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Purposeful Prom

In Indiana, 160 people donned formal wear last fall to help keep student-athletes' fees to a minimum. With that evening's gross profit reaching over $4,000, the organizers are hoping their next event will be able to eliminate the fees altogether.


Last year, the Edinburgh (Ind.) Community Schools announced a tightened budget, which resulted in a $20 fee for each student-athlete that would cover the cost of paying bus drivers for transportation to and from games. In response, some of the student-athletes' parents decided to launch a unique fundraiser to help lessen the fee.

"We hosted a prom for adults," says Edinburgh Adults' Prom for a Promise Organizer Kami Ervin. "A group of us are always sending our kids off to the prom every year. And we hear about moms who are wistful about wanting to relive their prom--or going to one if they didn't get to in high school.

"But we also wanted to find a good purpose and have the prom be something that could be done annually," she continues. "When our school board passed the pay-per-sport transportation fee for our student-athletes, we realized that if we could raise $8,000, we could eliminate that cost for families."

The inaugural event, which was held in November 2011, ended with its net profit for the athletic department totaling $4,200. That amount cut each student's fee in half. For the next Adult Prom, which will be held in February 2013, Ervin hopes to raise enough to vanquish the fee.

Organizers planned the night so it would be similar to a typical high school prom, with the addition of a silent auction that contained 20 items.  There was a catered dinner featuring two entrĂ©e options, a few hours of dancing, and the chance to be crowned as a member of the prom court.

Planning the event took about three months, with the work split among committee members. The first task was choosing a date and venue. After that, the committee members worked to find a caterer, music, silent auction items, and sponsorships for each table.
 
"Last year, we had 20 tables," Ervin says. "The table sponsors pay $20 and get their name printed in the event program, listed in a 'thank you' in the newspaper, and put on a little sign on the table.

"We tried to make sure the sponsorships covered the cost of the event," she continues. "Then the ticket sales--$40 for a couple, or $25 for an individual--and silent auction are the fundraisers."
 
 Ervin limited the number of items for the silent auction so that people would really bid. "It's important to remember that it's an event for adults," she says. "You need to have things they really want--a free night's stay at a hotel, gift cards for dinner, or something else that speaks to them. I'm a photographer, and I had a few prints from poignant moments in our sports program framed and enlarged. Those went over really well."
 
As for the king and queen, when attendees purchased their tickets, they could check a box indicating that they wanted to be considered for the prom's court. Upon their arrival, Ervin took a picture of each competing couple and posted it in a public album on the event's Facebook page. The results were announced at the end of the evening, so the court could be crowned before they went home.
 
"When you're in high school, the prom court's selection is pretty straightforward," Ervin says. "But when you have a group of adults coming from all over, they don't have classmates who can nominate and vote for them.
 
"So we did our voting over Facebook," she continues. "The five couples whose photos received the most number of 'likes' were crowned as the court. That was a fun, easy way of doing it--people could vote with their phones while they were there, and it gave people who couldn't attend a chance to still be involved by voting from their homes."
 
The 2013 event will be held at a different venue, in order to accommodate more people since last year's sold out due to limited space. Along with that change, a DJ will cover the music this time. "We had a band that was great last year," Ervin says. "But a lot of young couples between 25 and 35 years old attended, and they wanted more dance music. So we're going to try the DJ this time."

The key to success, Ervin believes, is keeping it simple. "The main driver for its success is just the nostalgia of going to prom," she says. "People seem to really enjoy getting the chance to relive the experience. A lot of people went all-out last year. Women got their hair and nails done, and couples rented limos. When we advertised the Wild West themed event, we heard from several people that they wanted to do a formal again. So we decided to postpone it and go back to a simple prom."
 
You could drive yourself nuts with a lot of details. But really, if you can keep it simple, you'll all enjoy it more."


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