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.