Debbie Apperson is a fundraiser of vision and determination. As director of development for Special Olympics of Virginia, she saw an opportunity to elevate her organization's annual Polar Plunge Winter Festival into a premier event that would bring in more than $1 million in donations.
"She realized that to reach her goal, she needed to get her participants fundraising more, and she knew she would not be pleased if her already overburdened staff would be stretched past the breaking point to realize her dream," writes Tracy Hale, account manager at Turnkey Promotions.
Debbie reached her goal in just a few years. To do that, she:
got 75 percent of participants (up from 25 percent) registered online early to give them the opportunity to spend lots of time fundraising;
added two creative fundraising events to the weekend: the Cool School Challenge and the Polar Plunge 5K, to get school children involved in competitive fundraising and engage folks who aren't quite crazy enough to jump into the frigid ocean but don't mind running a 5K in the cold;
lessened the burden on her staff and budget by implementing an efficient gift-redemption process.
As a result, the 2011 event exceeded the $1 million goal, while event staff spent 80 percent less time managing the gift program.
"Debbie's unparalleled passion for Special Olympics, her ability to multitask flawlessly, and her knowledge about fundraising and volunteer management are the qualities that make her unique," Hale writes.
We agree and are especially impressed at Debbie's vision in finding ways to increase revenue from this event while actually cutting back on her staff's workload. In an economy such as this, where development staffers are so wildly overworked already, and more and more fundraisers are looking for ways to empower donors and event participants to do more fundraising on their own, we find this a winning outlook worthy of a Fundraising Star.