Monday, April 22, 2013

To ask or not to ask...

I'm really struggling with fundraising.  This past month, it has become a major part of my life in multiple areas.

You may remember that I coordinate the Autism Spectrum Support Group of Southern Maryland.  We have been supported over the years by the Learning Disabilities Association of St. Mary's County, a United Way Agency.  When we come into a little money of our own, we "bank" it with the LDA-SMC so that everything is on the up-and-up.  And if we need something that we can't afford, the LDA-SMC helps out.

Unfortunately, overall giving to the United Way is way down.  Scary way down.  Therefore, the funding that the LDA-SMC receives from the UW is just as scary way down, and that directly impacts local families.  For example, last year, the LDA-SMC and the Autism Spectrum Support Group were able to provide "camperships" for local families; this year, the LDA can offer only a few, and the Support Group none at all.  Additionally, the upcoming executive functioning workshop (May 11th at the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center, registration at www.latelostunprepared.eventbrite.com) will have a fee -- something that rarely happens when the LDA-SMC sponsors a workshop -- just to break even.

Because the United Way wants its members to do more fundraising -- to be truthful, the LDA-SMC and the Autism Support Group have done little to date -- we've been racking our brains (Did I mention I'm an LDA-SMC board member?) to come up with ideas.  The most immediate one we could think of is raffles at the EF workshop:  a basket of books for teachers and another for parents.  Plus we cleaned out the LDA-SMC storage shed last weekend and uncovered a number of highly coveted books we bought and never sold; those will go out on our table, too.

The Autism Spectrum Support Group is now out of funds.  We're contributing to the EF workshop, plus we've just spent oodles (relatively speaking -- really just the last of our money) on promotional items (business cards, banners and signs, giveaways with our logo and website, etc.) plus our one fundraiser:  car magnets.

We dithered quite awhile about pricing.  We'd really rather give them away to spread the word, increase membership, become a presence -- though since we've been in existence for 11 years, I like to think we are at least somewhat of a presence.  But we have to refill the coffers.  Unfortunately, just like with the local annual Autism Awareness Day event held in years past, it's the families of people with ASDs who attend and raise the money from their own wallets.  (This year, the Autism Awareness Day event seemed to tap into the wallets of a hugely diverse group; I didn't feel all that guilty hounding Support Group members to attend!)  We settled on $7 for the magnets.  We've sold five.  We have to sell 28-1/2 magnets to make back the outlay.  Sigh.

We're considering lots of other ideas, too, but here's where I smack up against another need.  My daughter's Girl Scout troop decided to travel abroad in two years, to Italy and Greece on one of those educational tours, so all their cookie money and fall product sales will go towards the thousands of dollars each girl has to pay.  Cookies just aren't going to cut it, so the girls are already working on fundraising -- as are the parents!  (Because Girl Scouts has incredibly rigid rules about girls' fundraising, some of these activities will be done as "Friends of..." -- like Band Boosters at many high schools.)

Our first event is a yard sale on May 4th.  We parents are donating our own yard sale items, plus we're asking friends/neighbors for donations.  I've got one friend lined up, and I've spent several hours down the basement sorting my own items.  (It had to be done; I vowed after January's flood that nothing would go back where it belongs without being sorted and cleaned, and if I no longer have a use for it, it will be culled.  Aside from some boxes of paperwork left in the living room, the main floors are done.  The basement, however, became the dumping ground during the renovation, and it could be featured on an episode of Hoarders -- Extreme Edition.)  Girls will help haul, set up, post signs, and staff a bake sale table. 

We're considering selling Blue Crab tickets, Krispy Kremes, and BJs memberships.  We're looking into charity nights at Texas Roadhouse, Chick-fil-A, and Applebee's.  We're planning car washes and badge workshops.  The problem is that most of these ideas will work as fundraisers for either the trip abroad or for the Support Group, so I'm torn.  I don't want to bother people over and over again, but everybody needs.

Another problem is that this is a really bad time to ask local families to donate.  Sequestration's furloughs, though pushed back and reduced in number, are still the plan, and among my friends, their anticipation is already having an impact.

I grew up valuing doing for others; we rarely asked for help.  However, I learned more than a decade ago that perspectives can change on a dime when your child has special needs and you are the one who has to make sure they're met.  I'll ask for almost anything, make a pain of myself if necessary, to help them.  Fundraising, though, is new to me.  I'm outside my comfort zone already just doing the above, but here goes:  If you've got ideas for fundraisers, could you share them?  And if you'd like to donate (yard sale items, time, money) to any of the above, let me know.

[That felt just awful.  Do you think I'll get used to it?[


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