Milwaukee has been hit hard by this tough economy. We’ve all felt it. But this recession has hit those most vulnerable in our community the hardest of anyone.
Twelve months ago I and a small group of friends decided to get off our butts to provide help to those least served in Milwaukee, in ways we could really see and share. Here’s that post about the extraordinary 2008 Head Start Holiday Celebration. In order to qualify for Head Start support, a family of three cannot have an annual household income of more than roughly $18,000!
We’re doing it again this year and we need your help. We’re not with Head Start, but we’re volunteers helping Head Start throw a holiday celebration that will last for weeks to come.
Below is a story far more personal and close-to-home than Part 1. This story illustrates how some extraordinary people — including co-workers and friends, but also connections I’ve initiated and fostered on Twitter and Facebook — helped improve and brighten the lives of some of Milwaukee’s under-served. The fundraising took place last month, for an event held Thursday, December 18, 2008, in the basement of a church on the corner of Milwaukee’s 54th Street and Capitol Drive.
The slideshow below shows just some of the smiles that this “picture-perfect” night created:
By way of background, I’d like to quote an email that I sent as part of my fundraising efforts. It explains our pretty ambitious plans for the Winter Holiday Fest. Here it is:
To those who already know of this, and have contributed or pledged, THANK YOU!!! This is for everyone else:
My girlfriend and I have devoted a ton of time, and a lot of our own money, to make a holiday party truly special for 68 under-served preschoolers and their families.
These 4 and 5-year-old children are mostly of single-parent families, and many — if not most — are struggling for the basics, let alone a head start on their school years. For example, in order to qualify, a family of three must have a pre-tax household annual income of less than $18,000.
So my girlfriend and I have arrayed a small army of volunteers (8, to be precise!) and on December 18, 2008, we’re going to help these families where it counts. There will be a Winter Holiday Festival for them, and Sherry and I are going to:
Serve them a meal, since so many parents will be coming right from work: a hot dog, a bag of chips and a holiday cookie
Give them an 8″ x 8″ canvas bag with their name on it, containing crayons, pencils, a coloring book and a book mark
Set up a decoration station for them to further decorate this canvas bag
Set up a cookie decoration station to decorate the ginger bread man they each get (we baked them last night!)
Set up a photo booth. I’ll be taking their photos, and placing them in a thin, foam frame
This picture frame is then decorated by the kids at yet another station
Yet another booth will make “super balls” — a toy they can customize and bring home with them
I addition, each child will get a pair of knitted winter gloves and a fleece scarf — also labeled with their names on them, so they don’t get misplaced in the classroom.
Also, we are raffling off as many $20 baskets as we can afford, filled with flour, pancake mix, syrup, peanut butter, jelly, etc. — you get the idea. These are staples that the parents can use over the holiday and into the new year, along with some treats, such as two mugs with hot cocoa mix.
The only financial support we’re getting is from donations of people like you. Each $20 donation we receive will purchase one more basket of food, or other necessary supplies for the event.
Can you please pledge twenty bucks to this worthy cause? (Thanks, Nelie, for your $20 “seed money,” and to everyone else who has donated on this).
PLEASE HIT REPLY and say yes. Yes, I take checks … and IOUs! 😉
If you have other holiday charities, or other reason not to give, God bless you. But if you don’t, Sherry and I and the rest of the team will be supplying photos of the many happy memories that you will have helped to create.
Please say yes. Right now. THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This and other efforts raised an impressive sum (including the money to cover other supplies, the amount came to $628). We were able to raffle off enough holiday baskets to make a lot of parents very happy indeed.
The Gift Basket Were A Huge Hit
Speaking of the baskets, I was a little astonished at the response. You would have thought we were giving away new cars!
Social Networks and Fundraising
Examples like TweetsGiving have demonstrated the power of social networks to get out the word. By contrast, this story shows more of the power of grassroots fundraising. Physical networks were leaned on heavily — especially my relationship with workmates at ec-connection, Nelson Schmidt and Madison’s Waldbillig & Besteman.
That said, you might have guessed that I “put the touch” on many of my closest online friends. Our fund raising tally was definitely boosted by my online network, including two of my newest friends. (@annNow and @ChrisQuick, you know who you are!)
For all of those who contributed, I want to say that I and the other volunteers (Shannon Schlintz, Jaime Schlintz, Paul Thomas, Noel Stollmack, Barb Lloyd, and event mastermind Sherry Richards) could not have done it without you.
And for those of you who are considering social networks as part of your fundraising efforts, rest assured that this and the case mentioned in Part 1 illustrate how, especially when your network is strong, you can accomplish amazing things!
Shortly before Thanksgiving, a post on Twitter asked me and others on this friend’s network of “tweets” to consider helping in the building of a classroom in an African village. The link that was embedded in the tweet provided the details necessary to authenticate the appeal, and five minutes and one Paypal transaction later, I was back to work.
I was not alone.
The graphic below shows the pace of giving for this campaign, which successfully raised more than $10,000.
The success of this project should not be misinterpreted, however.
It would be easy to conclude that this illustrates the marketing reach and power of a new medium. Yes, it’s true that this “medium” is powerful. But as others have pointed out, it would be like saying the telephone is a powerful medium, because so much business is transacted over it.
Instead, we have to look at social networking as a new way of communication. Period.
And as long as the means of communication is handled well and for a compelling reason, exciting things can be built — a brand, a reputation … and even a classroom inTanzania.