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[Giving Back] Projects
(and how to do them)

Arrows to scroll through project. Click image to see full-size slideshow.

Enlist the help of the non-profits who will benefit. We chose 5 churches and our nonprofit. Have someone volunteer a large storage space (my garage was used for this project). All parties solicit goods for a sale, to be held at a community center. One person from every group convenes to sort, decide prices and make signs for tables for goods ($3 for a pair of shoes, $.50 for baby clothing, etc.) No individual item pricing except furniture. Decide in advance who will be given whatever does not sell.  A rep from each organization comes to help move the goods to the sale center. Have the sale with volunteer help from each organization and split the proceeds. 

Ask for a donation of a small shed. Put it on wheels (trailor underside so it can be moved). Then approach the city for an approved location for a Santa House or get permission from a neighbor for an empty lot. Ask for donations of paint, etc. Enlist high school volunteers as well as friends, etc. Solicit community donations of Christmas decorations and have volunteers make some. Raise money (or get donations) for electric fireplace, Santa's chair and Christmas tree. Schedule work days. Enlist a volunteer Santa (Kevin was ours). Open for smiles!

Five people did this: Make it just for the neighborhood, or do it for an entire city. We asked for holiday decorations to be donated, which we later gave away (at a library) free on a set day and time so that everyone would have the ability to decorate. Families loved it! Put up $100 in prize money and solicit gifts or make certificates for second place, etc. We had 10 awards, including most patriotic, most sacred, etc. All decorations were to be up Dec 15-26. Have 3 outside judges drive by each house that enters (during thoser dates) and then average their ratings to see who wins.

Ask participating churches to ask their shut-ins if they would like Christmas carolers on a predetermined evening. Once approval is given, their name/address goes on the list. Integrate church choirs so that there are 3-5 groups with assigned areas, comprised of a blend of singers. Caroling books can be ordered online very cheaply! Sing away and meet new people!

Make it for the neighborhood! Our nonprofit worked with the fire department. We made a float, wrote press releases and went on the radio, got a police car entrance in ours and it went from 30 floats to over 100 the next year! Pepsi provided a food truck with soda & hot chocolate -- free!

Kevin finds opportunities to put on a Santa Suit! He's been Santa Paws for the humane society, dog parks, and as a holiday offering for a city.

One year, we arranged for a horse-drawn carriage (working with the Chamber of Commerce, who paid the fee) to give kids rides. The next year, we offered rides with Santa in a little train that went on the town streets. So much fun!

Here's how we rehabbed an abandoned freight train depot: 1) Pull together project-dedicated people to serve as a board of directors. Define roles: Contractor to oversee work; volunteer coordinator; business manager; media manager and others. 2) Form a legitimate 501 3-c nonprofit (you can do it online without an attorney) so donors can claim their tax deduction and you don't have to pay sales tax for goods. We founded the Bushnell Citizen's Coalition. 3) Solicit financial help. We began with a $10,000 check from a patron. We added building and media sponsors, who gave goods at cost or donated labor, etc. and provided free press releases and progress photos in the newspaper. They should be publicly acknowledged with a plaque on site. 4) Rent the building from the city for 5 years for $1 a year. 5) Buy insurance or make sure the city covers the building project to safeguard against volunteer injuries (we paid $300/year for 1 million policy).  6) Write for grants; Pella Windows gave us $10,000 toward windows, etc. Many larger corporations have giving foundations for certified non-profits. 7) Buy materials -- ask for discount for nonprofit/sponsorship to help money go further. 8) Solicit volunteers; ask if they prefer to do general labor, painting, etc. or working on a committee like fundraising. Organize a volunteer work day with set two-hour shifts and expectations (bring a hammer, wear closed-toe shoes, etc.).  9)  We did a kickstarter program online to solicit donations from railroad fans; for $75, they would get their names added to a supporter's wall plaque.  10) After building is finished, thank all donors in the newspaper. We raised over $100,000 for this project, and the contractor donated labor. The building now is used for weddings, community festivals, public gatherings, etc. It now has bathrooms added, and a kitchen area, and is ADA compliant for public use.

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