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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Organizing a Fundraiser - Part 2, Bringing it Together

My good friend Jeni that was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer at 39 years old this past September is completing her last radiation treatment today!  I'm overwhelmed with joy that the toughest part is over!!

Back in February and March we held a couple of big (for us) fundraising events to help her as much as possible to pay for all the out-of-pocket expenses she faces so she could focus on getting through treatment and getting healthy.  I learned so much about organizing a fundraiser for an individual's medical expenses, and there wasn't one great source for all the information I gathered, so I thought I'd share some thoughts to hopefully help others in this endeavor.

Part 1, Getting Started was posted before the main event.  At that time, I had really learned a lot, but since the events are behind us now I am better able to really give some advice.  In this second post about Organizing a Fundraiser, I will describe how to bring all the planning together to execute a successful event, as well as make a few comments on things that worked well, and things that could have been better. You can read about our fundraiser specifically at

We focused on one main event, a "Pizza Fun Night" at a local Round Table Pizza (more on this in a moment).  We had a raffle, a silent auction, and a bake sale AT the event as well, which were all put together from donations from friends and family and the community.  This is where we left off last time, so we'll start with tips on asking for help from the community.


Ask for Help

We put together a template letter that, on one page, gave a little back story about our friend and what she was going through, and then requested any donation the business could make, and indicated that we would put their logo or business name on as many marketing materials as we could.  We included the logo seen above for our fundraiser (part of our "branding" strategy that I discussed in the first post), as well as logos for all the businesses that had already donated something (nothing wrong with a little peer pressure!).

We divided the target businesses among three committee members (we each did about twenty letters or so).  If we didn't know, we contacted the business to find out who would be responsible for making a decision about a fundraiser donation.  Then we addressed each letter directly to that person.  Each of us included our own contact information on the letters we distributed (so that each business had one go-to person).  We specified in each letter a specific date on which we would follow up. 

We mailed a few letters, but personally delivered most of them.  We started with businesses to which someone in our planning group had a personal connection (other folks helping with the event also reached out to their connections), then we branched out to major names (large and small) in our community.  I was BLOWN AWAY at the response and support we got! We ended up with over seventy raffle prizes, and over twenty items for the silent auction!

A few observations...

Raffle AND Silent Auction  We decided to do both a raffle and silent auction when we started receiving some donations that were pretty specific in terms of who might be excited to receive the item.  For example, we got a full 1 year membership to a specific location of Curves donated (soooo awesome!), but the winner would have to be a female that is able to go to that location, so we thought that would be a perfect silent auction item, but not so great for a raffle.  And we divided all the donations between the raffle and auction with similar criteria.

You are NOT Alone  It became extremely clear that there are TONS of fundraisers for many different causes going on at any one time.  The bigger the business's name, the more requests for donations it receives.   Constantly.  I had been told that large companies and chains (with deeper pockets) would be more apt to donate for our raffle.  I found the EXACT OPPOSITE to be true.  We got a few donations from major chains, almost exclusively when someone in the group had a significant connection at the business.  BUT, a lot of this may have had to do with the timing of our event.  We planned and executed our event from start to finish within about 7 weeks.  A few of the chains let us know that they have committees that meet and discuss donations at certain times.  For Costco, we might have gotten something had we approached them at least 90 days in advance.  Target and a few others meet every six months to consider donations.  Best Buy and a few others meet monthly.  If donations from these types of stores are important to you, it will need to affect your timeline.  But we found small, local businesses to be very generous.

A BIG Donation really helps  A friend that was involved in planning the events donated his timeshare, a week-long stay at a Beach Resort villa in Cabo San Lucas, worth over $2000!  As you can imagine, this prize had a major impact on our raffle ticket sales, and created quite a buzz with folks at the event and on Facebook.  Especially because I could post photos like the one below from the resort!

{Photo Source}
We sold raffle tickets in advance and at the event.  They were $2 each or 3 for $5.  We sold more than I expected in advance (the most successful were those of us that work at places with lots of people around), but we sold even more at the event with the buzz about Cabo, and the raffle was the most significant part of the money we raised, by several fold.

Silent Auction: Beyond the Event  We decided to post the items for our silent auction on Facebook and start the auction on Facebook a few days in advance of the event, and to continue the auction during the event both live at Round Table Pizza and on Facebook, for those from out-of-town or that couldn't make it down.  I photographed each item and edited a "card" with the image and information on each item to upload as a single photo to Facebook.  Then people made bids via commenting on the photo.  We sold at least half of the items via Facebook.  It was a bit tricky for me during the last few minutes of bidding, but the timestamps of comments posted on Facebook helped.  I definitely recommend verifying that your event location has a WiFi connection you can use prior to doing something like this.


