Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Donations and Volunteers

Well, today was a busy day. This morning I was following up with police departments that I had reached out to, but hadn't heard back from. It is so important to follow up- the first call that I made was to an department that I had reached out to last month. The first thing the contact said was 'I'm so glad you called- I've been meaning to get back to you.' They definitely wanted the items for children, so we scheduled a donation for next week. People do get busy and wrapped up with other things, so it is so important to keep following up and reaching out. It can be easy to forget that sometimes and take the lack of communication personally. It also gets annoying some times because of the amount of time that I have to spend following up with people, but that's just the nature of business. Although, if I had a dime for every time I told someone (or wrote in an email) that I was following- I really don't think we would have to worry about money- ever.

Here is a photo from today's donation to Boston PD. I'm working on doing a donation there every other month. It is the largest police department that we work with. We donated 100 coloring books/crayons and reading books and over 200 stuffed animals. A BPD crime scene photographer actually took this photo. We did the photo outdoors and he was driving by- the Sgt. that I work with stopped him and asked him to take the photo. He joked that he wasn't used to taking photos of people vertical!

In good news- I got a referral this morning from Volunteer Match- I just renewed our account yesterday. I put a posting about looking for assistance with our Anniversary Celebration and a woman responded. It turned out that she has experience with marketing, so I thought that it might be better to see if she was interested in working on the Date Auction. We spoke on the phone this afternoon and she was very enthusiastic. She lives in CT, but this is all work that can be done remotely, so that isn't an issue. I sent her the info to get started. We had a good conversation, I think things will work out well. The Date Auction is such an awesome event for businesses that want to reach young professionals. It will be great to have help with reaching out to sponsors. I'm glad that I renewed our Volunteer Match account!

Well friends, my headache that I had earlier tonight has come back and I'm going to hit the fridge for something good. I've been holding off on my desire for DQ soft serve and the even stronger desire for cheese- there is some really delicious cheese sitting in the fridge. I might just settle for my usual grapefruit. Trying to keep it healthy folks! I think the cheese might win out over grapefruit right now- I can still have that later. (ah, the dilemmas that I face). Until tomorrow friends...

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Gift Certificate Hunting

It is funny how things work- yesterday, I was getting anxious because I felt like I hadn't done enough work on getting gift certificates donated for the date auction. I opened up my Excel list of donors and started reaching out. Without even thinking, I focused on 4 businesses that I usually contact. I looked over at my notes from last year and it turns out that I contacted the same places almost exactly one year ago to the day- March 29. I know I keep writing about this, but it really is odd how I have this internal clock that keeps me doing the same things at the same time without thinking about it.

So the major focus so far this week has been gift certificates for the date auction. I've been working on other things, but I've spent a lot of time on the date auction. I always spend more time on tasks that I intend to- I always underestimate how long it takes to contact the businesses- call, send emails, faxes, etc. I've learned that I need to call first to make sure that the same person is still handling gift certificate donations. Two places that I called today had different people handling donations. It's also good to call before sending an email or fax because it is helpful to make a personal connection first- even if it is just a voice-mail.

Tomorrow, I'm doing another donation to Boston PD, then I'm zooming back to start work on a new grant, contact some more police departments and work on getting auction items. In between cooking dinner tonight, I updated our Volunteer Match listing. I had been meaning to do it ages ago, but it kept slipping to the bottom of my priority list, but I finally got it done. I debated for a few minutes about whether I should do the free basic profile or spend $75 to upgrade to the enhanced listing which adds photos, gives a wider range of zip codes to include your volunteer listing and some other features. I decided to go with the free listing. I'm not sure how much the enhancement would help and even though it isn't a ton of money, I need to keep costs as low as possible- particularly given the extra money we've spending on gas. We got one of our very best volunteers, Lisa, years ago from Volunteer Match.

I also need to get cracking on our April newsletter. I didn't do a March newsletter and I really should do one every month- I definitely have to do one in April. The sooner it is done, the better. We always have lots to write about, so it's not like I have a lack of content for the newsletter- I just keep delaying on it.

Well friends, that's the latest for tonight. I'm off to read for a bit- I just started a new chick lit book that I'm really enjoying. Then watch Tabatha's Salon Take Over-  I like that show so much. I rarely ever blog this early- it's usually almost midnight when I'm blogging! Until tomorrow friends...

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Happenings and Happenings

Well, this was a very productive day. In the first good news- the grant is in the mail. It actually went out in yesterday's mail. I spent a little more time tweaking some things. I think it was as good as I could do. Now, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the foundation chooses to support us. Since I'm on a bit of a grant roll, I need to get cracking on the next one.

In other good news- it looks like we were mentioned in Better Homes and Gardens magazine! I got an email yesterday from a lady who said she read about us in the magazine and wanted to donate stuffed animals. I wrote back to her and asked her which issue we were in. She said it was the 'getting organized' issue. I need to go to the library and see if they have the magazine so I can take a look at it. It is pretty cool to get mentioned in a national magazine like that!

