Putting the fun in fundraising

What do you mean, the oven is not hot?” I ask as Emma attempts to put the biscuits in the oven during the weekly cooking class. As I begin to check the temperature and make sure the oven is turned on, I realize that it is definitely not hot! As I start down the hall to the administrator’s office, I practice what I will say to convince her that the facility should, despite its tight budget, purchase a new stove for the Activity Room. Well, as many of us know, the answer I receive is “fundraising.”

Fundraising is the process of soliciting and gathering money and/or in-kind gifts by asking for donations from individuals, businesses, charities, or government agencies. Although the term typically refers to the efforts to gather funds for not-for-profit organizations, for-profit organizations also solicit investors. Always have a “Wish List” for your organization.

Where’s the money?

Fundraising can help all activity professionals to acquire funds or products for their residents. Some sources to contact include:

  • Individuals. People give to organizations close to their hearts. They may have donated before and saw positive results or they received recognition for their contributions. Although most people give without expecting benefits, recognition is a must.

  • Civic clubs. The mission of these groups is often based on helping others. Civic clubs hold fundraising events to help less fortunate groups or individuals, and annual fundraisers will grow both in size and funds.

  • Corporations/businesses. Bus-inesses often set certain goals for their employees, compete with other local businesses, or market their own product and/or service. By sponsoring a fundraiser the business will gain exposure in the community, helping both the business and your organization.

  • Special events. Usually individuals or businesses make a pledge or contribution, buy tickets, or purchase merchandise to support a cause. Special events can be scheduled at a certain time each year, which allows for recurring recognition for your organization. Take advantage of an annual festival or fair in your community.

  • Foundations/grants. Foundations may be company-, family-, or community-based. Often a certain application process and criteria is required. In-memory money can be designated for the Activity Department by families who want to share with other residents the quality of life that their family member enjoyed while in your facility. Knowing where and how to apply for a grant can bring “lost” monies to your organization. Some applications require special forms; other foundations just need to be asked.

Event planning

Annual, special, or one-time events may require hours of planning. With a solid fundraising plan, you can monitor the expense, revenue, and problems encountered along the way. Determine what your goal(s) are and people will be more likely to give when they know where the money is going and how it will be used. Look for different, fun, and creative ways to raise funds. Be aware of how much it will cost to have the event. Set goals, work toward them, and always be willing to share them with anyone who can provide assistance.

Know that you, Super Activity Professional, can’t always do it all. Ask for and develop committees. Look for talents and strengths that can make a positive impact on your fundraising efforts. Seek out family, friends, businesses, colleagues, clubs, and churches that can further your cause.


When budgeting for a special event, review all aspects that were needed to conduct the event last time. Look at funds, people, and the time spent in preparation. Set goals for the amount of funds needed and length of time to achieve. When the budget for a fundraiser is set, there will always be areas that will need amending. Remember that a budget is the monitoring device to keep you on track with expenses before and during the event and to set goals for the next time this event is planned. By adding fundraising to the Activity Department budget, the department revenue will expand. However, “budget busters” can include celebrity expenses, free meals and/or tickets, gifts, and corkage, which is a fee charged to open a bottle of wine.

Revenue sources

Revenue sources can include, but are not limited to:

  • Ticket sales

  • Pledges

  • Raffles

  • Sponsorships

  • Underwriting

  • Participation fees

  • In-kind donations

  • Food and drink sales

  • Merchandise sales

  • Advertisements

  • Silent and/or live auctions

  • Benefits/poker runs

Public relations

Raise awareness for your cause. Be available to any group needing guest speakers, educators, or members. Let the public know what you need. Any method used that draws attention to your cause will bring more participation and revenue to your organization. What better public relations person is there for your department than you?


Saluting those who help with any fundraiser is the best way to guarantee their help the next time. Recognize them with certificates of appreciation, newspaper articles and pictures, small gifts, and thank-you notes. Everyone enjoys getting credit for a job well done.

Some fun event ideas

Patrona R. Turman, ACC, CAVS

Any special day, event, or person can be reason to hold a fundraiser. Some events require direction by the activity professional. However, a committee of staff and/or volunteers can plan and oversee many fundraising projects, while others can be accomplished with little planning or cost to the facility or activity professional.

Bake sales, balloon bouquets, car washes, ice cream socials, monthly themed sales, popcorn sales, and quilt raffles don’t require a lot of effort, while other events such as ball games, breakfasts or dinners, carnivals, craft sales, fashion shows, health fairs, silent auctions, and talent shows take more planning.

Successful car shows, cook-offs, dances, motorcycle poker runs, scavenger hunts, street fairs, and walk/ride-a-thons can be planned by committees, staff, or volunteers.

Low-maintenance fundraisers might include sales of art, book, candle, home interior, jewelry, toy, and uniform items. Low-maintenance means that the advertising, setup, and legwork are done by the company or individual representing the product or service to be sold.


Remember that to have a successful fundraiser, follow the four important steps outlined above: organize, budget, evaluate, and recognize.

Today there is a new stove in our Activity Room, thanks to the help of families, staff, and volunteers. We had fun raising the money and now the residents will continue to enjoy many pans of biscuits from the oven.

Keep a smile on your face, love in your heart, and an idea for a fun fundraiser in that very busy activity professional mind.

Patrona R. Turman, ACC, CAVS, is the Activity/Volunteer Director at Dickson Healthcare Center in Dickson, Tennessee, and co-owner of Friends Consulting Friends. She has served as President for the Activity Coordinators of Tennessee, Special Olympics Chairperson, Civitan President-Elect, and is currently serving her second term as Secretary for the National Association of Activity Professionals (NAAP). Turman speaks at regional workshops and state and national conference on many topics of interest to activity professionals.

For more information, call (615) 446-5171, e-mail tronaj22@aol.com, or visit https://www.thenaap.com. To send your comments to the author and editors, e-mail turman1208@iadvanceseniorcare.com.

Long-Term Living 2008 December;57(12):14-17

Topics: Articles , Facility management , Finance