Every year for years, my church puts on an annual fundraiser called The Great Gathering. It's similar to most fundraisers - dinner, drinks and auction items. Like many other fundraising events, my church stopped offering the silent auctions of tangible items and instead raises money by having groups of people donate sponsored events such as: "Scotch Tasting at the Smiths", "Broomball at the Gumps", "Pedal Pub with the Johnsons" or "YogaFit Wine & Cheese". We bring our calendars (i.e. smartphones) to The Great Gathering and sign up for as many events as we want. These event gatherings bring a sense of enjoyment and community as well as raise funds for the church. I love these win-win situations!
I have always felt a little pressure from all of the organizations we belong to because of my hub's job and his connections to the local NFL team. I’ve donated autographed footballs and jerseys and only once, I donated tickets to a home football game. I think people assume that the football players walk around the office and all my hub has to do is hand over a sharpie and a football or a jersey. Everyone has a story. For example, "Can your hub get a football signed? It's for my cousin who is the BIGGEST fan in the world and he's turning 40." Or "This fundraiser is the only time I will ever ask you for a favor because this cause is very important to me." My hub has no problem asking for autographed items to give to anyone terminally ill but other than that, he won't ask for anything. I have to go through the same channels as everybody else when I want an autographed item donated. Every NFL team has a Community Relations department and I may be biased but we have the best one. It's a department that does wonderful things for countless organizations and gives back to the community ten-fold. I would love a job in that department because I really like giving. However, I don’t envy that job at all. On one hand, you are able to make people feel special yet on the other hand, how do you choose among the many thousands of organizations that really need something in order to raise money for their causes. I explained to a friend who once asked me to use my "pull" to get a donation for a childrens’ theatre company seeking funds to sponsor kids who can’t afford the tuition for acting camps or tickets to the plays. I told her I save my favors to get things like a private tour of the Vikings’ facility for a four year old little boy who was dying in less than 2 weeks (sadly, Cal Thomas Reinhardt was exhausted the day of the tour so he didn't go. He died two days later - just shy of his 5th birthday). My point is, I would want to help everyone if I could. The one time I donated tickets to a game it turned out to be more of hassle than it was worth. I donated the tickets for an event that was taking place before the NFL schedule came out so no one knew what home games were available at the time of the auction. The winner of the tickets had to contact me once the schedule came out. There was a stipulation that the game they chose could not be a divisional game - meaning it could not be a Packer, Lions or Bears game. And because my seats were in the same section as the football players’ families - I added another stipulation that wearing gear of the opposing team was not allowed. What a hassle for the winner. I felt bad but my four tickets raised $800-900 for the fundraiser.
After lots of thought I decided I wanted to donate something worthwhile to raise money for this year's church gathering. I stayed away from offering a private tour of the new U.S. Bank Stadium or handing over tickets and a signed jersey. Our family supports a foundation for a certain legendary Viking player who has been living a very inspirational life. I happen to know his daughter Kamie Page because she was my son's second grade teacher last year. She is a magical, wonderful spirit in the educational field and I am forever in her debt. I thought of a plan that could help the foundation and my church. I reached out to her this summer to see if she would like to read the two books she wrote with her father, Alan Page. To my surprise they had written a third book that was coming out at the end of the summer!!! She was very open to my proposal. My idea for an event would raise $100 per family - maxing out at 20 families. Fifty dollars would buy three books: Alan and His Perfectly Pointy Impossibly Perpendicular Pinky , The Invisible You and the newest book Grandpa Alan's Sugar Shack directly from the Page Education Foundation. The other fifty dollars would go to the church. We called the event, "Bedtime Stories with Alan Page and Kamie Page” and we invited the families to wear their pajamas because I was providing milk and cookies at my house. I have to say, not only did Kamie make this plan work out, but she made it very easy to execute. I couldn’t help but smile as I cleaned up after the event - I felt like I was on Cloud 9. I think everybody went home a winner. The event exceeded my expectations. It was crowded and controlled. Fun and serious. Old friends and strangers. The Pages were so transparent allowing questions to be asked and welcoming a line of people wanting inscriptions inside the books they were taking home. The guests were very polite and very flexible as we gathered in a space that was both cozy (seventy people cramped) and airy.
I bring this last style of donations up because I love the win-win formula. Lots of people donate in this exact same way and many do this on a much larger scale. I think it's very thoughtful. You don't have to know a legendary NFL player to raise money for good causes but you do need to know two or more organizations who wouldn't mind coming together to benefit not only each other but also the person who is coming to your event. Many of you have foundations, causes or organizations that are dear to your heart. Don't be intimidated to put something together. Be thoughtful in what you want to accomplish and skip feeling pressured to spend a lot of money when sponsoring an event. I kept my event very "milk & cookie-ish" by hosting it at my house and serving homemade cookies. Sidenote: I re-connected with my love of baking! I sang along with Bruno Mars as I baked dozens and dozens of TollHouse Chocolate Chip cookies, Lace Heart cookies and Old Fashioned Sugar cookies. Organizing this event was my thoughtful pinch to my church, St. Thomas the Apostle and The Page Education Foundation because they are both wonderful community keepers.
Did I mention I hosted this event wearing my soft, comfy pajamas? #winning