by Anil Lewis
From the Editor: Anil Lewis is an up-and-coming leader in the Georgia affiliate. I asked him to write about his experience this past winter and the decision his chapter has made. Together they provide another example of ways in which local chapters can assist with the Capital Campaign. This is what Anil says:
As the new president of the Atlanta Metropolitan Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Georgia, I began working in a new way with a group of extremely motivated, committed Federationists with ambitious ideasideas that would create opportunities, educate the community, empower blind children and adults, and require a significant amount of funding. Rather than making excuses about why our plans couldn't come to fruition, we all set ourselves to the task of fund raising.
We are a small chapter, still in the process of growing. In the past we have counted primarily on candy sales, drawings, and the contributions of our members and their friends to raise the funds we have. This is probably the same funding stream many other chapters have. And also like many other chapters, our dreams of outreach, training, and education have always exceeded our budget. We have suffered the added frustration of being unable to assist in building the treasury of our state affiliate, the national organization, and most recently the Capital Campaign for the National Research and Training Institute.
In order to address the needs of the blind citizens in the Atlanta Metropolitan area and fulfill our responsibility to assist the organization at the state and national levels, our chapter has recently focused on developing our fund-raising skills. Some of our board members have attended training on effective fund raising. Others have started developing relationships with individuals with expertise in fund raising. After taking a skills inventory of our membership and consulting with experienced fund raisers, we made the decision to mount a direct-mail letter-writing campaign to raise funds.
Then last December I received an email from our state secretary, Stephanie Scott, with information from Barbara Pierce about a potential donation from the Waffle House Foundation, which operates out of Norcross, Georgia, part of the Metro Atlanta area. Barbara told me that she had a personal contact with the Waffle House Foundation and suggested that a letter from the local chapter requesting a contribution to our Capital Campaign would go far toward securing a donation.
I wrote a letter to Barbara's contact at Waffle House respectfully inquiring about the possibility of a contribution to our Capital Campaign. It outlined the initiatives of our National Research and Training Institute and described the ways in which these activities would benefit blind Atlanta residents. I also included information to be published in the Atlanta Braille Chronicle, our local newsletter, describing outreach and educational activities performed by our chapter. I completed and mailed the letter on January 1, 2001. I planned to follow-up with another letter in about a month. I thought this would give the board an opportunity to review the information and contact me if they had any questions. I then turned my energy and attention to completing our quarterly newsletter and attending the Washington Seminar.
Along with the bills, advertisements, and general correspondence that comprised the large stack of mail that greeted me upon my return from the Washington Seminar was a letter from the Waffle House Foundation. I was anticipating a letter requesting additional information or perhaps even a meeting with the board. You can imagine my surprise when I found enclosed with the letter a check in the amount of $5,000.
I sat there, bubbling over with excitement and accomplishment. However, I was immediately faced with something of a dilemma. The award letter clearly stated that the funds were to be used in the Atlanta area. Although this gift would allow us to step up our efforts on the local level, I still felt obligated to contribute to the Capital Campaign. After all, that was the intent of the referral and the solicitation. I discussed the dilemma with my board, and we reached the following decision. In good faith we will use the Waffle House Foundation gift to expand our local outreach, education, and training efforts. But because these funds can be used immediately to implement our local initiatives, we are committed to using current and future fund-raising efforts to fulfill a $5,000 pledge to the Capital Campaign.
I discussed this decision with chapter members, and as a result the Atlanta Metropolitan Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Georgia at its March 3, 2001, meeting considered a motion to make a pledge to the Capital Campaign in the amount of $5,000. This motion received a unanimous affirmative vote from the membership.
I must express my overwhelming appreciation to the Waffle House Foundation. They obviously understand the importance of the National Federation of the Blind, and they are committed to helping us serve the local community. Their gift far exceeds the monetary value of the check. Not only has it allowed us to expand our service provision, but it has inspired our members with a positive, optimistic attitude about fund raising, which will result in an ever-increasing commitment to change what it means to be blind.
Foundations in many other cities across this country require that their grants be spent in and only in their own areas. By rights we ought to be able to make the case that the Institute will effectively serve blind people right where the foundation is, but too often foundation boards are not convinced. I urge others to be creative. Make a case for a foundation grant to serve blind citizens where you are and then pass along the funds that gift liberates to the Campaign. It isn't quite as efficient as obtaining gifts directly to the Campaign, but it works. Just look at Atlanta!
Have you made your Campaign pledge yet? We need everyone's help. The construction cost of our projected National Research and Training Institute for the Blind is eighteen million dollars. Please take this opportunity to complete your pledge form. Without you our job will be just that much harder.
The Campaign To Change What It Means To Be Blind
Capital Campaign Pledge Intention
City, State, and Zip:_______________________
Home Phone: ________________________________
City, State, Zip:___________________________
To support the priorities of the Campaign, I (we) pledge the sum of $___________.
My (our) pledge will be payable in installments of $ __________ over the next ____ years (we encourage pledges paid over five years), beginning _____________, on the following schedule (check one): __ annually, __ semi-annually, __ quarterly, __ monthly
I (we) have enclosed a down payment of $ ________________
___ Gift of stock: _____________________ shares of _____________
___ My employer will match my gift.
Please list (my) our names in all Campaign Reports and on the Campaign Wall of Honor in the appropriate Giving Circle as follows:
__ I (We) wish to remain anonymous.
Signed: ________________________________ Date: __________________