate with us, the local Italian Fencing guild, who did an amazing job. Several groups gave a “Maybe” and never got back to me. Like asking businesses for donations, the worst they will say is no.
So I had a silent auction planned, and some demonstrations planned. Something for kids to do though, little ones who might normally be bored. I looked over a list of typical carnival games, and settled on a Duck Pond and a coloring table.

Duck ponds are easy, you have a bunch of rubber ducks in a pool, and a person picks a duck. The duck has a number on the bottom, and the number tells you what kind of prize you can get. So I ordered 10 dozen rubber ducks from Oriental Trading. After some experimentation with them on how to keep them floating, we had an assortment of rubber ducks ready to go. Along with 15 lbs of candy, and a bunch of stuffed toys for prizes. There was a shopping center nearby, so if we ran out of prizes, we could run out and get more.
That with some free coloring pages from the internet and crayons, and the kids have something to do.

A friend I work with at my day job offered to come and do face painting for anyone who wanted to have it done, and split the money with the charity. I am all about stuff not costing us anything that people may be interested in, so we booked her.

Ideas that got vetoed, inflatable boxing was one. We ordered two pair of inflatable boxing gloves, with the thoughts of charging $10 for five minutes in the ring with a buddy, and you two could just beat on each other in our 21’ fairtex cage. The owner of the school didn’t like that too much, with insurance liability and all. Fair enough, the gloves weren’t the best in the world anyways for that.

We could have just contacted an inflatables company about an inflatable ring and boxing gloves, but they usually want a good sized deposit, plus the rental cost. And being a martial art school, we are tight on cash.

Another idea that was shot down, tricycle jousting. Our head instructor is an odd man sometimes, and had an idea of grown men on tricycles, trying to joust with bo staffs that had boxing gloves taped to the end. And yes, he was sober when he thought of this. I didn’t look forward to the idea of trying out tricycles at wal-mart, and luckily the school owner looked at his insurance policy, then at us and shook his head no.

But while out working my part time security job, I came across a gentleman who looked pretty close to superman, even had on the costume. Turned out he was an aspiring actor who goes around in his superman costume and does pictures for donations at big event, like the 4th of July and baseball games. I spoke with him and he agreed to come to the fund raiser and do pictures with people for donations, and split the money with us. So now we have Superman coming to our event. It might seem a little cheesy, but kids love it. This was shaping up pretty good.

I contemplated space while walking around the outside of the school one night, and noticed that there was a vacant lot next door to the school for sale. I contacted the realtor and offered to have the school help maintain the lot and cut the grass so it looks nice, in exchange for letting us use the lot for the fund raiser, if it hadn’t sold by the event. They agreed, and that gave us a large grass lot next door to the school for parking, demonstration space, anything we needed it for. And if nothing else, bringing the guys and gals at the school together to work on cleaning up the lot helped build that sense of family.
I wanted to do something special for our head instructor, Ike, to thank him for all of his years of putting up with us, teaching us, being a brother and a friend. I spoke to the Governor of Missouri, well ok, one of his assistants, about getting the day declared National Martial Arts Day in Missouri. Very easy process actually. She asked that we submit the wording for the proclamation, and sent us a beautiful certificate stating that October 23rd 2010 was to be National Martial Arts Day in Missouri.

The school owner paid for the local radio station to come out. Roughly two thousand dollars, which got us a live broadcast for two hours from the event, radio advertising three days before the event and leading up to the event (really it was just the radio station going “Hey this is Jeff Burton of Thom and Jeff, and I am going to be at the Black Dragon Kung Fu School this Saturday from 1 to 3pm broadcasting live and giving away stuff!), and they email everyone on their mailing list about them being at the event. I figure that kind of advertising is worth $2000. Wish they had special rates for fund raisers, but they need to make money too.

T-minus 2 days to one of the local television stations coming to the school to do a segment on the fund raiser and our school. Didn’t take much work to get them to come out, and several of the students offered to come out and help with the demonstrations. So while everyone else gets to be on TV showing off their moves, I will be in the back setting up the silent auction tables.

Least that was the plan, till they emailed at the last minute and canceled on us. Luckily at the event itself a friend of the school, Joseph Palmero, interviewed a couple of us, took a bunch of great video, and allowed us to post the video on our website and anywhere else we wanted.

So the day of the event, I get there early and start setting up. Everything went as smoothly as possible, thanks in part to the other members of the school lending their hand to getting everything perfect.

The silent auction alone raised close to $800 for the charity, not counting the kick-a-thon itself, and the smaller raffles we held also. The face painter split the money she made with the fund raiser, and we helped her get some more exposure, always a good thing. Our Superman brought a costumed Wonderwoman with him, which the kids (and a couple of the guys) appreciated a lot.

The charity we were helping support, Camp Hope, expressed their thanks for everything we did and invited us all to come down sometime and see the facilities and meet some of the veterans. I think it will be a good thing for the school to see first hand what they are supporting, and meet some of the guys whose lives they are helping improve.
So in all I think we raised nearly $1000 for Camp Hope. Not as much as I was hoping, but in this economy, it’s a lot.

So for next time we do a fund raiser event, we will do the following:
1. Form a committee of people to plan and organize. Me being the only person doing pretty much everything, REALLY sucks. The committee should have people from the school, and hopefully some people from outside the school.

2. Set up a website for the event. Even just a page off your own schools website. Put the name of the fund raiser in your meta tags and get Google to find it on a search.

3. Try to get a budget set up for the event, and if you need to hold a mini-fund raiser inside the school for the big fund raiser, go for it.

4. Get out to more local schools, in person, and introduce ourselves, to invite them to the event, and to visit our school anytime they want. It’s not about stealing students or anything, it’s about building a community.

5. Shoestring budgets really suck. If you need to hold a mini-fund raiser before you do the big one to raise some money to purchase materials, do so.

6. Don’t be afraid to ask students or students parents for help. If they work somewhere like a Kinkos or a print shop, they may be able to help you get a discount on printing fliers and programs for your event.

7. Make sure your event has a backup plan. Part of our event was to be held outside, and according to the weather forecast, of course, there was a chance for rain. Make sure everything you do can be done inside, or outside.

8. Thank everyone who helped. Even if all they did was cut paper for you, show them that you appreciate what they did to help.
 
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