A few months ago I wrote about a friend whose nine year old daughter Maxie, after discussing bullying at school, decided she wanted to do more. As a result, with the help of her mom and with the support of her school, they planned a swim-a-thon to raise funds and awareness for the International Bullying Prevention Association (who help kids here in the USA and around the world).
After months of planning, organizing and encouraging, the event happened last week and went, well, swimmingly!
Planning Events – Selecting the Optimum Time and Location
As with any event, especially fundraisers, we wanted to encourage a maximum amount of participants. As our swimmers were all from the same grade at the same school, we had a limited pool to draw from. And the best way to encourage participation in any event is to offer an attractive incentive. Fortunately, their principal was very enthusiastic and agreed to allow any student involved the morning off. We couldn’t believe the response when over 50% of the kids signed up.
We tried to make sure that the location was convenient for everyone involved. As the swim-a-thon was taking place in the morning, we tried to make it easy for parents who had to drop the kids off before school (and work) started. Drop off’s weren’t the problem. It was getting them back to school that was going to be challenging.
To avoid carpooling 50 nine and ten year olds (yikes) we called the bus company who does all of the transportation for the school involved. We explained the situation and the need for a one way transport back to school. Thrilled to hear about such an important issue being highlighted by a nine year old (and recognizing a great PR opportunity), they were glad to help and donated a full size bus to return the kids to school.
Planning Events – Getting Support from the Community
Aside from the location and transportation, we knew that a lot of corporate support wasn’t required. We realized that all we really needed were some refreshments for our hungry swimmers and our volunteers. Instead of asking one merchant to foot the entire bill, we approached a several local retailers with smaller requests. With a letter outlining the event, we asked each for a small donation to help with the food and beverage and most of them stepped up to the plate! Along with a coffee shop, grocery store and warehouse store offering generous donations, we also received a takeaway gift for each of our participants.
Planning Events – Staying Organized
At our initial meeting we put together our event planning checklist (aka, our bible). I encouraged our team to put EVERYTHING, no matter how small, on the list. Things were constantly added and as they were completed, checked off the list. Even the day of (especially the day of!) we kept the updated list handy and as result, didn’t miss a beat.
Planning Events – Hooray for Volunteers!
Volunteers are the lifeblood of any charitable event, large or small, and this one was no different. When we first sent out the letter informing the students and parents of the event, we received a fabulous response and had more than enough volunteers to help make the event run smoothly.
We stationed a parent volunteer by the door and he acted as the registration desk. He had a list of every participant and not only checked them in, but ensured that all necessary forms (consent, liability and media release) had been received. He liaised with the other parents and helped move things along.
We had two other parent volunteers floating around the lobby and even had a parent (gender appropriate) in each of the change rooms. This helped keep everyone (parents and kids alike) moving freed up the event organizers, allowing them to take care of all details.
Planning Events – The Event
Although the event went off without any major glitches, there are always a few bumps in the road. Fortunately nothing major (the coffee shop forgot to send cups with the coffee, the driver got lost and the return bus was a little late, the music was wrong and the reporter from the local paper didn’t show up) went wrong and no one, participants or cheering section, noticed anything amiss. One parent commended us on the event stating that “…while some people say that organizing nine year olds is like herding cats, I think it’s more like herding butterflies!”
At the end of the day the nine year old chair of the event got up and, like a seasoned pro, thanked everyone involved for helping to make the world a better place. She pointed out to the excited swimmers that they not only reached their goal but also surpassed it, both in lengths swum and monies raised. As a group they have already decided to increase all goals for next year’s event.
Kids are never too young to get involved; they just need some help and direction from the adults around them. All it takes is a little organization and the desire to help make the world a better place!