A Post For Board Members Who Will Soon Be Working On a Benefit Dinner-and-Auction

If you are a board member of a community-based organization, chances are good that you will be involved in putting on a special event to raise money. And chances are good that the event will involve an auction...and that you will be asked to procure donations for the auction.

If you have read my November 26th post, you may know where this is going. If not, I'll tell you: Procure those unwanted gifts that  your friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, received over the holidays! In other words, ask your contacts to donate their unwanted gifts to your organization's upcoming fundraiser/auction. Not every gift can or will be returned or re-gifted. And what is one person's reject gift is another's treasure. I worked with one organization whose board treasurer donated to its silent auction an unwanted gift - a set of Harry Potter books that had been given to her. That donation became the object of a vigorous bidding war and the source of a generous contribution to the organization. 

Hurry and get those gifts - before they get stashed in the recesses of basements/closets/attics, then forgotten.


An Activism A Day: Use Gift Wrap That's Free & Save A Tree

"I want my living room back!"
On those occasions when you and yours are exchanging gifts, do you sometimes feel as if the wrapping paper and packaging are taking over your living room? 

Imagine living rooms throughout the United States overrun with paper, cardboard boxes, bows, etc. 

Now imagine how many trees could be saved, and how much in raw materials and raw energy could be saved if all the people in all those living rooms trading gifts skipped the wrapping paper. 

Imagine how much money you can save!

You can wrap gifts without using wrapping paper and bows. It's greener, cheaper, and a lot more fun than going to the big box store with the big crowds and the big lines.

Scavenge your home. Here's what you're looking for:

"The first step is recognizing that you have a problem."
  • Stuff that will hold other stuff                                                
  • Stuff that you have too much of                                
  • Stuff that you want to get rid of
  • Stuff that you are done using
  • Stuff that you never use

Here are a few examples:

  • Bandanas                                                             
  • Baskets                                                                                               
  • Book covers
  • Calendars
  • Canisters
  • Christmas stockings
  • Contac paper
  • Cookie jars
  • Dishes (plates, bowls, cups, teapots, etc.)
  • Doilies
  • Fabric scraps
  • Flower pots/vases
  • Funnies
  • Hankies
  • Jars
  • Jewelry boxes
  • Magazine pictures
  • Maps
  • Napkins
  • Old tins
  • Paper grocery bags
  • Photographs
  • Pillow cases
  • Posters
  • Pretty bottles
  • Purses
  • Scarves
  • Stationery
  • Those little cardboard cartons that you get at the farmers' market when you buy a pint of blueberries or strawberries
  • Towels
  • Wallpaper
  • Wine bottle holders
  • Wrapping paper (that you re-use)

Now, what to do instead of bows (which are going to get crushed before the recipient opens the gift anyway) ...

Scavenge your home. Here's what you're looking for:
  • Stuff that's small and flat enough to be affixed to the gifts you just "wrapped"
  • Stuff that's attractive or funny 
  • Stuff that's meaningful to the recipient (Let's say you have gifts for your friend who's a professional dog walker. Instead of bows, you could tape dog bones to her/his gifts.) 
  • Stuff that's extra or no longer useful to you or never going to be useful to you, etc.

    Here are some examples:
    • Balloons
    • Boas (the accessories, not the snakes)
    • Candy
    • Christmas tree ornaments
    • Dried flowers
    • Fake flowers
    • Real flowers
    • Feathers
    • Garland
    • Kitchen items (cocktail umbrellas, tea strainers, napkin rings, …)
    • Lace
    • Old jewelry, broken jewelry parts (the pretty parts)
    • Pine cones
    • Small toys
    • Stickers
    • Tassels
    What have you used to replace wrapping paper, ribbon, and bows?