The next piece of good news today was that one of the sponsors who filed for bankruptcy protection last year has sorted things out and they are continuing business and marketing. I'm really happy about that because I had figured they were done with sponsoring events. I saw that their logo was still appearing on events in the city, so I googled the company today and read that they had been bought last year after their bankruptcy protection. I emailed the contact that I have and she wrote back to me immediately with the new person to get in touch with about our event. Of course, this doesn't mean that they will definitely be involved with our event, but at least there is potential.

This afternoon, I was working on auction items for the anniversary celebration. I reached out to quite a few businesses. I also wanted to work on gift certificates for the date auction, but I didn't get around to it. I need to put it on my list for tomorrow.

Well friends, that's it for tonight. I should go and send some more emails, but I'm getting a little tired and I want to read for a bit. I might have my grapefruit too- I splurged earlier tonight and had some chocolate soft serve ice cream from DQ- it felt like a summer night and I wanted to celebrate! Until tomorrow friends...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Good Day!

This was a good day! In the first realm of good news- Bridget Blythe is going to cohost our Date Auction, along with Steve Aveson. They are both the morning news anchors on NECN. I'm really happy that they are going to be hosting. It is great to have hosts who are already partners- they already are familiar with each other and know how to work together. It is pretty cool to have TV anchors as hosts. I emailed Bridget this afternoon and she got back to me within 10 minutes. It makes such a difference when people respond promptly. Even if someone can't assist, it helps to let me know- that way, I don't have to spend time following up. Of course, it is even better when people respond quickly and they want to help!

The grant that I've been working on (and delayed working on) is technically done. Now what does 'technically done' mean? Well, it means that I'm in the staring at it phase- the more formal name for this phase would be proofreading, but it tends to be more staring since I've already been proofing it. I've been doing this with grants for years- I finish the grant, do the edits and then stare at it off and on for almost a day before actually printing it out and mailing it. Sometimes, I have changed things that I hadn't noticed before- it's never anything major, but instead little tweaks. There is a lot of pressure when it comes to grants- we really need the financial support, so it is my job to make sure that everything is explained well and convince the foundations of why they should support Project Smile. There is a lot of competition for grant money and we need to be on our game. I've included some great letters of support from DCF and police departments- I think those really help to let the foundations hear directly from the people who give our items from children. I include those letters in almost all our grants- some of the grants that are done online don't allow for attachments.

Well, that's it for tonight. Tomorrow, I'm off to do a donation at Lawrence PD. Then I'm back here to take a few more looks at the grant and get it in tomorrow's mail. I also need to work on auction items and sponsors for the date auction. I'm going to eat my grapefruit and read for a bit. Until next time friends...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tuesday's Happenings

Well, the progress continues on the grant front! Our donation to DCF went well this morning. We donated over 250 stuffed animals, books and coloring books/crayons. It is one of my favorite donations to do. Here is a photo:
There is no legal parking at their location, so I can't leave the car. That's why the photos from DCF are always done in a hurry!

After dropping off the items, I zoomed back to work and got cracking on the grant. I found the grant that we had submitted a few years ago- we received $5,000 from that application, so I've been working from that grant and updating what we need to. There application hasn't changed very much and we are asking for funding for the same program. I was researching for the latest stats for issues related to children to include in the grant. There is a wealth of information on the internet, but some times, it can be hard to find the stats that you need. I spent a lot of time searching and was getting a little frustrated, but finally- just as I was about to take a break, I found what I was looking for. I still have a lot of work left to do, but we're making serious progress. My goal this week is to get the grant finished. It can easily get done in that time frame and there isn't any reason for it to take longer.

Well, that's the latest for tonight. There is a lot more to write about, but I need to work on a few other things right now. Keep wishing me grant writing luck- I need to get it almost complete tomorrow! Until tomorrow friends....

Grant Progress

Well, I am happy to announce that grant progress has been made! For those who have been following my blog posts, you will know that this is a cause for a mini celebration. I have been delaying work on this grant for a while. It isn't due until April 1, but I needed to get cracking on it now. Now, just to clarify- there was only a little progress made- two questions were answered completely. However, progress is still progress and as long as I got more done that just fill out my contact info, things are moving forward. Tomorrow morning, I am donating to DCF in Boston and then I'm heading back and working solely on the grant. I'm not even going to write anything else on my to-do list.

It is pretty funny how I will work on the same tasks every year at almost the exact same time without even thinking about it. This happens all the time. On Friday afternoon- when I was about to start working on my grant, I started thinking that I hadn't been working on getting auction items for the Anniversary Celebration and that I really needed to make more progress on that. I opened my excel file of donors and chose 3 companies to reach out to. I searched my email to find last year's email that I had sent them. It turns out that I had emailed all three companies on exactly the same day last year. Obviously, when you're running a business and you work on the same tasks each year, you will repeat things at about the same time- but it seems a little uncanny how often it comes down to the exact same day without my even thinking of it. In good news- I heard from two of the companies this evening that they will be sending gift certificates.

