Defraying event costs, aka, finding sponsors

Courtesy Mike McDonald*

Courtesy Mike McDonald*

This final post on cemetery fundraising focuses on something that’s all too often overlooked in event planning—getting sponsors.

If your association or society loves the idea of raising money but is hesitant about some of the upfront costs, ask local businesses to step in as a sponsor. They get to write off the expense as a charitable donation to a worthy cause (as long as you are a viable 501(c)(3)), and you get help minimizing the event expenses.

Here are some possible sponsor ideas to kick around:

  1. If you’re hosting an athletic event, ask the local grocery store to donate bottles of water or Gatorade.
  2. Ask local high school/college coaches to help out with keeping time or refereeing.
  3. Athletes also need numbered bibs for the competitors so see if the local printer might donate these, and then check with the local arts and crafts store about donating some snazzy pins.
  4. Need space? Perhaps the local VFW would donate the use of their hall and tables if you’re hosting a chess or bingo tournament.
  5. Event insurance coverage is another biggie so check with your local financial and insurance planners to see if either one or a combination of businesses might chip in to cover the costs.
  6. Clean up crew. Yes, after the fun ends and everyone goes home, the trash is always left behind. Why not get a sponsor to help pay for the cleanup?

And on that note, don’t forget to let everyone know how much you appreciate your sponsors. Sure they’re getting a tax write-off, but it’s still cash they could be spending on their business.

 

 

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Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – Vietnam Veteran Interment Ceremony

 

 

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Flags In ceremony

 

In honor of Memorial Day, here’s a video of the Flags In ceremony that takes place a few days before weekend’s main ceremony. The flags are placed in the order in which the wars happened.

The large tomb is the WW1 tomb. On the right is WW2, on the left Korea, and the center was where the Unknown from Vietnam was interred.

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Sharing Saturday: What it takes to guard the tomb

 

I thought I’d do something a little different for this week’s Sharing Saturday post. If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to become one of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, well here you go.

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Even small projects can reap a windfall

Ravensdale Cemetery

Let’s say you’re not quite ready to plunge into the logistical challenges involved with putting on a James Bond gambling night or mini-marathon road race. Perhaps you just want to test the fundraising waters by just getting enough money to host a restoration workshop or to hire some goats for weed clearing.

But aside from putting out the coffee can at the local grocery store and diner, how else can you get the change rolling in?

Let’s face it. Most of us don’t carry a lot of cash around anymore but we do like giving for a good cause, especially when it’s for a community effort. So why not tap the local group of high school programming geeks to design a fundraising app? Check out the following sites—you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to set one up.

  1. Indiegogo
  2. GoFundMe
  3. Kickstarter

Using an app means smartphone owners (that would be a LOT of us) can make a quick $5, $10, or bigger donation by just a fast tap to the screen.  The donor gets immediate satisfaction of having done something good for a local cause and the cash flows safely through Paypal and gets directly deposited to the association’s 501(c)(3) bank account.

Once the app’s set up, you can link it to the society’s webpage, email it to friends and family, put it on flyers around town, hype it up at the local festivals (just think of all the people coming to the Memorial Day and 4th of July events you can reach out to with this!) and yes, don’t forget to contact the local papers to help you get the word out to an even bigger group.

Oh, and for the students who designed the app? They win too because they can spotlight this as a plus on their college application—especially if the app was successful in raising a good chunk of money for charity.

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More fun cemetery fundraising ideas

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Here are 7 more ideas to consider if you’re looking to raise cash.

  1. Host a James Bond roulette/baccarat/blackjack gambling night. Ticket proceeds and all excess chip donations go to the cemetery. The person who wins the most money gets a special prize.
  2. Throw a Carnival-themed masked ball at the local museum and if possible, include a silent auction. (Want more ideas? Check out what Seattle did in 2014).
  3. Offer candlelight ghost/history tours of the cemetery (here’s a list of places doing this).
  4. Put on a chess tournament (something for all ages).
  5. Got heritage plants in the cemetery like they do in Sacramento? Sell clippings to local and regional gardeners.
  6. Put on a local talent recital show or play like Death of a Salesman or Arsenic and Old Lace.
  7. Offer donation-themed bird walks. Yes, you read it correctly. Check out what they’re doing in Lynchburg, VA and in Denver, CO.

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People won’t care if you don’t give them a reason

Newcastle Coal Miners' Cemetery

Newcastle Coal Miners’ Cemetery

The problem’s simple. Old cemeteries need ongoing infusions of cash for restoration and maintenance. Yet when calls for volunteers or donations go out, the general response from the public is usually muted because everyone’s so busy.

“Hey, the local cemetery’s doing a cleanup day this weekend. Want to go? Oh wait, that won’t work. Johnny’s got a soccer match that day and on Sunday, Mary’s got her recital concert. Maybe we can do it next year.”

Those who do end up helping, do so over and over and over. This is all well and good if you (the volunteer) have the time and the energy to put into the projects. But let’s face facts. After a while, even the best of us get tired of being the go-to person all the time.

Historical societies and cemetery boards need new energy and fresh ideas to catch and retain the community’s interest.  Give people a good enough reason and you better believe they’ll care. The trick is doing it in a way that benefits everyone. Fun for the participants= money for the historical society. So with that in mind, let’s use some brawn to generate some cash.

Here’s a thought: Sports, sports, sports, and more sports.

It doesn’t matter what size town, village or wickiup camp you live in, people like a good sporting event. Especially if there are some shiny trophies and medals involved.

Memorial Day/Veterans’ Day/July 4th/Labor Day/Halloween Cemetery Races

Use the 3-day weekends as an excuse to do good. Set up a 1 mile run for kids but for the adults, make it a 5 miler (or more), all proceeds going to help restore and maintain the local historic cemetery.

For example, check out the Oneonta  Pit Run. Over 20 years ago, Oneonta decided to put on a race in honor of a local policeman who died trying to stop a robbery. When the town first started hosting the event, only a handful of people showed up. Now, it’s a huge October weekend happening with over 1,000 people from all over the state participating and raising money for the town’s charities.

Let me repeat that: 1,000 participants.

For a simple road race.

Proceeds going to local charities.

EVERY YEAR.

Just think how many headstones could be restored, how many weeds could be whacked, how much genealogical work could get done with that kind of cash.

Hey, if you really want to go all ambitious (listen up rural towns, I’m talking to you here), make it a half marathon with a course that connects around several cemeteries and ending right after that really nasty steep hill everyone’s always complaining about.

Still don’t think it’ll work? Then check out what I found on just one page of googling ‘cemetery race’. Others are doing it, why not you?

Racing

Cemetery golf tournaments

If your community is a bit more sedate, then check what’s out there for cemetery golf tournaments.

Golf

And for those of us who don’t/can’t/won’t run anymore, how about a cemetery poker tournament?

Poker

Ok, so there aren’t as many of those out there as I’d hoped so perhaps a bowling or bingo tournament?

Oh, and if you’re worried about promoting the event, try these ideas on for size:

  1. Set up an event Facebook page and maintain it. It’s easier than you think.
  2. Call the local and regional papers to get the story out (they’re ALWAYS looking for stories to fill their space).
  3. Work with local radio and the regional TV stations.
  4. Engage the local schools, and fire up some friendly rivalry between the competitors.
  5. Ask for help. Check out what other places are doing and ask one of the organizers for advice.

Anyway, you get the point and hopefully, this will be something to get you started. In the meantime, check back on Wednesday and Friday for some more ideas.

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