Thursday, May 13, 2010

Fundraising: Thoughts, Tips Toward Funding Better Playgrounds

Because good playgrounds are costly, those interested in building new or improving existing locations should take note of successful fundraising techniques.

As the recession crimps municipal and non-profit budgets, times like these call for privately organized fundraising committees to lead the way toward playground improvement and development.

Despite the economic downturn, there are still significant government grants available to make playgrounds newer, better and safer. In addition to the feds and states, corporations and private foundations are a great source of grant funding for community development projects.

In the last two decades, the Fortune 500 has stepped up significantly. Companies such as Nike, Home Depot and many others have contributed hundreds of millions of tax-deductible dollars and product donations to many youth-oriented causes.

This is because in addition to community development and recreation grants, the educational and physical activity aspects of playgrounds open the door for a variety of funding opportunities. Sporting goods companies, as well as government agencies and private foundations that focus on health, education or helping young people all have a relevant stake in funding playgrounds.

Fundraising events in which donations are collected are another effective way to not only collect cash but also make people aware of a playground project. Public support is crucial to winning grants, so fundraising events provide a great opportunity for publicity and community outreach.

There are professional firms specifically dedicated to organizing playground fundraising campaigns. While everyone has their own perspectives and approaches -- and there sure are a lot of points of view on this -- here is an attempt to cut through the din and outline proven fundraising basics in five clear steps:

1. Project Plan

Be sure to have all design details and most importantly, budgeting, finalized before fundraising enters the picture. Plan promotional efforts, make lists of likely donors, start spreading the word. There are numerous resources available to help, including professional services that specifically specialize in setting up fundraising drives for public facilities like playgrounds.

2. Fundraising Plan

Clearly specify the various methods of generating, collecting, and safeguarding funds raised. The more detailed and thought out this is, the more likely success will follow.

3. Fundraising Pros

Write down as part of the Project Plan the positive things this money will accomplish and any other positives that come to mind.

4. Fundraising Cons

Make another list, this one of potential hazards and obstacles the fundraising project may encounter. It's always best to attempt to prepare for the worst, and this is also a great way of really hashing out the project's fine details. Improvements usually follow this stage, which segues to the final stage -- and now, Step no. 5, the legwork.

5. Follow-up

Be persistent! The more effort put into organizing fundraising events and campaigns, simple physics and the law of averages holds that it will equate to more money for better playgrounds. Word-of-mouth is key at this point, and media or Internet presence never hurts, either.