The People Who Inspire Series Revisited: Elana Weinstein Shares thoughts on Fundraising

My colleague and former classmate Elana Weinstein reached out to me for help with spreading the word about fundraising competition that her organization The Bottomless Toy Chest: a non-profit devoted to delivering art projects, crafts, and interactive toys to hospitalized pediatric cancer patients is involved with through Chase Community Giving.

Elana was also featured earlier this year in The People Who Inspire Series in which she wrote about her work as a program coordinator with The Bottomless Toy Chest.

After making great efforts through reaching out to others for votes for the organization, Elana was pleased to report that her work and the work of her colleagues at the Bottomless Toy Chest, the organization was able to secure $10,000 in grant funding from the competition.  She returns now to share some reflections about her experience.

How did you learn about the fundraising opportunity?

We received an email from Chase that The Bottomless Toy Chest had been nominated as one of the charities to participate in the Chase Community Giving Program. As such a teeny organization we weren’t sure we had a chance but we accepted the nomination.

What was the process of reaching out to people for support like for you?

As soon as we found out, myself, Founder/Executive Director Mickey Guisewite, and Board member/Social media guru, Cristina Lorenzetti met. We discussed who would reach out to whom, made a list, divided it, and conquered.

We also discussed that the best way to reach as many people as possible would be to first, reach out to the Board. Secondly, we created an email to send to our volunteers and supporters. Next, we utilized our Facebook page by creating an event and invited everyone we knew to it. 

Showing gratitude  is very important. Everytime someone voted, we thanked them.  Also, we updated our Facebook page with how many votes we had. Before this process our Facebook page was nowhere near 1,000 likes and now we are at 1,113 or more. 

It all seems like a blur…it went by so fast. But I remember how all of us at The Bottomless Toy Chest after spending hours and hours on Facebook, posting on friends walls and messaging everyone we knew.

It was pretty overwhelming at first and seemed nearly impossible to get people interested in voting for our teeny tiny organization. 8000 other charities were all trying to win funding.

Here is a quote from the Founder/Executive Director, Mickey Guisewite. It does a great job of explaining where we were and how we reached the point where we are now:

“A week ago Tuesday we had exactly 87 votes. Things seemed fairly hopeless. And then something truly magical happened. Friends started voting for us. Their friends started voting for us. Their friends and their friends and their friends started voting for us. Friends from high school. Friends from college. Friends we didn’t even know we had. I am so very grateful to each and every one of you for taking the time to help us out. And I’m truly happy for the biggest winners of all today–the amazing, inspiring kids we serve who have cancer. With deep gratitude–Mickey”

Would you have any advice to anyone else out there who wants to or is given the task of fundraising at their agencies?

If you are nominated to participate in a Facebook competition to win some serious cash, rally up everyone you know who knows about your organization. Create a plan of how you are going to reach out to everyone you know.

Definitely exercise every form of social media you have access to. The sky is the limit and you never know the possibilities of having the chance to not only receive funding but visibility. Posting on Facebook every 5 seconds is exhausting but every picture posted, every status and every tweet helped us get 1410 votes and maybe your organization could get there too!

Did you learn anything about yourself during the process?

I learned that I have a hard time stepping away from something so important to me. At times, my parents told me to take a break and I couldn’t. I really felt that every second passing brought us one step closer to winning $10K. I learned that when you ask people  rather than post something on their wall, they respond in a more timely fashion. I also learned that people get irritated if you take over their newsfeed and might attack you for posting on their wall. However, I learned that everything myself, and The Bottomless Toy Chest supporters did helped us win!

 I can proudly say that my determination and commitment was something that helped me not give up hope. That, and my experience in community organizing definitely helped me reach out to people I barely knew.  Hanging out in coffee shops and grocery stores was a common task.

What was the response from BTC when you realized you won?

I remember staying up till like 5 a.m. waiting for the tallys to be added up to see if we were placed as one of the top 196 charities. Eventually I went to sleep for a few hours and then at 9 a.m. I checked the website and saw that The Bottomless Toy Chest was in  167th place out of 196th place. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I had to check the website a few times to make sure I wasn’t seeing something. When we told everyone involved, everyone was so happy for us. It is a moment, I will never forget!

What does BTC plan to do with the funding?

The Bottomless Toy Chest currently makes routine deliveries to five major pediatric cancer centers in Michigan: Beaumont, Children’s Hospital of Michigan, C.S. Mott, Sparrow, and St. John. Annually, we deliver over 5000 toys to these hospitals. The Chase grant will help us maintain our current program as well as expand our program to serve more children with cancer. Ultimately these much-needed funds will help us achieve our mission of bringing, uplifting, empowering toys and activities to as many pediatric cancer patients as possible. This year, we are happy to announce that we will deliver over 10000 toys because of the funding we received.

To find out more information about The Bottomless ToyChest visit their website. 

Thanks for coming back to share your story Elana!

If you know any People Who Inspire that you would like to be featured in the series, fill out the contact form here.

Grace & Peace,

From Aspiring Humanitarian, Relando Thompkins, MSW

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I'm a Social Justice Educator and Aspiring Humanitarian who is interested in conflict resolution, improving intergroup relations, and building more equitable and inclusive communities. "Notes from an Aspiring Humanitarian" is my blog, where I write about issues of diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice. By exploring social identities through written word, film & video, and other forms of media, I hope to continue to expand and enrich conversations about social issues that face our society, and to find ways to take social action while encouraging others to do so as well in their own ways.

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