Well friends, that's it for tonight. I'm off to eat some canned pineapple with yogurt and catch up on 'Bethenny Ever After'! Until tomorrow..

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Thursday Happenings

Greetings friends! So what's the latest? Well, despite promising myself that I was going to make progress on the big grant, I did not do any actual work on it besides staring at the grant and mentally answering some of the questions. Now, anyone who has ever been in school knows that mentally answering the question doesn't really help a situation- at some point, the answers have to actually make it on to paper. I did find out that the grant is actually due earlier than I thought- April 1 not mid- April. It will get done and it won't get done last minute, but I do need to commit the time to it now. The problem was that I opened the grant after lunch and looked at it, then I looked at my to-do list and decided that I should spend a few minutes working on date auction sponsors. However, that few minutes turned into much longer than that. By the time I turned back to grant work, it was late afternoon and I was tired. The good news is that I did connect with one potential date auction sponsor today who was really interested in being involved with the event- they even suggested having one of their employees be auctioned off. It is great when you talk to a potential sponsor who is really into the event- I was telling her about the couple that got married and had their first baby last fall. She thought that was great. I will keep you posted when I hear back- hopefully with good news!

I finally made a decision on the gift bags for the Date Auction. It took me a month to decide on what color bags we should use. I wanted to do a new color- a hot pink or red, but the company I work with didn't have a good shade of red or a hot pink. I then couldn't decide between repeating the blue bags that we did last year or the purple ones from the year before. I honestly spent the better part of a month going back and forth about which bag to use. I love the blue bag- it is my favorite of the two. The color is bright and vibrant and looks great. However, I didn't want to repeat the color two years in a row. It is important that people see our event as fresh- even though it is the same event every year, so I wanted to rotate the color. The purple is a great color too, so guests are definitely getting a good looking bag. It may sound like a trivial thing- and compared to other things related to the events, it is trivial- but it is the small details that make the bigger event successful.

In other good news- Miss Massachusetts is going to be a special guest at our Anniversary Celebration. I'm really happy about that. She is always a lovely addition to our event. I've always been impressed by the women that I've met who hold that title- they are very friendly, poised, professional and sincere. They do a great job at events.

Well, that's the latest for tonight. I was going to go back and do some more work, but I'm getting tired. I'm going to read for a bit- and not eat any more of the cheddar cheese and pretzel crisps that I've just been snacking on- so good! Until next time friends...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Good Start for March

Well, March is off to a good start. The best news this week is that Steve Aveson, morning news anchor on NECN is going to host our 6th Annual Project Smile Date Auction! He was the guest speaker at our Anniversary Celebration and gave a wonderful, touching speech. He also loves to host auctions- he helped host part of our live auction at the event and did a great job. I think he will do an awesome job hosting the Date Auction. I'm really excited about. Now, I need to find a cohost. It really is a job for two people. We auction off 40 people and it takes a lot of energy. If you have two hosts they can split it up and they can work off each other as well to keep the crowd going. We've always had two hosts. It was even more awesome because I emailed Steve in the morning and he responded within 10 minutes that he would love to host. There is nothing better than someone who responds promptly- it really is great. I spend so much time waiting to hear back from people and following up constantly, so when people are actually responsive, it is fantastic!

So what else is going on? I did a donation yesterday to Lowell Police. Here is a photo from that donation. We donated over 250 stuffed animals, books and coloring books/crayons. We've been donating to Lowell for a long time. I think our first donation was in 2004. I've actually know the officer in the photo from one of our first donations. I hadn't seen him in a few years. The frog looks like he is under arrest- sitting in the backseat like that. That was an accident, but it is pretty funny.

I still haven't done any more work on the big grant which is due in April. I'm not a procrastinator, so I really don't know why it is taking so long to get cracking on this thing. Well, it's because I get wrapped up with other tasks. Tomorrow, I will stop delaying and actually get work done.

I got an email today from a woman in Kentucky who is helping with relief efforts for families who were victims of those horrific tornadoes recently. She asked if I could send some stuffed animals that she could give out to the children. I wrote back that we would be happy to send some. She got back to me tonight with more details. It's great that we can help out, even in a small way. It must be so horrible to lose your home and all your stuff- I can't even imagine. Hopefully, these stuffed animals will help make a difference.

Well, there is more to write about, but my eyes are hurting and I'm getting tired. I got a new book from the library which I really want to start, but I don't know how much more concentrating I can do. I have so much that I need to work on tomorrow, I really should get an early night. I've been going to bed a bit earlier recently (not last night) and it has been making a difference in the morning. I need to write my list as well- half of which will be a repeat of the items that were on today's list! Anyways friends- until tomorrow...