Braille Monitor                                                           April 2007

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The words "In the Spotlight" appear at the top of this article, and a spotlight is shining on the words "Affiliate Action."

From the Editor: The spotlight this month is on major affiliate projects. The first is an ambitious fundraiser. These are always lots of work, but done well they can be satisfying and eventually bring in significant funds and provide valuable public education for the organization. To ensure that any major project will succeed in meeting some or all of its goals, you must identify enthusiastic members with organizational skills and some experience in planning large events of some kind. You will also benefit from recruiting skilled assistance from beyond affiliate membership. Some people actually love to plan and execute large events. Before thankfully accepting an offer to help from such a person, however, it is wise to check on his or her track record. You don’t need the help of someone who cost another organization $30,000, even if the PR was great. Thelma Godwin of the NFB of Georgia describes that affiliate’s experience hosting an annual dinner and silent auction.

Chad and Erin Wilburn of the NFB of Utah describe that affiliate’s efforts to educate the public about blindness during Meet the Blind Month. Whether you are raising money or educating the public, complex events require careful planning, a scrupulous adherence to your timeline, and a hard-working committee.

This is what Thelma says:

The Black Tie-White Cane Appreciation Banquet

by Thelma Godwin

Thelma GodwinThelma Godwin serves as second vice president of the National Federation of the Blind of Georgia. She has been the driving force behind the NFB of Georgia Black Tie-White Cane Appreciation Banquet event. Here is what she has to say to affiliates interested in coordinating banquet fundraisers.

Raising money for the organization has continued to be one of the more challenging responsibilities members of the National Federation of the Blind of Georgia face. We have been fairly successful with our candy sales and raffle tickets, and these fundraisers continue to raise money for the organization. I believe that arming members and friends with an NFB brochure and a small premium item is the best way to allow every member to get involved in the outreach, education, and fundraising efforts of the organization. However, in addition to these small-scale projects, we also wanted an event that would allow us to raise significant funds while promoting the organization in a more ambitious way. We wanted something formal and a bit elegant--an event that combined food, fellowship, and fun. We decided on a banquet. In a matter of approximately four months, we planned and hosted our first fundraising banquet. On October 7, 2006, the National Federation of the Blind of Georgia hosted our fifth annual Black Tie-White Cane Appreciation Banquet.

We have had many inquiries from brother and sister Federation affiliates about the event, so here is some information about the development and planning of the BTWC Banquet. The following is a summary of the steps we took to develop the event and some information about last year’s BTWC Banquet.

The first time we took a simple approach. We set a goal of one hundred attendees. We chose this number because we knew from our convention banquet attendance that we could get a hundred people to attend a banquet. In fact we ended up with over a hundred attendees. Next we shopped around for a venue. We had a relationship with the Holiday Inn in downtown Atlanta because we regularly hold the Christmas party for the Atlanta chapter there. So that is where we held the first banquet, but our subsequent events have been held at the fabulous Atlanta Marriott Marquis and have drawn over two hundred attendees. This year we will be at the Doubletree Atlanta-Buckhead Hotel because the BTWC Banquet will double as the banquet for our state convention, which is being held at that facility.

Before our first BTWC Banquet we met with the Holiday Inn Downtown Atlanta sales representative and discussed banquet room rental and menu prices. The meal was simple: salad, bread, chicken, two vegetables, tea, and a dessert. The total cost of the room, meals, and gratuity came to about $3,000. We used this figure to decide on the banquet ticket price. We wanted ticket sales to cover the cost of the event and raise a little money. We played with a variety of ways to determine the cost of the banquet ticket. We eventually decided the price by determining that the per-person expense (room rental and meal plus gratuity) would be $30, so we doubled this cost to establish our banquet ticket price at $60 a person.

Developing the event program was the next step. “Black Tie-White Cane” was catchy, but what did it mean? We adopted the following title and tag line, which has been included in the event description, banquet program, and sponsorship solicitation literature of each BTWC banquet. Here is the text of our promotional flyer:

Black Tie/White Cane Appreciation Banquet

A penguin in tuxedo and bow tie lifts his top hot with one hand and wields a white cane with the other. The cane intersects the NFB of Georgia logo surrounded by the words “Black Tie/White Cane Banquet.”This is the fifth annual Black Tie/White Cane Appreciation Banquet hosted by the National Federation of the Blind of Georgia. The banquet will be held on Saturday, October 7, 2006, at the Doubletree Hotel Atlanta Buckhead. Our keynote speaker will be Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind.

Our defining educational and fundraising event, the banquet denotes style and purpose. The black tie symbolizes the prestige and dignity blind people strive to attain in a society notably indifferent to the needs and aspirations of its blind citizens. The white cane is the tool we use to travel independently as contributing, productive members of the community and is a symbol of our independence.

Blind People
Sharing the Responsibility
Sharing the Reward

The National Federation of the Blind of Georgia works to improve the lives of all blind people. We believe that blindness is only a characteristic; given proper training and opportunity, blindness can be reduced to a mere nuisance. We work to remove the negative stereotypes associated with blindness and replace them with a belief in the true potential of blind people. We recognize that the greatest barriers we face are public attitudes that serve to reduce us to dependency with little or no benefit to others. We believe in the abilities of blind people, and we insist that it is respectable to be blind.

Those who strive for full participation must accept the responsibility entailed. We must be accountable, so we embrace a philosophy that inspires us to achieve excellence. We rescue other blind people from self-pity by promoting the understanding that we control our own destinies. We hold ourselves to a higher standard than the one others have set for us, trusting that they will come to realize that we can be vital, contributing, productive members of society.

