My first Make a Difference Day still gives me goosebumps.
It was October 2006. We had decided to do a special volunteer event just for the national day of service. We did not expect much as we had decided to take a regularly scheduled volunteer event, coin it a Make a Difference Day event, change the date and enlist it with the local paper in their Make a Difference Day special section that was chock full of opportunities for families to get out and participate.
At that one Make a Difference Day event, we went from having 20 familiar faces to making over 120 friends and future volunteers. It also changed the whole event atmosphere.
If you’re not familiar, Make a Difference Day is the largest national day of community service in the country. It was started in 1992 by USA TODAY and is now supported by the same publication, along with the non-profit, Points of Light. On the fourth Saturday of October, millions of volunteers around the world unite in a common mission to volunteer. Make a Difference Day is a day to celebrate the power of people to make a difference.
Creating an event (or modifying an existing event) for Make A Difference Day has added benefits Trout Unlimited chapters might reap. Special funding opportunities exist including grants through Points of Light, local community grants (e.g. Community Foundation of North Central Washington) as well as opportunities to partner with local businesses for sponsorships. This might be an opportunity to boost existing donor relations as well as open the door to new supporters.
In addition to funding opportunities, chapters can take advantage of special local, regional and even national media coverage. Organizing a fun event in conjunction with Make a Difference Day will bolster volunteerism through volunteers who attend the event but also through those that read about your current and upcoming endeavors in the paper and online. Make sure to promote your event through your media contacts as well as take advantage of connecting your event with the national calendar.
In conjunction or in addition to your Make a Difference Day event, your team may elect to appreciate rock star volunteers through chapter or council awards to show gratitude while inspiring new volunteers to increase their involvement. Connecting with local media will help amplify these efforts while increasing your exposure to new and diverse audiences and local partners. I could go on about the many benefits of organizing a Make a Difference Day event.
By participating in Make a Difference Day your chapter or council stands to benefit throughout the year as well. The marketing opportunity alone can amplify your efforts in dramatic ways. Offering a Make a Difference Day event is a great way to communicate and showcase your efforts to your community, reverberating throughout the year and bringing more volunteers, more funding and more fun to your chapter well into the future.
If you are interested in learning more about how you can make Make a Difference Day a part of your chapter or council success story, contact Lisa Beranek (LBeranek@tu.org).