Few things in life live up to the hype.
Usually, the more time you spend planning something, the higher the expectations.
Usually, the higher the expectations, the harder it is to exceed them.
We exceeded our own high expectations Saturday when about 35 people (including kids) showed up for The Great Parrott Creek Park Clean Up of 2015.
This was a win on so many levels:
- We got more work done than we had hoped for
- We were done sooner than expected
- We had several volunteers from the surrounding neighborhood
- We had one volunteer from another SE Roseburg neighborhood
- Three area churches were represented
- In the end, the neighbor who was concerned about the blackberries was happy
- No one was injured!
Two of the local families that came out to help learned about the clean up effort from flyers we distributed the week before. One of them had lived in the area for 12 years and told us during that time, no one has ever made the effort to clean up the creek. Another said their kids and grandkids come to the park and they routinely find used needles there.
In both cases, the news of the community effort was beyond welcome. It was overdue and very appreciated.
This experience confirms a few things I tell people when it comes to attracting attention for an organization.
Connect to an Event
I capitalized Event on purpose here, because having a great organization that never has an event is like practicing a sport and never having a game. You need to plan something in advance, tell other people about it and then execute it well. Having an Event gives members of your organization something to tell other people about. It's a rally point, a milepost, a reason to be proud. If done correctly, it will also get your organization the publicity it needs.
I have worked in organizations that could never get ahead of the calendar. Everything happened off the cuff at the last second. It's amazing that we were able to execute so many events in that crisis mode. Now, I have learned how crucial it is to set a date far in advance. Not only does it give your volunteers time to adjust their schedules, it also allows for marketing. Remember, the point of an event is to reach new people. Find new supporters and donors. If you get good at the last second stuff, you might have success, but you will only be reaching the people who already support you.
Ask For Help
With time to work, you can approach more donors and reach out to other organizations that can contribute to your event. I have been pleasantly surprised at the willingness of local business owners to chip in as a sponsor for worthy local causes. In fact, you might be surprised to learn that some merchants will be disappointed if they find out there was something big going on and no one asked them for their support.
Make it Fun!
It doesn't matter whether you are planning a fundraiser for a non-profit or a community event, get to a place where you can let the thing happen. On Saturday, once we described the plan and gave directions to our volunteers, we let them work. Key leaders were in the creek beside volunteers, but we weren't micro-managing them. We also made sure kids younger than 13 had fun activities to do. They felt like they were helping, but they weren't in harm's way. After the hard work, we rewarded everyone with a barbeque back at our building. We played ping-pong and pool and made sure new people were given tours of the facility, where the leaders of the organization could share their vision.
Long Term Benefits
Since we had such a positive experience, the next time any of the neighbors hear about the Dream Center or Adopt-A-Block, they will have a positive response. We have gained valuable allies within the City of Roseburg and within the neighborhood. We plan on going back to the park for events in the future and to replant some native vegetation along the creek bank. Our board is happy, too. They see the effort, the planning and the execution and it all reflects well on the Director and staff.
The Great Parrott Creek Clean Up of 2015 will go down as a great event for us. Hopefully it can also be a model for your organization.