When I was younger, my family liked to take yearly vacations. Most often to Florida. Daddy would bring home a big jug or two with small mouths–or anything that was easy to put something in, less easy to pull it out!–and encourage us to put our loose change into the jug.
I watched and watched the loose change fill up the jugs until it was time to break them open and count. I remember the work, late nights, sitting in my booster chair rolling pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters. We’d roll and roll. For my efforts, I’d get one or two roll of dimes to convert to dollars and spend on my vacation.
We went to Disney World three times, Magic Kingdom, Epcot Center, Washington DC, Daytona Beach, Tampa Beach, Busch Gardens, and and and—all from rolling and saving those pennies!
Whenever I have a big financial goal, I start throwing any of my disposable income into a coffee can, or an envelope in my desk drawer. I know it’s only a drop in the bucket, but I also know that eventually, it will continue to grow and grow!
Imagine if you had access to folks’ pennies on a regular basis to contribute to your artistic goals? Think of what you could accomplish.
One of my favorite places in Brooklyn is the Weeksville Heritage Center.
I had the privilege of working there, and through my current work as a non-profit fundraising consultant, who primarily works for arts organizations of color, I’ve encountered even in that small niche of a world so many people who have passed through Weeksville’s doors as well. Such such a small world.
I tell this story often, but, when the Historic Hunterfly Road Houses were rediscovered in 1968 by James Hurley, and he then brought in educator, activist, and artist Joan Maynard to be the founding Executive Director, Joan changed–or else started the game of fundraising for Black Arts and culture in NYC, and taught a community how to Save the Memories of Self by launching, in the early 1970’s by urging middle school students to start a fundraising campaign: “Pennies for Weeksville.” The students raised the first $800 towards the large project of renovating the 19th century houses. The students, young, black, Crown Heights and Bedford Stuyvesant residents, went door to door, collecting spare change, telling folks about the project, and launched a community’s awareness about one of the most important landmarks in Black Brooklyn History. They were Brooklyn’s young, black fundraisers. They were Brooklyn’s young, black philanthropists.
Even a penny made a difference to the future of the organization. Even a penny put together with others, made a larger gift.
So many times we think about the big fundraising goals for our creative projects, and think: unless a big, magical grant comes through, there’s no way we’ll have the money to do what we dream.
But we forget the pennies, added up, can equal that big grant.
We forget–or maybe we don’t know?–that over 3/4 of charitable giving every year comes from people, not foundations or corporations.
And in truth, individual giving is only one part of the fundraising strategy, or, what I call revenue pie. But it’s a very important one. And it’s one, if cared for and cultivated and watered like a garden, will be the sole remaining force to ensuring your creative cause is stable, and continues on for years to come.
Lifting each other as we climb,
Want support getting started with an individual giving plan, so all of the pennies can add up to $$$? Jumpstart your Creative Fundraising with me!