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The Braille Monitor – November, 2000 Edition


The Making of a Campaign Volunteer

by Jason Ewell

Jason Ewell
Jason Ewell

From the Editor: Jason Ewell is a junior at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio, and a member of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Blind Students. He comes from a small town in which his family is well known. When he was an elementary student at the school for the blind,was the top fund-raiser in the annual school money-making project because he came home and capitalized on the large number of people his parents knew. I didn't know Jasonduring those years, but I will bet that he was completely irresistible. I don't know many people who could hold out against the appeal of a cute, articulate blind child asking for sponsorship in a hike to benefit the school for the blind. Jason came home for secondary school, where he got excellent grades, wrestled, and became an Eagle Scout. I began to receive newspaper articles about this blind kid in a public high school who was clearly one of the gang and who excelled at everything he turned his hand to.  I had no address for him, so I wrote to him at the high school telling him about the NFB, encouraging him to apply to our scholarship program, and offering him expertise and advice if he needed them. He did not respond, and I could not be sure that he had received my letter. But when the time came, he did apply for a scholarship and received it.

Since the 1997 convention in New Orleans, Jason has been an active and dedicated Federationist. In the following article he recounts his activities as a capital campaign volunteer. This is what he says:


When I first heard about the capital campaign planned to finance the National Research and Training Institute for the Blind, I was excited. I thought, "Here is an important project in which I can take part." I attended one of the volunteer training meetings at the 1999 National Convention in Atlanta to learn more about the project and compiled a list of potential prospects, all of which were companies in my hometown of Norwalk, Ohio, which has a population of about 17,000. I thought that, since I knew at least one person in the management of each company, or, more important, since these people knew me, I would be able to convince some of them to invest in our capital campaign.

In early June I contacted four local companies, all of which were on my list of original prospects. In each case I called someone I knew in management, briefly described our capital campaign, and explained that I would like to meet in person in order to discuss a possible contribution from the person's company. All four responded by asking me to send literature about the project. I sent a campaign brochure along with my personalized cover letter to each and waited. I did point out in my letters that I had made a five-year pledge of my own because I wanted the people deciding how much their companies would give to understand that I believe in the project enough to contribute a significant amount for a college student.

My first response came within a week of sending out the mailing. It was a $100 check. Several weeks later I received a call informing me that the board of Norwalk Furniture had voted to make an immediate gift of $5,000 to the campaign. By mid-August I had received at least a commitment from each of the four companies. Remember that this happened without my being able to meet with any of  them. This is not what we want. We want to meet with people to discuss their potential investment because, although we can convince them without too much difficulty that our project is a good one, it is usually only through an extended conversation that they will come to understand exactly how worthwhile the National Research and Training Institute for the Blind really will be. The people whose contributions we solicit will often try to avoid meetings--some  because they are busy and some because they realize that we will convince them to give more if they meet with us in person.

In late August I sent a three-page letter to the Norwalk Lions Club. In it I wrote about the National Federation of the Blind, and I explained that the Ohio affiliate was a very active one. I told them I had received a scholarship from the national organization in 1997 and outlined my involvement on several levels during the three years since. I then described the capital campaign and explained why I thought it was such an exciting project. Finally I asked them please to call me with any questions about the project or the Federation. The next week the club's board of directors voted to give $5,000 a year for each of the next five years to the National Research and Training Institute for the Blind.

Although I had hoped that some of my prospects would make larger contributions than they did, I occasionally remind myself that no one has yet said no. I have decided, however, that this means only one thing. I have not yet asked enough people! I am sure that, before I am finished, I will have received several no-responses, but that's all right. If we asked only the sure-thing prospects, we would miss out on many other good ones.

My purpose in writing this article is not to tell about my success as a capital campaign volunteer for its own sake. Rather I want to convey the understanding that raising money for this worthwhile project is not as difficult as some people think. My efforts to raise money have been successful because I am from a small town in which I am well known. I have credibility among the people who manage the companies I am soliciting.

I am sure that many Federationists are in similar advantageous situations and that those who are not have other advantages. We each should use the contacts and strengths we have to help us secure contributions. I encourage each Federationist who has not yet done so to compile a list of potential prospects and those who have done so already to add to your lists. My largest gift did not come from one of my original prospect ideas. Not until nearly a year after I decided to help with this project did it occur to me to send a letter to the Norwalk Lions Club. I will probably think up other ideas during the coming months.

When I decided to work as a capital campaign volunteer, I set several goals for myself. I told myself that I would raise more money than anyone else in my affiliate and that I would also raise more than any other student. Having raised more than $30,000 thus far, I believe I have met both of these goals, at least for the time being. I would love it, though, if five or ten people caught up with me because we would be that much closer to completing the campaign, and I would merely try to reestablish my lead again. So please take this as a challenge! Tell people about this project; help them to realize how valuable it will be to the blind of the world in the coming decades, and how worthwhile an investment it would be for them. Until then, however, I will concentrate on pursuing my next goal--hitting the six-figure mark.

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