Fundraising for play can be a ball of laughs especially if you are working for a cause with a bunch of fun people.
In 2009 I founded a play committee in Takoma Park, Maryland. At our first meeting, we decided to plan a Play Day for September 26, 2009. The planning was going great, except we needed funding, so we would have money to buy supplies, etc. A couple of folks from the play committee said to me, “Pat we need money, can we hold a yard sale in your front yard?” This became our first Playful Yard sale. As soon as we got the word out donations started pouring in: bags and boxes of sports equipment, toys, books, clothing, household items, and other donations. The Playful Yard sale was a big hit. We raised $600, not bad for a first-time Playful Yard Sale. I can honestly say our Play Day and other play events we hold bring our community together, unite folks and help people enjoy themselves for free while they are playing and being entertained.
I am Pat Rumbaugh, Executive Director of the non-profit organization, Let’s Play America. I am also known as the Play Lady. LPA was started in 2009 with all volunteer support including students completing community service hours and adults with various relevant talents. We put on free community play events and contribute play to local street and health fairs. The events might be free to participants, but they still have costs and as a non-profit we have had to be creative in our efforts to fund our activities.
Another fundraising example is a concert with local musicians. On Labor Day this year we held an outdoor concert/fundraiser in my backyard. Lyla DiPaul, a senior at Loyola College in New Orleans, wanted to raise funds for hurricane relief and we wanted to raise funds for LPA, so we joined forces and Lyla performed. Half of the donations were given to hurricane relief, and the other half was donated to LPA. Lyla is a talented young artist who performed to a group of people who thoroughly enjoyed her music.
We have also had garden party fundraisers where people enjoy refreshments, play some games, and hear about the importance of encouraging all people to play. Interested citizens with welcoming gardens offer their space for an afternoon for a garden party, often with musical groups playing in the background. As LPA has grown, we have accumulated various play equipment – ping pong tables, giant chess, corn hole, etc. and we rent these out to local residents who want to put on their own play event or close their street to play. Nowadays we charge for borrowing our equipment.
Most people involved in the non-profit sector are familiar with the world of grants and grant writing. It is very helpful to get familiar with local and non-local grant opportunities, but be aware that this takes a lot of work, perseverance, and talent. Where you live there may be a foundation that supports local nonprofits and civic organization. The Takoma Foundation has given us grants in the past. The Takoma Foundation raises funds to advance the social, environmental, economic, educational and cultural interests of the greater Takoma Park community. They focus their grant-giving on projects that empower individuals, break down barriers, build connections between people and expand community capacity.
Our first grant from the City of Takoma Park was for the Summer of 2010 when one of our enthusiastic volunteers suggested we hold ten events that Summer and call it “The Traveling Play Group.” For five weeks every Monday and Thursday morning we met at different playgrounds in our city. We brought play equipment, had an organized craft activity and hired a musician to perform for six of those events. Our city gave us $500 which helped pay for the musician and supplies. In 2017 they gave us one to paint ten hopscotch boards in ten playgrounds. This year the Takoma Foundation gave us one to help with the cost of our Annual Play Day (see the statement on the Takoma Foundation’s website www.takomafoundation.org).
There are also many opportunities for mini grants from cities, local organizations and national and international companies. For our 13th Annual Play Day in September LPA was pleased to find out we were receiving two mini grants from International Play Association USA and Defending the Early Years. Each organization helped us bring two extra bands to Play Day. Attendees were thrilled with the lively music, which inspired people of all ages to dance and play.
Our City of Takoma Park helps fund Let’s Play America in multiple ways. The Takoma Park Recreation Department helps us rent the Takoma Park Middle School where we hold our Annual Play Days and they also have money in their budget for us to buy equipment, supplies and other needed items for play events. Let’s Play America could not hold Play Days without the help and the support of the city. The Public Works Department helps transport the play equipment to the play event and back again at the end of the event. Public Works also participates in Play Day by holding the Touch-A-Truck event where everyone can climb on and explore. Children and adults love this activity.
Let’s Play America has also received a grant in the past targeted to helping low income residents. In 2018 LPA went to four apartment buildings and held play events for the residents. Children and adults played numerous activities: the balloon game, floor hockey, corn hole, giant chess and giant connect four, sidewalk chalk, jump rope, double dutch, hula-hoops and more. One of the events inside was for seniors. With funding, LPA was able to hire a line dancing instructor. The Takoma Park Community band that kicks off our Annual Play Day joined us and played lively music for the residents. We were able to supply refreshments as well.
Supporting Let’s Play America
I take this opportunity to continue ongoing fundraising efforts for our many activities. For folks who wish to help bring more live performances to raise funds for Let’s Play America and other worthy causes contact us at [email protected]. Let us know if you would like to host a garden party, live performance, or close a street to play. If you are someone out there who enjoys fundraising, writing grants, and looking for ways to help a nonprofit raise funds consider reaching out to us. You do not need to live locally. For the last two years Let’s Play America has had virtual interns and held three virtual Play Days during the pandemic.
Two more small ways you can help Let’s Play America raise funds is to purchase my new children’s book, “Let’s Play Outside.”
Listen to the voice trailer below and see multiple ways to order the book.
I plan to give 50% of the funds I receive from the sale of the book to LPA. We also have merchandise for sale on our website. For those of you who would enjoy having a play hat, t-shirt, sweatshirt or more shop here. Fifteen percent (15%) of sales go to LPA.
In closing, people have asked me why I haven’t paid myself and I have answered, “until we can raise enough money to pay others to help us with our cause.” Let’s Play America does remunerate the part-time work of two indispensable people: LPA’s Executive Assistant and our Social Media Specialist. All the volunteer play angels who help Let’s Play America with events and behind the scenes planning make us the incredible nonprofit that we are today. Everyone has an opportunity to make a difference. We can honestly say our Play Day and other play events we hold bring our community together, unite folks and help people enjoy themselves for free while they are playing and being entertained.
Consider donating to Let’s Play America online or by mailing a check made out to Let’s Play America to PO Box 5242, Takoma Park, MD 20913. Any amount helps us bring play to people with special abilities, all ages and all backgrounds.