Guest blog by Marge Christianson
It’s not “taking from the rich to give to the poor.” It’s not walking in off the street asking for a donation. If the idea of asking for money makes you break into a cold sweat and you think the dentist’s office would be more fun, then maybe you need another way to approach it.
Step back for a moment. Let’s pretend you just baked a big batch of cookies and you want to share them with a neighbor. Who do you pick?
- The neighbor you don’t really know — they’ve lived there a while, but you never really cross paths with them.
- The neighbor you think might have a drinking problem. You don’t really know, but you’ve heard rumors.
- The neighbor who is so busy all the time, they barely even wave at you.
- The neighbor who came over last week and helped you get your mower started.
That might seem obvious, but the real question is how is your unit/post perceived by your community? Does the community at large know who you are and what you do? Do they see your post home as more than a bar? Do you make time to reach out and assist local community leaders? Do you make sure the community sees the good work you do?
People want to help those who are in need. But no matter how “rich” they are, they can’t help everyone. They must, and will, be selective. If you want to be first in line to receive the batch of cookies, your neighbors need to know who you are, what you do, and why you matter!
Let’s look at another scenario:
Your neighbor asks you to pick up their newspaper when they are on vacation. Of course, you are going to do that. Later, you need help moving a couch before the carpet cleaners come. Is it easier or harder to ask your neighbor for help now that you have helped them? Are they more or less likely to happily come over to help you?
In this scenario, you developed a relationship with your neighbor. You automatically help each other when you can. You’re not keeping score on who gives more. When you need help, you ask
. They can’t always be there, they don’t always have the resources, but it’s no big deal to ask. No cold sweat. No thoughts about the dentist.
Start thinking about how you can engage your unit/post community and neighbors. Be ready to reach out when an opportunity presents itself. Remember: You can’t tell the value of a relationship by just looking out your window! You need to engage them. That neighbor who was too busy to wave may be a huge help someday — go out and meet them!
Here are some easy ways you can start a “reach out” effort in your community:
- Ask a local business having a Veterans Day sale if they would like a POW/MIA table set up during their event. Follow up with poppies. Make sure the display includes your unit/post name.
- Ask a business having a back-to-school sale if they would like a Military Child table set up.
- Provide poppies to the mayor when you hear that he/she is attending a school assembly.
- Offer free membership to government leaders who qualify.
- Ask for a proclamation to be read at a City Council meeting and show up as a big group in branded clothing to the meeting.
- Have your Juniors or military families build a holiday display, and arrange for a local business to show it off.
- Establish a newsletter and make sure you include community leaders in the distribution. One way or another, always ensure your community is aware of your efforts!
- Plan an event with first responders, and ask the mayor to make a presentation.
- Follow, like, share, and comment on social media pages of local businesses and leaders.
Always, always, always make a big deal about anyone’s help. Put it on your social media pages, send it to the newspaper, inform the mayor’s office, send a thank-you, ask members to shop there. … It doesn’t matter if their contribution was big or small; you never know where the next contribution will come from.
Always, always, always deliver on your commitment! Nobody gives cookies to a neighbor who says they’ll help but then doesn’t show up.
Of course, none of this happens overnight. It takes deliberate and consistent effort. But one day, you will want a donation for a children’s event -- and a family charity will WANT to help when you ask them
. A restaurant will WANT to provide food when you ask them
. The mayor’s office will WANT to provide a grant when you ask them
. And then, somewhere along the line, you’ll realize that every year, the plate of cookies keeps getting bigger…
All of these ideas and results are actual examples from American Legion Auxiliary Unit 62 in Peoria, Ariz. In the past five years, they have raised over $60,000 from outside sources by engaging their community.
Share your fundraising efforts and ideas with us! Email ALAMagazine@ALAforVeterans.org or tag us on social media @ALAforVeterans.