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Students Enhance Small Community's Fundraisers

By Danielle Catalano - writer for FundraisingforSports.com.

Students in the small southwest town of Conway, Mo., help its athletic booster club earn big money for a new gym floor.

If you're ever traveling east on Interstate 44 in southwest Missouri, be on the lookout for Conway.

"Conway is mostly an agriculture area with a few small businesses," says Bears Booster Club President Rob Long jovially. The entire district is comprised of 800 students and less than 400 houses are settled within its borders. Although small, this town has a very big heart for its basketball and volleyball teams. So much so that everyone—from students and coaches to small businesses to parents—helped complete a three-year, $38,000 fundraising effort to renovate the school's gym floor in less than one year.

DOWN TO THE NAILS
Something didn't look right to the resurfacing company when it inspected Conway High School's gym floor in May 2004.

"The guy basically said the resurfacing life had ended. It was going into the nails," explains Long. "Our school is not a football school. Our kids play basketball and volleyball, and our floor is used more than anything else.

"The school's 40-years-old, and everything will need to be upgraded," continues Long. "But this was the sports program's number one priority. It was still useable, but could quickly become a liability. Kids could injure themselves running."

On average, the club raises $3,000-$5,000 a year, donating its money on a rotating basis to one of the six sports the athletic department runs. After making a few phone calls, the booster club found out that the average cost to renovate the floor would be $40,000.

Due to Conway's population, club officials found themselves with limited options. Instead of developing new fundraisers, though, it brainstormed on ways to enhance its existing fundraisers to generate more revenue. This included raffles and drawings during events, such as the annual spring and summer sports tournament, and added alumni names to its business solicitation mailing list.

Even with the new ideas, the club's treasurer estimated that it would take three years to raise the needed amount. Nonetheless, the club was undeterred, and presented its proposal later that month to the school board. If the board would front th emoney, the booster club would reimburse the school the entire cost of the project. The school board agreed, and shortly thereafter, the winning contracting bid was approved at $38,700. Work was then scheduled to begin the week after school ended in June 2005.

STUDENT IDOLS
To club officials, it was an "all-or-nothing" approach to fundraising, placing ads in the local papers about its events and creating flyers announcing fundraising dates and donation information.

"All high school students, coaches, and most members of the community, in some way, were involved with the fundraising," says Long. "The kids helped a lot."

Student-athletes took their roles in fundraising seriously, says Long. When they were told about the floor project, many of them expressed concerns that if the cost of the renovation ended up having to be paid by the school, a sports program would be cancelled to make up for the lost revenue. That thought inspired many to become volunteers, helping club officials when they could, participating in bowl-a-thons throughout the year, signing up for the spring baseball and softball tournaments, and helping coach teams in the annual Grizzly Ball summer camp, the school's most popular fundraiser.

FINAL TOUCHES
By the time renovation work began the first week in July, $35,000 was raised. "I'm extremely happy and shocked. It's just such a small community," says Long about the club's success.

Aside from a two-day delay, replacing the floor took three weeks, with no interruptions. The padding, paints, and final touches were being applied when the public viewed the floor in late August.

"When the public saw it, parents came up to me and said it looked very nice," says Long. "It just makes it feel better, that [the fundraising] really was worth it. Sometimes the public doesn't realize you need it until you don't have it."

The Missouri legislature provided a monetary surprise for the group. About a month before the new floor was installed, the legislature approved opening more funds to all public schools, allowing the district to receive enough money to cover the $3,700 shortfall and preventing the school from having to dip into its 2005-06 budget.

"That was nice," says Long. "It just makes it easier. When we looked into the renovation project, we were advised to not go into debt. We didn't want to have to pay for this thing for the next ten, twenty years. We had other things to do with the money."

The booster club plans on paying back the school district at the end of the 2005-06 school year.



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