    Defend Washington State's Basic Health Plan

    In an attempt to balance Washington State’s budget, the legislature is pondering the elimination of our state’s Basic Health Plan, which would cause 35,000 low-income Washingtonians to lose their health insurance. Gee, what’s next?  Will uninsured visitors to the ER be required to bring their own gauze and bandages? Pay for treatment with (their) blood, plasma, and perhaps an organ or two?  Or, maybe, people admitted to the hospital will be required to supply their own meals, plates, bedding, toilet paper, etc. during their stay. Maybe, depending on how mobile, coherent, and contagious they are, patients will be required to “work off” their hospital bills as they convalesce …  e.g. make collection calls, do janitorial work, cashier at the gift shop, and stock shelves.

    It is shameful to balance the budget by denying essential services to people already suffering from the recession (and probably the last round of budget cuts).  It is up to our legislators to put an end to cruel and Dickensian cuts to our state’s budget. And it is up to us, their constituents, to make them do it. Call your legislators. (The legislative hotline number is 1.800.562.6000.) And get your friends and neighbors to call too.


    Capture Holiday Season Donor Dollars

    Take advantage of this time of year – when many people feel an urge to make charitable donations to nonprofit and community organizations:

    1. Ask your supporters to save those unwanted holiday gifts and donate them to your organization. Their unwanted gifts may be perfect as your annual benefit's auction items, raffle prizes, or program/office supplies.

    2. Let supporters know what you could use. You will be surprised by what people will donate. Here are examples of things that have been successfully requested
    • copying services, 
    • computers
    • digital cameras, 
    • temporary use of a theater marquis
    • a performance by a dance troupe, 
    • use of a professional kitchen
    • office supplies.
    3. Encourage donors making cash donations to find out if their employers have a matching gifts program and, if so, how to have their gifts matched.

    4. Make your holiday wish list widely available. Get the word out using tools like:
    • Newsletters (if already printed, use inserts),
    • Websites,
    • Blogs,
    • Flyers,
    • Mailings (if mailing materials are already printed, use inserts),
    • Meetings and other events.

    5. Finally, thank everyone who makes a contribution. (This means you have to get and store donors’ contact information.) Prompt, written acknowledgments help you cultivate solid, long-term relationships with donors who will support your work not only this year, but for years to come.


    Health Care Before Hair Care!

    How is it that members of Congress can consider (again) cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security - when so many of them have no idea how we in the real world live? I asked this in a letter to the editor  that appeared in the "Seattle Times." Check it out...


    The "Grand Bargain" Is Neither

    Apparently a bipartisan group of House members is urging the Super Committee to put “everything” “on the table” in order to reach its elusive “grand bargain.” For most people, the “bargain” isn’t going to be so grand if everything, including cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, is “on the table.”  Do lawmakers not realize that “grand bargain” is an unfortunate choice of words to describe their hoped-for deal?

    You know how living in a polluted city makes it hard to recognize how putrid the air around you is …that, to recognize how much it reeks, you have to get out of town? Congress operates in a world gated community that reeks of privilege and entitlement. And I’m  starting to think that maybe some members of Congress are a bit out of touch. Their gated community world is too far-removed from the real world. For example:

    Gated Community: Within the U.S. Treasury is a pot of money (and I’m not making this up) called "The Senate Hair Care Revolving Fund," dedicated to the care of senate members’ hair. The amount of money in the fund: over $261,000.

    Real World: Many people drink tap water, which they filter at home and transport in water bottles that you can buy and re-use. People whose water has been contaminated by fracking are up a radioactive creek.

    Gated Community: During the last half of FY 2009, the House spent $640,000 for “habitation expenses,” which, per its Statement of Disbursements (SOD), refer to “minor, minimal expenses incurred for decorating offices (pictures and welcome mats).”

    Real World: $640,000…that’s a lot of welcome mats.

    OK, a couple hundred thousand dollars here and there don’t constitute a big part of the federal budget. But it’s hard to trust that lawmakers who spend so much on things like coiffures and office tchotchkes understand just how much the rest of us depend on programs like Medicare and Medicaid.   


