Fund Raising: Weighing the Options

"The darkest hour in any man's life is when he sits down to plan how to get money, without earning it." Horace Greeley wrote...and most of us believe strongly in this work-oriented ethic. We have been raised to work hard in order to provide the necessities of life for our families—"creative fund raising" is rarely part of our vocabulary.

But once in a while some event comes along that we would really love to attend—perhaps a concert or a distant meeting. In our minds we range swiftly over the milk budget and the loan obligations and realize that there's just no way we can participate.

In just this way many parents throughout the country have read about the 2013 Families Connecting with Families International Conference, scanned their budgets and have decided they will never make it to Boston, Massachusetts this July 19-21, 2013, without some outside help, there's just no way.

A previous NAPVI president, Eileen Hudson, has urged parents to go to civic groups in their communities to ask for funds to attend this conference. And yet, like Greeley, we somehow think it is "dark" or demeaning to ask for funds for ourselves—for travel and a "vacation," for goodness sake.

As parents, we should look at this conference as a learning experience. Ask any doctor, teacher or other professional who regularly attends such conferences. They will describe to you the long hours sitting in sessions, visiting with colleagues, hurrying out for a meal only to reconvene in an hour's time, of stop-and-go travel to and from the convention city.

What we are talking about is the tremendous benefit your attendance is going to be to your community. We fully believe that those who attend this conference are going to return to their homes with added determination to reach out in support to other parents of visually impaired children. We believe that this conference is going to "ripple out" to many parents because of the enthusiasm of those who are able to attend. That is NAPVI's full purpose in having a conference.

As a parent, you may be hesitant about asking anybody for money, even if it is a "group" of professional or civic leaders. If so, find a professional (your child's teacher or principal) who will submit your proposal to attend the conference to that group. Many hours have been spent on the phone talking with agency officials throughout the nation, urging them to "sponsor" a parent to come to the convention. A teacher or a principal can put a word in the right ear to a member of a local group and these funds can, be made available, especially when everyone is made to realize what a tremendous boost it's going to be to the parents of visually impaired children in that particular community to have a representative at this conference.

A Sample Proposal

So now that you've decided to either approach a local group yourself or have asked a professional to take your cause to that group, what needs to be in your "proposal"? (The following responses are examples only, not meant to be followed rigidly.)

1. A Summary Statement: "I am asking for your financial assistance in providing travel and convention funding necessary so that I may attend the Families Connecting with Families International Conference in Boston, Massachusetts, July 19-21, 2013."

2. A statement of the questions to be addressed: Why is it beneficial for me to attend this meeting? How much will it cost? How much can I come up with on my own?

3. A statement of your goals in attending the conference: "By my attendance at this conference, I hope to gain valuable information in order to enrich my relationship with my visually impaired child and to find ways to help other parents of visually impaired children in my community."

4. Procedures of the Conference: "The Families Connecting with Families Conference will last three days. Sessions will be geared to coping skills of parents, educational and medical know-how in parenting visually impaired children and a technology session."

5. An evaluative assessment: "I will be collecting conference materials and taking notes during the sessions. I would be pleased to speak to your group following the Conference with a description of that meeting and to share information about visually impaired children in general. I also hope to gather other parents in the community following the convention so that I can share many things I learned at the Conference."

6. A detailed budget: "Our plane tickets via [Airline Company] will cost . Registration for the Convention will be $_____, as I plan to pre-register in order to benefit from the lower registration cost. My hotel bill will be $129.00 per night. Taxi fare from the airport (round trip) will be $____."

Conference Fees for Families Connecting with Families 2013

Conference Registration (Includes 4 meals, opening reception, children's programs, and childcare)
Adult (18+) $110.00
Child (4-17) $35.00
Age 3 & under Free

One final note: your proposal should have a neat appearance. If you are going to submit it handwritten, make sure you've printed legibly. You're dealing with business and professional persons and you are asking for a portion of their money, after all.


Following is a list of anticipated expenses for the conference sponsored by the National Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments, Inc.


Auto/Taxi expenses __________
Airfare (to/from Boston's Logan Airport) __________

Hotel Rate

$129 a night per room, plus tax __________
(Single or Double occupancy)

Conference Registration

Registration cost __________

Additional Food Costs

Meals not included in conference cost __________ (Friday night dinner, Sunday lunch)

To Name But a Few...

Here is a "sampler" of groups that might be approached in your creative fund raising efforts:

Lions, Elks, Schools for the Blind, Masons, International Order of Odd Fellows, active 20-30 clubs, Knights of Columbus, Jaycees, YMCA, YWCA, Rotary, Kiwanis, area women's clubs, Optimists, Altrusa, Telephone Pioneers, PTA, teachers' organizations, Grange, Farm Bureau, Farmer's Union, business associations, Employee’s associations, Chamber of Commerce, Medical Society, Dental Society, Senior Citizen Groups, Business and Professional Women, church groups, Urban League, NAACP, college, university alumni groups.

American Ingenuity Puts Pennies in the Till

We know of several groups around the country who are already hard at work having bake sales and brainstorming on other ways to help send some of their parent members to the conference. To make those coffers swell, you might try one or more of the following "moneymakers":

Audience Participation Events: decorator's showcase, garden walk, craft and hobby shows, fairs and festivals, card parties and bingo, house tours, marathons.

Merchandise Events: auctions, raffles, flea markets, and sales of plants, antiques, books and other products.

Food and Drink Events: big dinners, fashion show, cocktail parties, picnic, coffees & teas, potluck supper.

Professional Entertainment Events: plays and musicals, movie premieres, celebrity lectures.

Athletic Events: celebrity participations, concessions at semi-pro contests, tournaments.

Service Events: car wash, babysitting at shopping malls, handicraft sales, house painting, summer employment service, pillow cleaning service.

Do-It-Yourself Training Events: microwave cooking, home entertainment ideas, outdoor gardening, how to use cosmetics, identifying genuine antiques, bagel making, flower arrangements, self-defense courses.

Potpourri: product sales, running your own business, salvage, door-to-door distribution, direct mail solicitation, trading stamp donations.

Each of the events listed above can be profitable to organizations of any size. Many of them take manpower and some money. Remember, however, that donations can also be obtained for these, too. Don't hesitate to solicit help from other organizations to make your fund raising event a success. When considering any fund raising event, be sure you know the local laws and taxes which apply to such events and comply totally. Use and sale of alcoholic beverages is usually prohibited at public events. Special permits may be required, sales tax may be required, etc. Check with the local authorities to make sure that you are operating within the law.

Another Fundraising Option for Parents

Many of you would like to attend a National Family Conference, but would find it difficult to afford the travel and accommodations in order to attend. Another idea for a possible funding source for parents is through your local State Special Education Departments. Every year, an amount of money is set aside in the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act) budget to support parent involvement. This money is used for parents who have children with disabilities with special needs and can be used as stipends to attend conferences. Write a letter to your local Director of Special Education (for those school districts that do not have one, write to the Superintendent) asking them to sponsor your attendance to the conference as a parent through IDEIA funds. Explain why attendance at the conference will benefit you and your child. Mention that you are a member of the National Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments, Inc. Include a copy of the conference registration and pages of AWARENESS that describe the conference program. Make sure you save a copy of the letter for your records.

Reprinted with permission from AWARENESS, Spring 2012, adapted.

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