Increase fundraising. Create awareness. Make connections in your community. Bring energy to your club with an annual fundraiser or service project. For the past 12 years the Meridian Kiwanis Club of Columbus, Indiana, has been hosting The Incredible Duck Splash in their community. Jeff Blasdel, a member of the club, shares his experience with annual fundraising events, explaining why hosting annual events is key and how they put together such a successful event year after year.
Jeff got the idea in 2004 from another Kiwanis club and decided it was something he wanted to do. As he explored the idea further, he found the twist that he believes has made all the difference in the world: involving other organizations.
Jeff felt motivated to tackle this large scale fundraiser because he saw a way to help other organizations in his community raise funds. Little did he know that he would end up doing much more.
The Meridian Kiwanis club has partnered with local youth-serving organizations in the community. Leading up to the event, the partnered organizations sell “duck adoptions.” Not only does this help get the word out, but it also brings profit for the organizations, which receive 80% of their sales. (Some of the organizations even use the Incredible Duck Splash as their main fundraiser.) Once they collect the money from the duck adoptions, they turn it into the Meridian Kiwanis Club’s collection site. After the event, the Kiwanis club will mail them a check.
Aside from the financial benefits, the Incredible Duck Splash has helped make the Kiwanis family more familiar in Columbus. For instance, local Key Clubbers help out each year. And the event has brought several new club members to each of the town’s local Kiwanis clubs.
“I wanted a signature project that could make Kiwanis more visible in our community and bring the local clubs closer together,” Jeff says. “I have found three of my best friends from the other three clubs in town. I would have never gotten to know them if it weren’t for this.”
A committee was formed from these volunteers—known as the Head Kwackers. Through numerous meetings, they soon found what skills and connections each person brought to the committee and the solutions came almost as fast as the hurdles appeared.
The first step is to pick a date. Be sure to consider these key questions: What time of year will it be? How can we ensure the best possible turn-out? What other community events may be happening, and how can we use them to our advantage? For example, the Incredible Duck Splash takes place on the second Saturday in October because the city’s Ethnic Expo is also that day. This was particularly helpful in the initial years of the fundraiser, since the Ethnic Expo already attracts a large crowd on its own.
Another vital component of getting started is forming key relationships in your community—putting together an annual fundraiser becomes a lot easier with the help of others. Consider how your connections can aid you in your annual fundraising event. The Meridian Kiwanis Club was aware they could not successfully pull this all off on their own—so they reached out to local organizations and key citizens in their community. By creating partnerships and gaining sponsors, the club not only put on the first Incredible Duck Splash, but fulfilled an important goal: gaining new members and spreading the Kiwanis name.
In fact, at least fourteen members have been gained from sponsors and contributors. “Sponsorship usually comes down to a personal connection,” Jeff says, “and we work hard to keep those connections strong.”
Hard work and progress
The Incredible Duck Splash was a lot of work the first few years—from getting approvals from local authorities to procuring prizes, sponsorships and more. .
“We spent several hundred hours working out all the details,” Jeff says. “Now my committee only meets once or twice a year. But we also communicate by email to ensure everyone is getting their assignments done.”
All that work has paid off. Each year, the event has gotten bigger and better, recently selling as many as 15,300 ducks in one year. The entertainment includes a free magic show, free bounce house, Star Wars characters in costume and remote control boats. They even have a float in the Ethnic Expo Parade each year before the event—the float is accompanied by the Incredible Duck Splash mascot, magician and Star Wars friends. This year, the club has already raised nearly US$50,000!
If your Kiwanis club isn’t putting together an annual fundraiser, what’s holding you back? The Incredible Duck Splash is just one example of an annual fundraiser that increases club membership, morale and impact. Now that you have some tips, get started—host an annual fundraiser!