The National Federation of the Blind of Georgia is part of a national movement fighting for the civil rights of the blind. We fight for only what we need to become contributing members of our communities. Though our tools and techniques may be different, we ask for no more than anyone else, but certainly no less! The rewards we seek are respect and dignity. We will accept our responsibility as members of society, and we triumphantly claim our reward and gratefully take our places as equal participants in achieving the American dream.

Black Tie/White Cane Appreciation Banquet
Sponsorship Opportunities

The NFB of Georgia is a 501c(3) nonprofit volunteer organization of blind people speaking for ourselves. We capitalize on the donated services and professional talents of our members. All funds donated to the NFB of Georgia are tax deductible and provide outreach, education, advocacy, training, and the other services necessary for blind people to obtain equality, opportunity, and security. With your help we train blind people in the leadership and advocacy skills they need to strive for full participation and self-determination.

$5,000 Prestige Honor Sponsor

$2,500 Dignity Honor Sponsor

$1,000 Independence Honor Sponsor

All sponsor names will appear in the banquet program in recognition of their support of the NFB of Georgia and the true independence of blind people. Individual tickets can be purchased for $60 each. Sponsors can use them as rewards for employees who have demonstrated outstanding community service over the past year. Tickets can also be returned to the NFB of Georgia for use by blind or visually impaired people.

Along with the banquet, we conduct a silent auction. We try to obtain quality items for the bidding. We have developed a relationship with a local gallery that provides us very nice artwork crafted by people with disabilities. We set the minimum bid price at the cost of the item, and the NFB of Georgia receives any income above the minimum bid.

With careful planning the event can run on automatic pilot once it starts. We have a reception with music while attendees browse and place their bids at the silent auction tables. We start dinner promptly. Thirty minutes into dinner we start the program, which consists of entertainment, award presentations, and then our keynote speaker. After all the formality we transition into a party with a variety of music and dancing.

I have served as the event coordinator since the conception of the banquet. This event requires a lot of coordination and broad participation by members. I must attribute our success to having a tremendous team of committed, talented Federationists who continue to volunteer their time to develop a quality event. If your affiliate is thinking about hosting such an event, my advice is to focus on having a good time and plan to cover your expenses. On its own the BTWC is an excellent educational opportunity that we would continue to host as long as we could cover our expenses. Thankfully we now actually clear approximately $6,000 with the event. Professional event planners told us that it is common to lose money the first time you coordinate such an event. Luckily we did not consult them before we made our plans the first time.

Changing What It Means to Be Blind
One Event at a Time

by Chad and Erin Wilburn

Chad and Erin WilburnThis year the Utah affiliate ventured into unknown territory. In previous years we have celebrated White Cane Safety Day by meeting our governor and conducting chapter activities, all of which were well attended and well received. This year we welcomed some great new leadership into our state student division, which in turn brought some new ideas. Chad Wilburn, president of the Utah Student Division and the Weber/ Davis Chapter, volunteered to chair the Utah Affiliate White Cane Awareness Day Committee.
Members of the NFB always want to educate the public and our families about what it means to be blind. So this was our goal for the first annual White Cane Awareness Fair, held October 20, 2006, at the Gallivan Center in Salt Lake City. We recognize that family members, friends, and work or school colleagues often know very little about how we do things and think we are remarkable because we are able to do the things they do. So we decided to sponsor an event to educate newly blind adults, families of blind children, and members of the public who, for whatever reason, were interested in learning more about blindness and blind people.

On October 19 at 10:00 a.m., Chad Wilburn and Ron Gardner were guests on a local talk show called Good Things Utah. They spoke about the issues surrounding blindness and how sighted people can help to dispel the myths about blindness. Unfortunately our air time was cut short, but off the air the conversation continued. The result was that we have been asked to return as guests for two additional segments, one on NFB-NEWSLINE® and another about cooking.

On October 20 from 5:00 to 8:00 a.m., the NFB was featured on Channel 2’s Morning News. We did four segments with a reporter at the Division of Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Salt Lake City. Bill Gibson, the Division’s director, taught Allie how to bake cookies. Tai Tomasi taught her about Braille and the importance of Braille literacy. Everette Bacon demonstrated the Kurzweil–National Federation of the Blind Reader, and Ron Gardner, our state president, taught her how to use a cane. All of these segments were done under sleepshades.

Adam HarveyFrom 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Gallivan Center each chapter of the Utah affiliate staffed a booth. We had information, Braille, technology, children’s toys and games, the latest accessible voting machine, cane travel, and food booths. Our families learned how to read and type their names in Braille. Our children played and danced to catchy music, and the public learned what it means to be blind and that it is respectable to be blind.

During the planning process we hit a number of bumps. Each of the TV stations Chad contacted turned down the opportunity to be associated with our fair. But, as we all know, persistence pays off. After many emails and phone calls they all agreed to participate, and each station expressed a strong interest in being more involved with the blind community of Utah.

The National Federation of the Blind of Utah is changing what it means to be blind, one event at a time. Here is an example. We received an email and picture from a grateful mother, Anne Harvey, whose 3-year-old son took a big step toward independence. She wrote: “My son Adam had a great time checking out the Gallivan Center with his cane. He has really started doing well with his cane travel, and we can’t wait to learn more. It was exciting to watch him explore the different surfaces with his cane--he has had a lot of trouble transitioning between different surfaces and different colors--I think he can’t tell if it’s a step or not. For the first time, at the Gallivan Center, I watched him cautiously extend his cane across two surfaces, and he could tell they were the same level and then felt safe to continue walking. And I felt safe too. Great! Really Great!”
Adam Harvey and other children like him are the reason we must educate ourselves, our families, and our communities about what it means to be blind. We will be conducting our fair again during Meet the Blind Month 2007.

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