Raising Bucks for Boobs

Posted: November 25, 2012 in family, Health, humor, Life, Medical, Relationships
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

To raise money for any worthy cause, you need a flexible plan, belief in what you’re doing, and comfortable shoes.

The Thompsons, resplendent in pink, at “Viva La Vonda”.

Last weekend, our family put on a fundraiser for my sister-in-law Vonda who is battling breast cancer. For the past several months, a core committee of six – my sister-in-law Bonnie; niece Savannah; friends Jeanne, Judy and Lisa; and myself – planned and prepared for the event, amassing a small army of friends and family members to help solicit donations, hang flyers, sell raffle tickets, arrange for food and entertainment, and otherwise try to cover every small detail imaginable.

“Viva La Vonda” (good fundraisers need catchy names) became a reality on November 17 at a local community center that holds about 400 people. We nearly filled it. It was an evening of amazing highs and lows, moments of startling generosity and emotion, inspirational, frustrating and funny. Here’s what we learned and how it can help you:

Be a Gumby. You have to be flexible. Yes, the silent auction tables you spent hours setting up look wonderfully inviting but people will bring donations with them that night. Accept them graciously, throw up another table, have extra bid sheets handy. The beer at the “Beer for Boobs” booth may run out hours earlier than expected. Go get more. And when it runs out again, someone may step up and donate $100 worth of beer to keep you selling a little while longer. Someone did that for us. The free will offering chili feed could end 15 minutes early when all the food is gone. Most unfed people will understand. They’ll go up the street to the nearest restaurant, grab a quick bite and come back. Because they’ll know that cooking for a crowd of undetermined size is a crapshoot and they’ll appreciate that you tried.

Trust others…but not everybody. A real auctioneer works the crowd, fuels bidding rivalries and entertains while he sells. Hire one. Get a band that knows the guest of honor; they’ll play her favorite song at just the right moment. Put volunteers used to dealing with money and customers in the payment booth for your auctions. They’ll get it all figured out in the end, even when bidders are picking the wrong items up off the tables and spilling beer on the bid sheets. Realize that you can’t trust everybody. If you think people won’t steal at a benefit, you’re wrong. Whether it’s beers from a cooler when the bartender is helping someone else or palming a handmade necklace off the silent auction table, it’ll happen. If you find the perpetrator, punish accordingly. If you don’t, make amends to the aggrieved as best you can. 

Keep talking. People don’t come to events they don’t know about. The time to stop putting up flyers is when you can’t walk into any place in town and not see one. We used free public service announcements on our local radio and TV stations, did live radio interviews the week of the fundraiser, maintained a Facebook event page about it, and casually dropped it into every conversation we had for weeks. People may have been tired of hearing us talk about it but they remembered to come.

Don’t try to please everybody. You never will. Some people will complain about the food, the price of the beer, the selection of auction items, the seating, the parking, that they didn’t get a winning raffle ticket, that you’re not taking credit cards. We actually had one person who made all of those complaints, repeatedly, to nearly every adult family member working the event as well as to anyone who would listen to her. It was finally suggested that since everything INSIDE the building was not up to her expectations, perhaps she should see if things OUTSIDE were more to her liking. I don’t know if they were or not and honestly, I don’t care.

Kylar makes a lasting impression on the “Thumbprint” picture.

This time, it’s personal. When you do this kind of fundraiser, it becomes personal the moment you make their illness public. Vonda shares her cancer battle on her Facebook page and will discuss it with anyone who asks her. At the benefit, we wanted to give people more than just a chance to help defray her medical expenses; we gave them an opportunity to assist in her recovery. Everyone was invited to put their thumbprint on a special picture that now hangs in Vonda’s house and sign her “Hope” book, a scrapbook of messages that she can read whenever she needs a boost. One of the highlights of the evening was when she took to the stage with her husband Todd and son Daulton and thanked everyone for their love and support. Make it personal, because it is.

Celebrate the unexpected. Like a high school classmate willing to shave his head for cash donations. Or the moment you realize the freezer that you put 12 pounds of frozen donated meat into was actually not a freezer and you are now handing over a dripping bag of thawing burger to the highest bidder. Or when you notice the crowd is not just pushing tables and chairs back to make room for a dance floor, they are actually taking them down and putting them away so you don’t have so much to clean up at the end of the night. Or that the one keeping your workers’ spirits up is an exuberant four-year-old named Kylar who is proudly wearing a tiny tie-dyed pink t-shirt that proclaims “Stop the War in my Rack.” These are the moments that make memories, people.

Keep success in perspective. “Viva La Vonda” raised somewhere in the $20,000 range. Although the cost of fighting cancer is immense (I know this from my mom’s own lost battle), the money donated through the fundraiser is a great start. At the end of the night, when you can finally sit down, kick the shoes off your aching feet, and crack the beer that was thoughtfully hid back for you, keep this in mind: good benefits raise more than just money. They raise spirits, awareness, and support. You can’t put a price on that.

Vonda (right), our guest of honor, with her sister, Bonnie.

Advertisements
Comments
  1. Informative, entertaining, beautiful…and the post was good too! But I am SO curious about HOW you accordingly punish a perpetrator of charitable silent auction theft. Are there pliers involved?

    • Pliers heated over an open fire for maximum punishability. We couldn’t believe it when that necklace went missing. You seriously just don’t expect that to happen. Thanks for the kind words.

  2. Steffnie says:

    awesome kelly!!! enjoyed reading and it was for a great cause!!! that’s what family and friends are for, to help support each other in their time of need or whatever the reason may be. thanks to everyone who pitched in and helped with whatever they could!! it was an amazing night and i think vonda will never forget it!!!

  3. Denise says:

    Good post and a great fundraiser! You all did a fabulous job!

  4. Kay Vallery Young says:

    Big undertaking–very well executed!! I figure that’s about what the thief needed! For shame!!! Proud of you, Kelly!

  5. Great suggestions for people wanting to do a fundraiser. My brother in law and I hosted an auction for my step-son, who had lymphoma. We raised over $5,000.00, which was pretty amazing considering my step-son lived in Seattle at the time and most of the people at the auction had never met him. It didn’t matter. Our friends, of course, were generous and it was greatly appreciated, but the regulars that hung out at the establishment where we held the auction really dug deep down in their pockets for a perfect stranger. That’s what truly brings tears to a person’s eyes. This fundraiser was three years ago and I’m happy to say that my step-son is 100% cancer free! Praying for the same outcome for Vonda!

    • Great news on your stepson. And you’re right; sometimes generosity comes from unexpected places. Thanks for the support for Vonda. She’s three treatments into her chemo and is facing it all with a positive attitude and a lot of hope.

So, what do you think? I'm listening!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s