    Fundraising Idea for the Times: If the 99% Had a Dime For Every Time …

    This past summer, Congress and President Obama suddenly panicked about “our children” and “our children’s children.” This was their fear:
    Maybe in 20 or 30 years, we will have failed to pay the same bills we have failed to pay for the last 10 years, and if we don’t drastically and immediately cut spending, we will “saddle” untold numbers of people not yet born with a terrible fate, and this fate will be worse than any spending cut consequences  endured by anybody already in existence.
    During interviews and press conferences, members of Congress would respond to questions of all kinds by  invoking “our children’s children.” Had a reporter asked, “Senator, So-&-So, why did you vote against the resolution to designate a National Labradoodle Appreciation Day?” the answer likely would have been (through gritted teeth), “I cannot condone saddling our children’s children, with our national debt! What the American people want …”
    To avoid possibly burdening “our children’s children” in 20 years or more, it was imperative to prioritize the elimination of our national debt and put aside lesser problems, like war and hunger, that exist in the here and now.
    I started thinking about how the endless “children” references could be used to raise money for good causes – like organizations helping the one in four U.S. children currently suffering from hunger.
    Hypothetical example: Organization Good Cause asks its constituents to commit to donating a set amount of money each time their U.S. representative says “our children’s children” at the upcoming town hall meeting. To publicize its fund drive and generate momentum, it recruits a rich, famous person to pledge $1000 for each “children” reference. Two-hundred people who read about the fund drive in the paper each pledge an average of $2 per “children” reference. At the town hall, the representative makes 10 such references. Good Cause generates $14,000.
    But then, concern for “our children” abruptly disappeared, and with it, my fundraising idea … until Congress and President Obama discovered the job shortage in the U.S. and used it as an excuse to push deregulation, or free trade, or tax breaks, or a combination thereof (depending on who’s pushing).  (Exploiting a real policy problem to tout - ad nauseum - a corporate agenda is what I call “committing a nauseum”).
    This is not only an opportunity to call out leaders for pushing fake solutions to a real problem; this is an opportunity for the right (small "r") organization to raise money. This is an opportunity for the Occupy groups.  Here’s a hypothetical example, using Occupy Seattle:
    ·    Occupy Seattle (OS) asks people to commit to making a set donation each time ­­- between 10/24 and 10/31 -  either President Obama or any of the seven Republican presidential candidates commits a nauseum in any of the daily updates on their campaign or government websites.
    ·    OS gets the word out about its fund drive and generates buzz: OS mentions the fund drive in interviews with media, finds a rich famous person to make the first pledge, uses social media, …
    ·    OS sets up its website so that a visitor to the site can:
    1. Sign up to participate in the fund drive and electronically “send” donations;
    2. Get daily updates on: number of fund drive participants, number of nauseums committed, and amount of money raised so far; and
    3. Find out how OS will use (and has used) funds it raises.
    Occupy-ers (wherever you are), if you have a website, a webmaster, and maybe a famous person among your supporters, you could be on your way to raising money for those tents, first-aid kits, umbrellas, tarps, sleeping bags, rain ponchos...


    This Land's Still OUR Land

    Dear Reader: Here I go - again - writing new lyrics to old songs (this time, "This Land Is Your Land"). For those wanting posts on mechanics of fundraising and organizing, stay tuned...more of those to come!    Lisa Arnold

    They trampled our land, marked it with their brand
    From California to the New York Island
    From the Keystone Pipeline to the gulf stream waters
    Our land was raided by BP, et al.

    We loaned, banks gambled, they got us in debt.
    Now folks want to shred our social safety net:
    Programs for disabled, poor, and elderly
    Even Social Security.

    As I was walking, I saw some signs there.
    They said, “No free trade!” and “I need health care!”
    “Support our unions!” and “I’m a millionaire….”
    “…Tax me so I pay my fair share!”

    Ninety-Nine Percenters, whose jobs went overseas,
    Stuck with bad insurance, rising gas costs, bank fees,
    They're unifying and occupying.
    This land was made for you and me.

    In the squares of the city, coffee shops and diners…
    At farmers’ markets, are petition signers,
    Unions members, voters, protesters steadfastly
    Taking back our democracy.