Flyers I created flyers with my image editing software that included our branding, and information about the event and all of its activities, as well as kudos to all of our sponsors and other ways to make donations.  We posted this flyer at as many businesses around town as we were able.

Social Media  As I mentioned in the first post, I created a blog and Facebook page for the Help the Harris Family fundraiser.  We shared updates on events and how Jeni was doing via these media.  Everyone connected with the fundraiser shared update posts about the event, the raffle prizes, the silent auction items constantly in the week or so leading up to the event to spread the word.  

Newspaper   We submitted a press release to the local newspapers.  The press release was a concise version of the back story and event information adapted from the letter we gave to businesses, along with a headline.  We followed up to make sure the local paper would run a story or ad about our event.  They listed our event in their community events section, and they also had a reporter write a story about the event.  It was a large story and included a version of the flyer - so awesome!!  I know that some people were at the event, and tuned into the silent auction on Facebook, because of this promotion specifically.

Radio   Two different people in the greater planning group had contacts in the radio world in our area, so we sent our press release out via those people, but we didn't really follow-up directly and I regretted this in the last few days before the event.  I have no idea if we were ever mentioned on any radio stations...  So I would recommend arranging an introduction, instead of completely delegating something like this, so you maintain the ability to follow-up, because follow-up was really key in everything we did.

Television   In our community, there is one news station that features community groups on the air to promote events, so we submitted our press release and contacted them several times.  We were able to list our event on their community events website, but the TV spots seemed to go by a lottery system (or if you knew someone probably), so we never made it on the air. 


The Event was a HUGE Success!

The Pizza Fun Night was an amazing success.   Due to our promotions, we had that restaurant busting at the seams for a full 2 hours of our 4 hour window.  It was amazing.  They were calling in all available employees, and I heard it was the restaurant's busiest Monday night ever!

We were able to help with a small but significant chunk of the Harris Family's medical expenses, and I know that was huge for them.  Jeni's family also planned two events (a pancake breakfast and raffle) at the Moose Lodge in her hometown, and as I understand it, those were pretty successful too!

While I wish we could have raised all the money they needed, I know that every dollar we raised is a about 75 cents they don't have to worry about (after taxes), and I am SO glad we did it, because they certainly deserve all the help!!! 


A Note about the Round Table Pizza Fundraiser Program

We were definitely grateful to be able to work on all the above parts of the event, rather than worry about venue and food planning, so we have no regrets about hosting the event at Round Table Pizza.  However, we didn't find out until the day of the event that folks using coupons would have a direct impact on the portion of sales we received.  For example, we were set to get 20% of the proceeds from all non-alcohol sales.  So if someone bought a pizza for $10, we would get $2.  But what we didn't know in advance, was that if that same person used a $2-off coupon, we would get nothing from that sale.  I strongly advise that if you take advantage of a fundraising program at a restaurant like we did, that you ask specifically in advance how coupons will affect you.  Had we known, we might have been able to at least put a message out on Facebook for everyone we knew to let them know that they should save their coupons, if they were able.

All-in-all, the money we raised from Round Table was tiny in comparison with the other events we held there.  We were surprised when we heard the final amount, given how ridiculously busy they were (people were waiting close to two hours for their food at one point) that we had raised so little, and they said there were a lot of coupons used.   But I reiterate that we really wouldn't have gone any other way (except maybe to see if the other local restaurants that had similar programs might not have had this coupon rule). 

This post is linked up to the following link parties:

Home Decor and Organizing Link Party @ organize & decorate everything

Weekend Bloggy Reading @ Serenity Now

Monday, May 21, 2012

May Blog Networking Blog-Hop

I am participating in this awesome Networking Blog Hop to introduce folks to new blogs, and to introduce my blog to others!  It is co-hosted by a lovely blog that I follow, At the Picket Fence.

May Networking Blog Hop
Click on the link to view the long list of awesome, awesome blogs!

Have a great week!!

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Dilemma: A Dreamy Office/Playroom?

We have always planned in the back of our minds to have our daughters share a room once they are both in regular beds.  This is the only way we could have a third child, and even if we didn't we could really use the extra space.  But this week my husband said "What if we put the girls together NOW and gave you an office?" 

What, what, WHAT?  Zoe is 1 year old in less than 2 weeks, and will be in a crib for quite awhile still.  Plus I JUST got both rooms looking great, so my immediate response was "That's crazy, let's wait...".

But now that the idea is settling in, I am obsessed with it.  Of course, I've already stuffed my new office with much more than will actually fit in there, and redecorated it five times in my head.

