My first foray into philanthropy began when I was nine years old.
It was the first day of a summer festival, held biennially, to celebrate the labours of the dairying and fruit-growing men and women of our town. My best friend Jacey and I were tasked with manning the Helium Balloon Stall on behalf of the local Girl Guide group. Whilst we both scored points in the advertising department for our burgeoning blue sash of badges, Jacey was tabbed for the job because her dad happened to the be the Apex club president that year and had a reputation for impeccable manners. I was there because my parent’s thought it was the best way to keep me out of trouble.
All was floating along fine: a Tidy Town festooned with colourful spheres of un-environmentally friendly plastic. At around midday, just before Jacey and I had earned our free lunch from the Lions Club BBQ stand, Mr Gently, the well respected owner of the local menswear store, fronted up to our stand:
J (Jersey Caramel smile): Hi Mr Gently. Would you like to purchase a balloon? All money raised go towards funding our next campout.
Mr. G: Well it just so happens that it is my wedding anniversary today. My wife would be delighted to have a balloon I am sure. How much?
A: Just $2 (Mr. G hands over a $5 note). Would that also be a $3 donation?
Mr. G: Oh…well of course… Could I trouble one of you lovely young ladies to deliver it to my lovely wife with a little message?
A: Of course. It would be my pleasure (again…Jersey Caramel smile).
After a not so trivial trek to find Mrs. Gently…
A (in a high pitched, helium infused tone following the inhalation of the entire contents of a spare balloon): Hi Mrs. Gently, your husband would like to wish you a very…”happy anniversary to you, happy anniversary to you, happy anniversary to you, and here’s your balloon”.
I just presumed that the stony visage staring back at me was because Mrs.G was still a little upset about the fact that her own daughters had failed to meet the extremely high stall-serving selection standards that year.
From carpooling kids and donning the apron at the tuckshop to coordinating festivals and refurbishing schools, giving time to community wasn’t just something you did but rather a part of ones identity: deeply branded into the country psyche. These days, despite living so far from the home town, my CWA (Country Women’s Association) blood still pulses as strong as a that of a prize Holstein bull. Last weekend was no exception, separating my time between baking and manning K2’s Pre-school Cake Stall and the sewing for K1’s Primary School Craft Stall. Whilst I was able to step back from the role of co-ordinator this time round, I have learned a few tricks over the years for how to put together a “Best in Show” fundraising stall:
- Submit an Early Entry: since finding volunteers can be a little like drawing milk from a dry cow, it’s best to advertise early for help and donations. Whilst email and e-newsletters are a great way to save on paper, most go unread (reality bites) so don’t forget to whack a few colourful A3 posters up in key thoroughfares for your target audience.
- Land top spot on the podium: local businesses are usually very supportive of community groups that service their customers. A promise of a thank you message in the next run of a newsletter (or other) is often all that is required (if anything at all) to enable you to park your stall outside a high-traffic-shopfront.
- Adorn and Groom Well: as much as one might hate to admit it, good looks sell. Pretty wrapping, hand written labels, retro-cake stands, wooden display boxes and colourful signs are very eye catching and add value to your product.
- Talk Yourself Up: whilst I am not into spruiking, when a customer arrives I am very quick to hone in on the hand made providence of the goods and the benefits of donating to our organisation.
- Charge First Prize Fees: those wanting for manufactured goop in a jar or a packet of palm oil pick-me-up’s are never stopping at your do-gooder stall, so don’t be afraid to charge crème de la crème prices. After all, a lot of love has gone into your stall donations, it’s always nice to hear that a bequeathed item has seen a high return-on-time-investment.
As for my contributions to K1 and K2’s fun-raising ventures…well it’s back to the stove and sewing machine for me: total sellouts with advance requests for the Christmas stalls. When it comes to wearing out clothes suitable for upcycled ToteAlly Wine bags or harvesting produce from our garden for Cinderella Chutney, my two super charged poddy-kids are only too happy to oblige.