    O Ye of Little Faith: Why I Support Occupy Seattle

    Occupy Wall Street/Seattle/Wherever: There’s no uniform message. No point. It’s unprofessional. Disorganized. “Just” a bunch of 20-somethings. Not serious.
    Not true. I don’t represent or speak for Occupy Seattle (or anywhere else). But I feel compelled to respond to these concerns that won’t go away.
    Here are Occupy messages that are hard to miss:
    1)  There are a lot of people out there who are really pissed off about how hard it is to take care of their basic needs - food, shelter, health care (hence, the “99%” signs).  Occupy protests are happening (or being planned) in Seattle, Olympia, New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Milwaukee, Madison, among others across the U.S. … Looks like the “personal responsibility” meme isn’t working so well right now.

    2)   And they (the pissed) are serious about demanding change: When was the last time Seattle saw a tent city of protesters showing up to demonstrate, sleep on the ground, pee in a porta-potty, wash with hand sanitizer, and eagerly await the donation of some stranger’s used socks and sleeping bag? At the same time similar protests were going on across the U.S.?
    To those who cite the absence of a single message as evidence of protesters’ disorganization, naiveté, etc., I say, Get real: Why expect a single message out of an uprising comprising people all over the nation? If these messages evidence anything, it is the breadth of the problems that must be addressed.
    What do demonstrations like Occupy Seattle accomplish? They:

    1)  Publicly challenge any doubt about whether there’s a problem, its severity, or the urgent need to act. It’s hard to deny (to oneself or others) how severe and widespread the problems are when people are occupying the streets in protest and getting arrested. All over the nation.

    2)  Liberate people afraid of making waves from the constraints of “polite” and “professional”  protest methods that are easy for those in power to ignore. Occupy Seattle makes it harder for office workers, store clerks and shoppers to pass protesters and continue to believe stereotypes of them as hippies, kooks, kids-who-don’t-know-better and other supposedly suspect characters who shouldn’t be paid any attention.  And Occupy Seattle makes it easier for “regular” people to join the protesters when they get off work or finish shopping.

    One more point: “Polite” or “professional” protest is not reliably democratic.  Meetings with the mayor and editorial boards are more available to some than to others. Running for elected office is not an option for most people. Position papers are things that few people know how to write, and fewer still are willing to read. But public protest is something that most people can participate in.
    Go, join Occupy Seattle, and see for yourself. And bring some extra socks to donate.


    It's Not Tricky To Fundraise On Halloween

    Attention small/new nonprofits: Does your organization need cash? Soon?

    Picture this: Teams of high school students descend on neighborhoods throughout your town, trick-or-treating for donations for your PTA or other nonprofit. (Of course, they carry with them written information about your group, and are prepared to briefly explain how donations will be used.) Could your nonprofit increase its cash flow by recruiting local high school students to trick-or-treat for donations?  Or will you wind up with a lot of those orange circus peanuts that no one ever eats?

    Let's look at a hypothetical situation. Assume your local high school's student volunteer organization has 32 members and assigns four students (safety in numbers) to each team of trick-or-treaters, resulting in 8 teams. Assume also that each team visits about 50 houses, collecting an average of $1.50 per house.

    Now the question is: Are you having flashbacks of math class story problems that ask things like, "If Pilar travels 50 miles to Maxwell's birthday party, Richard travels 6 miles, Nanette 18 miles, and each travels at 50 miles per hour, what is their aggregate weight when they get there?" Well put those thoughts aside.

    Okay. According to our scenario, we have: 8 teams x 50 houses/team  x  $1.50/house = $600. If your organization can round up two more groups to also participate (e.g. church youth group, YWCA teen group), you raise $1800. And so on.

    This fundraiser can be a good way to increase your cash flow without requiring a lot of your time. 

