Posted by: universallearningcentreblog | August 10, 2011

Guerrilla Fundraising!

ULC is not a large organization.  (Yet.)  We do not have unlimited funds, nor do we have a professional grant writing team.  (Again, I say, “Yet.”)  We haven’t been left a bundle of money from a rich relative or made millions from a Power Ball ticket (but keep your fingers crossed).  What we do have, is a core  of really committed people who are passionate about our mission.  That means we tend to come up with really (in my opinion) creative ways of fundraising that are generally very successful because they are very targeted and driven by very motivated people.  I don’t mean to say that the fundraisers are bringing us millions of dollars, but they are helping us do things like pay the monthly salaries of staff at the library in Pilate and afford construction materials and labor to build a guest house for volunteers, interns and other visitors who come down to work on specific projects in Haiti.

But this blog entry isn’t really about what the fundraising does for ULC.  It’s about the excitingly fresh ideas of our big-hearted volunteers who take it upon themselves to hold fundraisers for ULC, and let me tell you:  once they get an idea, they RUN with it!  There is no stopping them, so get out of their way and hold on tight.

For example, Chris Barnicle, a long-time volunteer at ULC, organized a wine tasting in at the Wine Loft in Richmond, Virginia.  The event included an evening of cocktails and was attended by the Jaycees of the area, among others.  Acoustic music was the cherry on the cake, although the fabulous wines weren’t bad either!  The group specifically wanted to raise money to help ULC obtain Internet access for the library in Pilate, and their support is greatly appreciated as the Internet project is crucial for ULC to provide up-to-date resources in the library.

Another good friend to ULC, Michelle LeMenager, organized a yard sale in Pittsburgh, PA and raised nearly $2000.  Just by selling gently-used/pre-owned merchandise!  Michelle also organized an event at the Shadow Lounge, in Pittsburgh, with live music, dancing and cocktails.  Michelle was one of the volunteers who saw, firsthand, the needs of ULC as she traveled with the team to unload and shelve the books last October.  Her passion for helping others is awe-inspiring, and she certainly lent that passion to the fundraisers she’s organized.

One of our larger events was a golf tournament organized by our good friends, Felix-Albert & Kristen Desmangles, and held in Chandler, Arizona at the Ocotillo Golf Resort.  Felix-Albert and Kristen got sponsors to provide lunch, organized a silent auction, put together fabulous gift bags, and pounded the pavement to drum up some really great prizes.  Proceeds from the golfers’ fees went to ULC.  The weather was perfect and the golfers had a fantastic time.  Felix-Albert and Kristen sure know how to put on a spread.  The lunch buffet was delicious, and perfectly timed for the hungry golfers.  And they really couldn’t have chosen a nicer place to kick off our first golf tournament.  Felix-Albert and Kristen thought of everything, from the prize for a hole-in-one down to the mini putting green centerpieces on the lunch tables!  It was such a fun day!

The month after the earthquake, students in the gifted program at Burk Elementary School, in Gilbert, Arizona, decided to take matters into their own hands and led an entirely student-driven fundraiser they called “Change for Haiti” in which they placed containers in each classroom at Burk and collected students’ loose change.  They marketed the event to students with posters they made and a movie they produced, complete with music and narration.  It was amazing.  In the end, the group of about a dozen students collected $1000 for ULC and raised awareness with students who had seen images on television but were unsure how to help.  They felt great about what they had done, and we were incredibly honored to have been the recipient of the funds they raised.

Over the years, we’ve had several ULC board members host fundraising dinners in their hometowns, from coast-to-coast.  Some have been formal affairs with live music while others have been potlucks and a stereo system.  All had a common goal: to help ULC bring libraries to Haiti.  They also had another trait in common:  the air was teaming with the energy of passionate individuals who dedicate their lives to the service of others.  These dinners have brought in quite a bit of money, but more importantly, they have also helped ULC make very genuine connections with people across the U.S., bringing us more and more committed volunteers to help us with our efforts.

Of course we are working on other fundraising in the form of grants from large foundations.  But the fundraisers mentioned above are so much more satisfying on a personal level.  Some call this type of fundraising “guerrilla” fundraising as it enables us to target small, concentrated audiences in a quick and easy (usually) way with immediate results.  Formal grant-writing is much more tedious and usually involves building a relationship with the potential donor followed by some seriously time-consuming writing (unlike firing out a quick blog entry!), and then a waiting period that I, for one, truly dislike (no surprise to those who know me:  I much prefer immediate gratification!).  Without a doubt, grants bring us larger funds and help us develop long-term relationships with well-established, often large, organizations, but our “guerrilla” fundraising brings us the satisfaction of tackling the need to raise funds for smaller, immediate projects all while gaining volunteers and raising awareness simultaneously.  And, of course, it’s way more fun!

If you find any of these fundraisers intriguing enough that you might consider organizing one yourself, we have people (myself included) who would be more than happy to help you from start to finish.  We’ve done enough of these events that we can provide some seasoned advice, and if you want, we can even probably provide you a step-by-step guide.  Just say the word!  If you would be so kind as to help us raise funds, we would be forever indebted to you.  We would love for you to be part of our organizational fabric in such a meaningful way.

To give you an idea of where your “guerrilla” fundraising might help us, these are projects we’re either in the middle of or hoping to get started soon:

  • establishing a permanent source of electricity in the library
  • finishing construction of the guest quarters at the new library site
  • beginning construction on the new library
  • developing young children’s programs in the library such as a weekly craft and story time
  • developing teacher training programs
  • starting a Book Mobile (which means purchasing an appropriate vehicle!)
For more information on any of these programs or for help getting started on a fundraiser, please email me at  Thank you!


  1. Continued success with your innovative fundraisers.

  2. […] to or for ideas on how you might help.  Every little bit contributed helps enormously and we thank you […]

  3. Fantastic blog! Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
    I’m hoping to start my own site soon but I’m a little lost on everything.
    Would you suggest starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option?

    There are so many options out there that I’m completely confused .. Any tips? Thanks a lot!

    • I highly recommend WordPress! It’s easy to use/learn and it has an app you can use on your phone or iPad so you can create a post as well as look at your stats for any given post. It also gets good “random” readers. It’s great. I’ve tried Blogspot and didn’t like it as much, but I didn’t stay on it long. Good luck!

  4. Greetings from Idaho! I’m bored to tears at work so I decided to browse your blog on my iphone during lunch break. I love the information you present here and can’t wait to take a look when I
    get home. I’m surprised at how fast your blog loaded on my mobile .. I’m
    not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyhow, great site!

    • thanks! we’ved moved over to using our main website instead of wordpress, but i do love wordpress! it’s always loaded on my phone nicely, whether i’m just reading or posting from my phone (note by my lack of capitalization – lazy phone typing…) glad you enjoy our posts! if you’re bored at work and want to read more, we’re at we have tons of photos posted from our trip to haiti over the summer and coming up in december, we’ll be installing 18,000 books at 2 new sites so we’ll post pics of that as soon as we can. hope you stay tuned!

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