Friday, May 27, 2016

Mommy's Building a Playground: Adventures in Fundraising

Today, I watched a construction company begin the demolition at our elementary school playground, to make way for the Cornerstone PlayLab, which is an ADA accessible outdoor play and learning environment for pre-K to 4th graders, including those with special needs, at our neighborhood public elementary school. I've written previously about our successful fundraising campaign here.
So many people have provided encouragement along the way, and I want to say thank you, to all those who donated time and money or just gave a pat on the back when it was sorely needed. I have always volunteered in small ways, but I have never been part of such a large-scale, multi-year project. I had never done any fundraising before this project. Without the encouragement of so many friends, acquaintances and strangers, I probably would have given up on it. 
Let's do this!
And I also wanted to thank the haters, to all those who said it wouldn’t happen, to the one who said it wouldn’t be built in her lifetime, to the one who said we couldn’t hope to raise the money, to the one who said he’d make damn sure we didn’t, to the one who thought it was a good idea, but not for this state/town/public school/kids like these, to the one who said the very idea of it was against the better interest of the entire community…thank you...because each time one of these negative encounters occurred, we were motivated to raise even more money, to build something even better. I'd guess, by my rough estimation, each of these fine individuals helped to indirectly raise a quarter of our total.
My husband recently asked me what I've learned through all of this. I started writing it down, and it became a long list. Here ‘tis:

Only say “yes” to projects you are completely passionate about.
Your community is full of amazing people you haven’t met. Expand your circle.
While expanding your circle, realize you may not agree on everything, but if you agree on the project, that’s what matters.
The amount of people out there who are good-hearted and generous vastly outnumbers the people who aren’t.
For every 100 people, 99 of them will love ice-cream and one will not. There is no explaining this. Stop trying to get that one person to love ice-cream!
You have no time for the constant complainers and whiners. You have important work to do. Buh-bye.
If there is a nugget of truth to the complaints and whines, you must examine it and think of a solution.
If you can imagine it, it might just be possible to do it. Dream big.
No one wants to support a C-level project. Design the most ambitious thing you can think of, your A-project, your dream project, and others will see your excitement.
Take the proper time to lay the groundwork for a campaign’s success. It’s much easier to get a donation from someone who is already familiar with, and loves, the project. PR is everything.
You might get to your target goal faster with a half dozen major donors, but it’s much more meaningful if you get there with a few bigger donors and lots and lots and lots of smaller ones.
It takes time to meet with people and explain your project, but the details can be just as important to the $10 donor as the $10,000 one. Ownership is everything. Let everyone feel a part of it.
Anyone who would attempt to de-rail a worthwhile project such as this has problems that probably have nothing to do with you or the project. Try not to take it personally.
If someone feels the need to de-rail, it means the project is gaining momentum. Keep going.
You can never thank the people who helped you too many times.
Don’t expect to be thanked yourself, but take a moment to enjoy it when it happens.
Remember who you’re doing this for.
Recognize and be grateful for what the project has done for you (community service brings greater personal happiness).
Listen and learn from all the people who have done this type of thing many times before you.
Don’t be afraid to speak up when you think the advice of those people might be wrong.
When in doubt, ask the lawyer. Always, get it in writing.
Build a strong enough team so that any one person can take a mental health day (or week), and the project won’t fall apart.
Some people take longer to see the light. If/when they do, try not to hold a grudge.
Someday, probably soon, you’re going to look back on this hard work and miss it.
You’ll not have a chance to do this particular project again. Make it spectacular.

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