Right now, my office is behind the couch in the living room.  I know the husband is as bothered as I am (or more) by the cramped feeling (and look) of having my office in the living room.  But while it isn't as pleasing to the eye, having my office in the living room makes it possible for me to do a little work or create something quickly while the kids are playing.  So I've accepted that it's function over form for now.  Would I hate having my office in a whole other room, away from the main action of the house?  Hmmm...

Maybe I can move the action... I would love to split the new office in half, and have my desk and crafting area on one side, and a play area for the girls on the other.   I'm convinced this can work because my sister-in-law has an amazing office/craft room/play room in her house.  I mean A-MA-ZING.  She has agreed to let me blog about it, so I'll show you sometime.

Here is some inspiration from Pinterest...

{Source via Pinterest}

{Source via Pinterest}

{Source via Pinterest}

{Source via Pinterest}

{Source via Pinterest}
All of these inspiration images have beautiful built-ins, and since my budget should be zero dollars for this project, we'll probably start with something much more simple... but I'm definitely feeling dreamy about having this space!!  And there are some very budget-friendly ideas in there too! 

There are the girls to consider though...  Both girls sleep pretty well, so I'm not so worried about them sharing a sleep space.  Hopefully that would stay the same when they're together...  Does anyone else out there have a preschooler and an infant sleeping in the same room?  I know it happens all the time, and the kids will adapt, right?

What challenges am I not anticipating from this arrangement??  My head is really spinning with inspiration today!!

PLEASE weigh in with your thoughts!!

This post is linked up to:

Weekend Bloggy Reading @ Serenity Now

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Path to Our Dream Home: Little Girl's Room

Today we continue the Path to Our Dream Home series with our older daughter's bedroom.  To catch up, you can visit these posts: Back to the Beginning, the Main Bath, the Guest Bath, the Utility/Storage Room, the Media Closet, and the Nursery.  Each post tours the space in photographs, and shows how we work a lot of organization and function into each room of our small house.  There are many project ideas for each room, so none of them is ever "done", but they are all on the path to our dream home!

We planned for our second child about the same time our older daughter was ready to move into a regular bed.  Since we wanted to re-use the nursery furniture, we opted to move Alyssa into a different room with new (to her) furniture.  In order to completely separate Alyssa's transition from the new baby's arrival, we put together her new room as a surprise for Christmas, and Zoe was due in late May.  That worked very well for us; Alyssa's didn't associate her new room with her baby sister at all.

We based the color scheme for Alyssa's room on a beautiful play quilt that my extremely talented Mom made for Alyssa when she was a newborn.  Her previous room had been pastel pink, green, yellow and purple and I wanted to incorporate some brighter colors into a similar color scheme (so we could re-purpose her curtains, but more on that in a minute!).  This was perfect!

Then I found these canvas prints and pillows at Target and they coordinated perfectly!

We chose a white bed and trundle that can also be made into bunk beds with the purchase of a second bed, in case we ever decide to have the girls share.  We repainted the dresser and nightstand from my teenage bedroom white for use in her room, and painted the walls a soft lavender.  I chose a quilted coverlet that is bright pink on one side and lighter pink on the other side and simple lavender bedding, all of which could stay in the room with different accessories as she gets older if we choose.

My super talented Mom also helped transform the window-length curtains she had made for Alyssa's nursery into a coordinating valance for the new room by shortening them and adding custom appliqued flowers in brighter colors to tie in with the accessories in the room.

I discussed the awesome wire art hanging system in an earlier post. We really like the ease of changing out the artwork.

Someday we'll add a hang-up bar for clothes, but right now the closet is all about toys storage.  We use natural bins from IKEA to covertly stash toys all over our house, including here in the closet.  Dolls and doll clothes go in a slightly larger basket and vehicles are parked here as well.  The top shelf gives Mommy a little extra storage for over-sized items.  We'll put the doors on sometime when the girls are both a bit bigger, but for now it is easier access with them off (and they still haven't been sanded or painted, to be honest!).

At the end of her bed, Alyssa also has a play area where her imagination can really run wild.  Since she loves to help her Daddy works on cars, she spends just as much time at the workbench fixing things as she does playing in the kitchen - so awesome!

Many more projects are also planned for this room, so we'll be back here soon!!  :)

This room has all the different areas a pre-school girl needs.  How do you coordinate the sections of your children's rooms?

