Special Events for Kids with Special Needs

Dear Kim:

I have a daughter in a private special education school for children with varying degrees of autism. The program is funded by the Board of Education, but falls short each year at about $16,000 per student. The school is still alive only through the generosity of our board. This year we have decided to do a large eventóa dinner with the guest speaker being a well-known author who is also autistic. We are also going to do a small silent auction and present a short film about the school that evening. We are trying to reach a larger community, to build awareness of the ongoing problem of shortages of schools for children with special needs. We would like to reach out to the corporate world to have them underwrite some of the event or even become ongoing contributors to the school. How do we go about that?

—Everyone is invited


Dear Everyone:

This kind of event is a great opportunity to showcase your school and the wonderful work it does. It is a great step in diversifying beyond the generosity of the board to invite more of the community to be involved. Corporations generally give where they have offices or plants and where they can feel assured that they will get something positive in returnócommunity good will, a better work force, more customers, higher visibility, and the like. Most important, though, getting corporate donations largely depends on knowing someone in a corporation. Here’s how to do that: Make a list of all the board members, parents, volunteers, teachers, and anyone else associated with the school and find out where they and their partner, uncle, son, grandmother, and so on works. Take the most prominent and well-respected corporations represented in this list, and the people on the list who are in the highest positions in those corporations, and ask them to come to a brief meeting. Lay out your plan for the event and your plans for ongoing corporate support and ask for their help in getting it. If it’s not possible to get them to a meeting, try to make appointments to visit with them one-on-one. Once a few corporations have given, others will be more likely to follow. Remember also that many corporations have matching programs that will match the gifts of their employees. You can ask the corporations you have access to if they have such a program. The Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) also has a list of corporate matching programs. Be persistent and don’t overlook small businesses and sole proprietors like accountants, consultants, therapists and the like as sources of donations. Also, note the vendors that your school uses, and invite them to give you money or in-kind support.

Don’t be discouraged if the first year you have this event it is not as big as you had hoped. Often, these kinds of events take some time to build.

Best wishes to you.

—Kim Klein