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Rich Vandiver Event Planning Tips

Rich VandiverEvery morning I read the paper and every night I watch the news. We're bombarded with stories about the recession, the financial crisis, the plunging stock market, rising food prices, bank bailouts, business was likely "the" largest single influence in the recent presidential election. It's no secret that we're experiencing a difficult economic time. What's even more disconcerting are the reports and emails I've received about how difficult it is for charitable and non-profit groups to raise money to support their programs
and stay afloat.

I'm here to tell you - do not be discouraged!

Last weekend we held our 2nd Annual N. Texas Fun Walk for a Cure. We were a bit nervous and unsure about our potential for success given the economic conditions. Our concerns were unfounded. Not only did we reach our goal, we doubled (and nearly tripled) the amount we raised during the inaugural event. It was both humbling and gratifying:

  • I was moved by the people (many of whom I know have been out of work for more than a year) who sent in $10 contributions and apologized that they could not do more.

  • I was moved by the people struggling to feed and put shoes on the feet of their kids who said they could not support us financially but were supporting us spiritually with their prayers.

  • I was moved by several contributions exceeding $250 from people who are unemployed, retired and living on fixed incomes, and the like.

  • I was moved by the desire to "do more" as well as the passion displayed by our local pharmaceutical reps as they contributed to the event. Even though the pharm business is a business and a big business, there are a lot of people in the business with big hearts who extend themselves well beyond the requirements of their job.

  • I was moved by the tremendous effort put forth by PH patients and everyone who ignored or pushed aside their personal challenges and worked tirelessly to make the walk a success.

There are some things I would encourage you to do (if you're not already doing them) to help make your fundraising event a success:

1) OVER PREPARE — When you're getting ready for an event, review all of the PHA Special Events material. Then, take the next step. Review the Action Kit, Advocacy, Awareness, and Support PHA sections of the website to see how strategies/tactics from other programs can lend themselves to your event effort.

2) TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ALL THE TOOLS YOU HAVE AVAILABLE — Use your social networks (don't be afraid to use LinkedIn and other business-related contact lists if you have them) to spread your message. (Many businesses prohibit using company email distribution lists to solicit funds because they would have to open the doors to numerous and occasionally questionable efforts so as to not discriminate. However, if your target audience - many with their business email addresses - happens to be on your social business network AND
the email originates from your personal email address, they tend not to squawk too much.)

3) MAXIMIZE YOUR TIME / SIMPLIFY YOUR EFFORT — Work with Jessica at PHA and use the FirstGiving website tool. It works.

4) THINK SYNERGY — The result will be greater than the sum of the individual efforts if you coordinate all of your activities. For example, if you're on an Awareness or Advocacy mission, don't miss the opportunity to talk-up your fundraiser. Hand out flyers or save-the-date cards when you're attending a Congressional luncheon. Publicize your event as a part of your Web of Friends, or Circle of Friends efforts. Take event flyers to your next doctor's appointment and ask the doctor if he/she would mind leaving them out on the counter.

5) MAKE IT PERSONAL — Many of your relatives and close friends do not truly understand what you're going through. The same is particularly true for others on your contact list. You have to explain it to them in simple, poignant detail. I've attached a copy of a flyer we sent out to nearly 200 recipients from LinkedIn and personal email lists. We received several hundred dollars in contributions as a result.

6) ALWAYS SAY 'PULMONARY HYPERTENSION' INSTEAD OF SAYING 'PH' — Whether you're a patient or caregiver, we live with the disease every day so it's easy to get near-sighted and leave out important details. Assume your audience knows nothing about pulmonary hypertension.

7) EXPAND YOUR CONTACT LIST AND ASK YOUR CONTACTS TO 'PASS IT ON' — If you're speaking before a group or have secured a proclamation from a local government, ask for a list of email addresses for their members. You are making a grass roots appeal and the larger the audience, the greater chance of success you'll have. You will be surprised where the contributions come from. People we'd never met and never communicated with showed up at our walk to either walk or just to make a contribution because they'd received a forwarded email, just picked up a flyer, or were handed a flyer by someone who decided to pass it on. Don't forget to ask for names and email addresses from people (if they want to share them) when they make a contribution. After your event, get a report from your FirstGiving site. If they're not already on your contact list, add the contributors so you have the info for next year or your next event.

8) DON'T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP — The worst you can get is a "no thanks" and you'll be amazed by the support you do receive.

9) FOLLOW-UP — We've made it a point to personally thank everyone who participated in and contributed to our events with a thank you card, an email, and a face-to-face thanks where possible. This is more important than ever since many people have less to give. It will also help ensure your future success. I was asked by a couple of our support group members to help them come up with a few words to say in a thank you note, so I decided to share them here too for anyone who may be less than

I want to personally THANK YOU for your (pick an adverb: extremely, very, most) generous contribution to help fund research efforts to cure pulmonary hypertension.

As I'm sure you can imagine, coping with PH can be very difficult for patients and family members. It's a rare, progressive, and life threatening disease. Since our numbers are relatively small, we don't often get the kind of support, publicity, and financial backing afforded other causes. It would be easy to give in to the obstacles and challenges. That's why your support is so important.

As PHA Board Chair Carl Hicks puts it, "Hope is a Verb." It's your act of kindness that gives PH patients the hope they need to keep fighting.

Again, many heartfelt thanks!

It seems we, as a people, have an extraordinary ability to hunker down and then come out of our corners fighting when faced with adversity. Yes Carl, Hope is a Verb. Keep the faith!

Rich Vandiver  
Fort Worth Support Group Leader


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The National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) awarded PHA the Abbey S. Meyers Leadership Award in 2012 for outstanding service to PHA members in advocacy, education and other key areas.