    To gauge if your organization can achieve similar results, ask yourself:
    • Is your community physically conducive to this fundraising activity? If houses are a mile apart from each other, or if your community consists of mostly apartment buildings, this fundraiser may not work for your group.
    • Safety: Will students feel that it's safe to participate, or will they stay home? How can you structure the activity in order to make it as safe as possible?
    • Can you prepare trick-or-treaters to explain to people they visit what your organization does and how donations will be used?
    • How much is the average donation per house likely to be?
    • How many houses will each team visit?
    • How many teams can you recruit?
    • Will people still trick-or-treat if it rains?

    How much of your organization's time will be required? Here's a list of things you can expect to do:
    • Identify local student volunteer club(s) that might be interested in organizing a trick-or-treat for donations.
    • Send a written request to the club(s); include information about your group and how you will use any money raised.
    • Make sure student trick-or-treaters have the necessary information to talk with people whose houses they visit about your group and how you will use donations raised; equip them with fact sheets also.
    • Collect the collected donations. Send a thank you notes to the student club.
    • Stay in touch with the club, which may be willing to work with you this time next year.
    If you do recruit students to trick-or-treat for your organization, make sure to note, on paper, who is doing what. If your group can limit its work to the above steps (more or less), this fundraiser can be a winner.

    You can make this fundraiser even more valuable by collecting the names and contact information of the people who donate to your trick-or-treaters:
    • Trick-or-treaters can invite people whose houses they visit to enter a drawing (you'll need a prize) by submitting their names and contact information on a drawing ticket. (Petitions, membership registrations, and raffles* can yield the same information.)
    • Enter collected names and contact information into your database.
    • Use your new contact information! Again and again and again. Invite your new friends to subscribe to your group's blog; send thank you notes, newsletters, and announcements. Some of them are likely to donate again. And again. And maybe also volunteer.  

    **Check with your Secretary of State about legal restrictions on nonprofit raffles.


    Oh, the need is connected to the mission, the mission is connected to the goals ...

    Imagine this: At an organization's board meeting, the Executive Director (ED) proudly announces that s/he has accepted a big check from the Playboy Foundation. For the organization's women's empowerment project. It was a long meeting, especially for the ED.

    Or (imagine) this: You're visiting the website of a nonprofit whose board you've been asked to join. You can't figure out the organization's mission. The mission statement says one thing but the organization's programs offer something different. You phone a staff person to inquire about the discrepancy, and learn that the current programming is the result of a grant opportunity the organization didn't want to pass up.

    These two nonprofits suffer from a common fundraising disorder that I call "making it up as you go along (MIUAYGA)." When so afflicted, an organization allows funding needs and/or opportunities to distort its mission and diminish its capacity to respond to the community needs that it exists to address.

    Sometimes this condition occurs simply because staff and board get so bogged down in day-to-day stuff, they forget that good fundraising is proactive and strategic. For these folks, I have developed a tool - a rhyme - to remind them of things that often get overlooked but should be in place before they put a deposit down on the ballroom at the new hotel downtown. 

    Remember the song, "Dem Bones"? ("Oh, the toe bone's connected to the foot bone, the foot bone's connected to the ...") My rhyme can be sung to that tune. I call it "Dem Fundraisers." Here it is:

    Once a year or so, the board should ask: Who and what?
    What's the need, what's the mess we want to clean up?
    Please note: It's not a need just 'cuz you say so
    (Some data you must show.)

    From the need you've found should flow your mission,
    So big and long-term, it can feel like wishin'
    From the mission flow goals and objectives - with ease -
    (Not from some RFPs!)

    From goals and objectives come the action steps:
    When to break ground, and who plans, who trains, who schleps ...
    After action steps, it's time to make a budget
    (Be exact - don't fudge it!)

    Now you know how much you need to raise and why:
    Ten thousand bucks for computers your school must buy 
    To supply 20 low-income youth with tools they need
    As students to succeed.

    Next list who might give your group donations:
    People, governments, foundations, corporations...
    Now  ... you can ask yourself how to raise the needed cash -
    Grants, fees, or gala bash*?