This post is linked up to the following link parties:

Home Decor and Organizing Link Party @ organize & decorate everything

Party Time @ The 36th Avenue

Whatever Goes Wednesday @ Someday Crafts

Delightfully Inspiring Thursday @ Delightful Order

Hookin Up with HOH @ House of Hepworths

Transformation Thursday @ The Shabby Creek Cottage

Flaunt it Friday @ Chic on a Shoestring Decorating

Inspiration Friday @ At the Picket Fence

Weekend Bloggy Reading @ Serenity Now

Motivate Me Monday @ Keeping It Simple

DIY Project Parade @ DIY Showoff

Sundae Scoop @ I Heart Nap Time

Overflowing with Creativity @ It's Overflowing

Love It, Like It, Link It @ The Organised Housewife

Weekend Warrior Party @ Ask Anna

Metamorphosis Monday @ Between Naps on the Porch
One Project at a Time @ A Bowl Full of Lemons

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day Cards

Happy Mother's Day to all the mommies out there!  

I am quite happy with how our cards for Mother's Day turned out this year, so I thought I'd share.  I enjoy hand-making cards, and I maintain a stock of paper, blank cards, and supplies so I can put together cards on a moment's notice for almost any occasion.

I got out a few sets of pretty paper and let my 3-year-old choose the specific paper for this year's Mother's Day cards.  She chose this colorful, funky, flowery paper. 

From there, we decided how to deliver the message.  I usually use a stamp for this purpose, but this year I didn't want to just say "Happy Mother's Day".  I chose this stamp with a bird and cute flower that says "for you" and stamped it on yellow paper that coordinates with the main paper in brown ink.  I also ran the ink pad around the outside edge of the cut-out to finish it off.

Then Alyssa helped me choose an embellishment to add a little something extra to the simple design.  We chose mauve heart-shaped brads.  I used my Croc-o-Dile punch to attach the message paper to the main paper with the brad as shown. 

We've had a nice day of visiting with family and I'm looking forward to a quiet, relaxing evening with my kids and hubby tonight.  What do you do to celebrate Mother's Day?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Path to Our Dream Home: Nursery

Today we continue the Path to Our Dream Home series with our second daughter's nursery.  To catch up, you can visit these posts: Back to the Beginning, the Main Bath, the Guest Bath, the Utility/Storage Room, and the Media Closet.  Each post tours the space in photographs, and shows how we work a lot of organization and function into each room of our small house.  There are many project ideas for each room, so none of them is ever "done", but they are all on the path to our dream home!

I don't have before pictures for any of the bedrooms as they are just standard bedrooms and the changes were all cosmetic - paint, ceiling fans, faux wood blinds for the windows, and new floors.  My husband did scrape off the old popcorn ceiling treatments, which made a huge difference in terms of updating the spaces.

We moved our older daughter Alyssa into another room in order to re-use the nursery furniture for our second daughter Zoe.  Since my Mom is a super-talented quilter, we based the decor for the room on a quilt she made; we chose the pattern and fabrics together specifically for the room.   We based the look loosely on the example quilt pictured for the pattern, which was from the book Quilting for Baby.  We achieved a completely different (and gorgeous) look for the re-decorated room by avoiding pinks and purples.

The back of the quilt is a fabulous chocolate brown minky fabric that allows you to really see the beautiful quilting work.

We used extra fabric to make this beautiful, inexpensive matching memory board.  I'll cover how to do this in another post soon.

We left the top half of the walls the same celery green it had been for Alyssa's nursery, but painted the bottom half of the walls chocolate brown and added a chair rail (after the glider made it clear exactly where it was needed by scuffing up the wall in the previous nursery!).  Three black-out panels in chocolate brown cover the wide window.  I have plans for some modifications to these soon, so stay tuned!

New bedding with cute green and brown polka-dots coordinates with the room perfectly.

We also re-used the white high-shag rug from Alyssa's nursery (it was from Target originally).  With a professional cleaning from an awesome local carpet cleaning company, it is still white!!

I found these baskets at Michael's which are the perfect color of not-so-common blue for this room, and I was extra excited when they were on sale that day!  They are the perfect solution to contain and hide away all the infant-care and diapering supplies!  And this dresser's many drawers provide the storage we need for Zoe's clothing, since this room has no closet.

I am in love with how this room turned out!  Some projects I have planned will make it even better!!
How do you re-decorate rooms to have a totally new look without changing the anchoring furniture?

This post is linked up to the following parties:

Delightfully Inspiring Thursday Party at Delightful Order

Hookin Up with HOH at House of Hepworths

Home Decor and Organizing Link Party at Organize & Decorate Everything 

Sticker and Party Time at The 36th Avenue 

Weekend Warrior Link Party at Ask Anna

Metamorphosis Monday at Between Naps on the Porch

One Project at a Time at A Bowl Full of Lemons

Inspiration Board at Homework

Weekend Bloggy Reading @ Serenity Now
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