Braille Monitor                                                                January 2007


Of Harvests and Gears: Fundraising for the NFB

by Jennifer Bose

From Dan Frye: From the Fall 2006 edition of the Town Crier, the quarterly publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Massachusetts, we are reprinting an article from Jennifer Bose reflecting on how she gets herself motivated to raise funds for the NFB. The Cambridge Chapter sponsors an annual walkathon. Jennifer’s thoughts and advice will be particularly useful to Federationists as we all get ready for our first-ever National Federation of the Blind March for Independence to be held this summer in Atlanta, Georgia, during our national convention. In preparing for this important national fundraising project, we can all benefit from Jennifer’s enthusiasm and spirit. Here is what she says:

In New England the fall breezes in, bringing air that crackles with a different kind of energy. As most of us humans see it, the last warm days of the season are to be appreciated, but as busy farmers and scurrying animals see it, the fall is a time to gather in the harvest.
Those of us in the Cambridge Chapter gather our own stores for the year ahead through a beautiful morning walk at Fresh Pond, our chapter’s biggest fundraiser of the year. In August we begin distributing flyers about the walk and letting people know that we will be at this year’s walk on October 1. Each of us hopes to raise at least five hundred dollars.

If any of you reading this article are like me, you understand that our chapters need funds for their activities, but you find it difficult to get in gear and start fundraising. Here’s an important thing to remember: once you are firmly in that gear, the fundraising process has its own momentum. It really is very much like riding a bike. In my experience I have had some long stretches on which all I needed to do was coast. I would ask people if they wanted to sponsor me for the walk or walk it with me, and, without needing any more information, they would readily agree and add themselves to my list. I find that those who know me best believe that any organization that I am raising funds for has benefited me in some important way and is worth supporting.

Sometimes, though, it is not possible to coast. When my sponsor list is not getting any longer, I need to exert more energy to get over the flat stretches. You have already asked these people for money; do you really think they will give you any more? You have hardly spoken to these people since you asked them for money the last time; what will they think? You do not actually know anyone who has a lot of money to give to the NFB, so do you really think you will raise a lot of money? These questions, which speak to my weaknesses at networking and maintaining better ties with people, come at me like big bumps in the road. But beating myself up about shortcomings does not work as a money-raising strategy. Neither does anticipating that people will not want to contribute to yet another fundraiser.
Inevitably the thought that helps me exert enough energy to get to more sponsors and more funds raised is that each year I can recall having personally benefited from chapter, state, and national funds. Chapter funds have been used to help set up activities for Meet the Blind Month and to buy NFB literature we read and distribute at meetings. Any time I have needed or wanted to travel to a convention or to Washington Seminar to advocate for legislation, chapter funds have helped me tremendously with expenses. Local funds contribute to state funds, which in turn support many national programs. One of my favorite national programs is the work of the Jernigan Institute, where the Kurzweil–National Federation of the Blind Reader grew in the last three years from an idea into a handheld device for reading print.

Each of you, when fundraising for your chapter or some other part of the NFB, can try the exercise of looking back over the year to see how you have benefited from the fundraising. Whether you have benefited in the same ways I have or in radically different ways, or whether for you it’s never the individual benefits that matter as much as the collective achievements for blind people, you can find the reasons you need to get in the fundraising gear.