    Follow these steps; save yourself lots of trouble
    No more planning fundraisers in a bubble
    You might even see your revenue double 
    Your good work's more fundable!

    * There are more choices available than the three mentioned in this rhyme. For example, also available are choices having to do with:  

    - source of support/revenue: e.g. individual donors, government, foundations, corporations,    
      earned income, etc.; 
    - type of relationship between the nonprofit and revenue source, e.g. donor acquisition, 
      retention, and upgrading, etc.; and
    - support transfer mechanisms, e.g. grants, contracts, sponsorships, fees, responses to direct 
      mail, events, etc.

    This post is about what your organization should do before it plans its fundraising activities. As for how to plan fundraising, well, that's a topic for another post.


    What Are You Doing on Saturday September 24th?

    I know what I'll be doing.

    I will be at the 2nd Annual Dance Against Domestic Abuse:

        a showcase of
             some of Seattle's most innovative and exciting belly dancers,

            a dance party, and

                an art auction,

                  organized to raise money for Thrivers' Action Group (TAG),
                        a local 501 c (3) nonprofit organization
                          dedicated to helping people    
                            understand how to recognize, address, and prevent
                              domestic violence.

    Last year's event was a blast! You won't want to miss it. More details:
    See you there!


    Grants for School/PTA/School Group-Sponsored Gardens

    Whole Foods, the Whole Kids Foundation, and FoodCorps (a national service organization dedicated to fighting childhood obesity) are collaborating to offer grants and technical assistance for garden projects sponsored by K-12 schools or affiliated 501 (c) (3) organizations.

    Awards include:
    • $2000
    • Support and mentoring for one year from FoodCorps
    Key dates include:
    • December 31, 2011: Application deadline
    • February 2012: Award notifications begin.
    For more information, visit:

    Five Fundraisers that Are Fast, Frugal, Fun (and Maybe Funny)

    Here are five ideas to try:

    Hosting A House Party

    With each person contributing under 10 hours and under $10, five volunteers for a small community group held a house party that netted about $5000.

    Here’s how: The party host made invitations that she and the other four volunteers each mailed to 10 people. All five made follow-up phone calls to invitees to encourage their support of the event; many made reminder calls as well. Each volunteer brought an appetizer, dessert or beverage to the party.  A community leader served as a guest speaker, and with the host, made a brief request for donations, while the others passed donation baskets and envelopes. After, they sent personalized thank you notes to donors.

    Note: Though finding a guest speaker helped draw people to this event, it is not necessary to successful turnout. In my experience, attendance at house parties depends more on how interesting or entertaining the event’s program is, and how diligently the “inviters” follow up personally (e.g., face-to-face or by phone) with the invitees. 

    Additional information about throwing house parties can be found online, and in fundraising books and articles.

    Gathering the silent auction items and raffle prizes you already have:

    The board of a small community nonprofit hatched a last-minute plan to hold a silent auction at their open house, which was on the next day. They each gathered gifts they had received, but had not opened and did not intend to use. These would be their auction items. Before the open house, they outfitted a six-foot long table with a pretty tablecloth, the auction items, and bid sheets they had created. By the end of the event, a couple of hours later, they had raised over $1000.

    What if you could collect your:
    ·         Unused holiday, wedding, shower, graduation, and other gifts,
    ·         Must-have purchases that you forgot about after buying them…

    And what if you could collect similar unused items from:
    ·         Family members,
    ·         Neighbors,
    ·         Friends,
    ·         Other volunteers,
    ·         Newsletter recipients…

    And what if you could use the collected items for an online fundraiser auction?

    Or a silent auction (can be especially fruitful when it's before the holidays so that shoppers can buy holiday gifts) at places or events like:

    · Schools (e.g. silent auction in the hallways/cafeteria)
    · Benefit events?
    · Performances?
    · Your place of worship, after the weekly service?

