Wishful Thinking

A few months ago, my son, Jack, asked if we could go to an informational meeting at the high school. The meeting was about a trip to Ireland the high school band is taking when Jack is a freshman in 2012.  Exciting, indeed. I want to go to Ireland!

Call it naïve, but when we arrived at the meeting with the band director, booster president and other parents, what I expected to hear was: “We’re going to Ireland! Here’s what the school is paying for and here is what your share is.”

Wishful thinking.

What I heard was: “We’re going to Ireland to support the football team who is also going. It’s going to cost you almost $3,000.”  Bummer. Too bad, Jack. That Ireland trip sure sounded fun.

Kidding. Sort of. Even in a good economy with secure income, that’s a lot of money. There is some talk at the meeting about fundraising – selling candles, spirit cups and car washes. But let’s do quick math here…band, football, cheerleaders, ROTC, parents, faculty and coaches…we’re looking at roughly $500,000. That’s a lot of candles. Even though the trip is in 18 months, the travel company wants a deposit in a month, with a prescribed payment plan after that.  The entire trip is to be paid for by March 2012. Barely a year away. Yikes.

Other Junior High parents and I started asking questions: How are the other organizations raising money? Are the organizations talking to each other? Are we coordinating fundraising efforts in any way? Are we looking at corporate sponsorships? The answers were not encouraging. Turns out everyone but the football team had just found out about this trip and there was no real communication between the groups. I was even told by other parents that there was no way the football team was going to share anything and that there is no use in talking to their booster club.

As a professional fundraiser for 21 years, I knew there had to be a better way. My choice was clear: either reduce the per-person cost or Jack doesn’t go. So? So I volunteered to spearhead the fundraising for the Ireland trip. Not just for the band, but for all of the participating organizations. There’s something about being the new kid and not knowing what you can’t do: you just go ahead and do it anyway.

Over the next several months, I will be chronicling our efforts - uncovering the challenges in securing funds and in collaborating with other groups toward a common goal. With luck, we’ll have some insights and success stories that might be beneficial to your organization as well.  Stay tuned.

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