    Raffles for revelry as well as revenue

    Here’s an example of how to hold a raffle when you’re short on raffle prizes: In conjunction with their singles’ benefit dance, a community group held an “evil ex” raffle. They asked benefit invitees to donate unwanted gifts from ex-girlfriends/boyfriends for use as raffle prizes. The array of items that materialized not only included great prizes (e.g. jewelry, art), but also served as a much-enjoyed form of entertainment. You can produce similar raffles with holiday gifts, wedding gifts, etc.

    Note: Check your state gambling commission’s regulations before planning a raffle.

    Reusing and recycling: Or, What do ink cartridges, flower bulbs and dental crowns have in common?

    Here are examples of things you can turn into funds for your organization:

    · Ink Cartridges that you collect at home and work; from friends, family, etc. and redeem for cash 

    · Dental crowns: I know of a dentist who saves unwanted crowns after she extracts them, sells them to a refinery, and donates the proceeds to charity.

    · Garden clippings: Try selling your extra bulbs, starts, flowers, etc. at places/events where large groups of people gather (e.g. your school, place of worship, neighborhood festival). Don’t forget to solicit plant starts from neighbors and other gardeners who might support your cause.

    What else could you (and your fellow fundraisers) use to raise revenue? Old books (to sell to used book stores)? Old clothes (for consignment)?
    Building your fundraiser around your organization's strengths, assets, resources, and opportunities

    Remember the singles’ raffle? The party planners expected over 100 guests who were very supportive of their organization’s cause - and who also had very little discretionary income. Their guests’ financial limitations did not deter the planners from devising a way to put all that support to good use. Instead, they came up with the raffle idea as a way for cash-strapped guests to contribute to their cause.


    Get Free Labor! No Outsourcing Jobs & Exploiting Workers Required

    Does your nonprofit organization need help with:
    • Work in specialized fields (e.g. help designing a fund development plan)?
    • Work in technical fields (e.g. help researching, purchasing, and setting up a new electronic donor database)?
    • Research (e.g. conducting an inventory of affordable housing units in your community)?
    • Office work?
    • Fundraisers (e.g. processing winning bids/purchases at the annual benefit auction)? and 
    • Miscellaneous jobs (e.g. photography and graphic design for annual reports and event programs; entertainment for special events; etc.)?

    If so, maybe it's time to go back to school...and find students who would be interested in donating their time and talents to your cause. 

    Where to find students to help:

    • Many nonprofits recruit student interns/volunteers from universities and colleges, but forget to recruit from community colleges and high schools. Do you know how many community colleges and high schools are in the greater Seattle area? I don't either; but I do know that there are more community colleges than four-year programs and universities. Same for high schools.  
    • Another point about high schools: many require students to perform a minimum number of hours of community service in order to graduate, thereby making your recruitment job easier.
    • Check out the full spectrum of local academic programs related to your organization's work. For example, if you can't find student support for a specific project in a school's social work program, perhaps you can support for it through the school's public policy, public administration, urban studies, or business programs.

    Groups of student volunteers can be found in/at:
    • Classes,
    • Community service groups,
    • Student organizations dedicated to a specific field of study or issue,
    • Social groups, and
    • Sororities/fraternities. 

    Before you recruit student support, do your homework! Some of the most important things to study include:
    • Costs and benefits of working with volunteers/interns,
    • How to recruit the right people for your organization, and
    • How to structure the volunteer/intern experience so that it is a positive one for all parties involved.  

    Here are some helpful resources: 
    • idealist.org:
    • Oregon Volunteers: 
    • Minnesota Association for Volunteer Administration:

    Now Is the Time to Act.

    The sooner your nonprofit reaches out to local school staff and students, the more likely you will be to get volunteers and interns. In many cases, decisions about volunteer work and internships are made early in the school year. (Note: You may find that some internships were matched with nonprofit organizations last spring.)

    A Final Thought            

    Sometimes nonprofit people resist the idea of working with students. "Why bother?" they ask. "They'll be gone in nine months!" 

    Student interns and volunteers may come and go. But their schools and school organizations are usually more stable. If your organization forges a good relationship with your volunteers'/intern's school this year, that school may become a reliable source of student support for years to come.