Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Fundraising Success in Northwest Arkansas

As the fastest-growing area in Arkansas, Fayetteville is a buzz of activity. Despite its growth, Fayetteville has managed to retain many small-town charms such as the close corporate community dedicated to making a difference. The Northwest Arkansas office of the American Heart Association receives incredible support from corporate sponsors, through both donations and active employee volunteer programs at the company level. Volunteers have supported the Northwest Arkansas events by recruiting sponsors, holding fundraisers within their companies, and encouraging their companies to become recognized as “Fit Friendly.” Volunteers even showed up at 6:00 am in the middle of a snowstorm to set up water tables for the Northwest Arkansas Heart Walk, true commitment!

“Volunteers are the critical success factor in our events. Their passion and commitment to our mission is astonishing, and motivates our staff to strive for excellence,” said Cindy Hudlow, Metro Executive Director for the Northwest Arkansas Office of the American Heart Association.

Doug Arnold, Chief Executive Officer, and his team at Northwest Health System has been instrumental in garnering community support for several of the Northwest Arkansas events. The Healthy Woman Campaign not only helped publicize the Go Red for Women luncheon, but also hosted health screenings, workshops, and speakers as well as launched the local version of Healthy Woman, a national women’s health education program. Pam Jones, chair of the event for the second year, helped lead the team through innovative fundraising, including helping introduce the Circle of Red at the luncheon by recruiting 18 prominent women in Northwest Arkansas to champion the Go Red cause.

Sabrina Mills, Johnson & Johnson National Sales Director, who served as Chair of the 2009 Heart Gala, is just one of the many Johnson & Johnson employees who make a difference by lending their time, energy and resources to the American Heart Association. Sabrina has recruited a large number of employees to participate in local Johnson & Johnson American Heart Association activities that the company sponsors throughout the year. Johnson and Johnson team members served on the Executive Leadership Team for the Heart Gala and secured ten new sponsors for the event. This year at the Heart Gala, over $36,000 was raised during the Special Appeal portion of the evening, driven in large part by pre-event efforts including solicitation of major donors by the Executive Leadership Team.

The dedication of core volunteers including Todd Rudisill of Tyson Foods, John Summers, Shawn Watts and Whitney Branch of First Federal Bank to the Paint the Town Red event has kept the event alive. This uniquely Northwest Arkansas event is the American Heart Association’s “Party with a Purpose”, a casual event geared to a young professional audience that includes tastings from 18 area restaurants. A few years ago, the American Heart Association decided to focus on core cause events, the Northwest Arkansas staff fought to keep the Paint the Town Red event based on the commitment of the event committee (some members have been on the team since the inception of the event eight years ago) and the success of the event. Luke & Lindsay Briggs served as the Paint Chairs this year and continued to uphold the legacy of the event.

Wal-Mart and Tyson Foods employees were the stars of the Northwest Arkansas Heart Walk, raising a combined two-thirds of the dollars contributed by walkers. With almost $78,000 raised by employees in each company, these two teams are in a stiff competition to come out on top in this fundraising race…walk!

The result of all these incredible volunteer efforts? In the midst of a recession, every Northwest Arkansas event has shown increases in support and revenue. The Go Red for Women luncheon revenue grew by almost 73 percent, the Paint the Town Red event showed a 30 percent increase over last year, almost $200,000 was raised at the Heart Gala for an increase of 17 percent, and despite the sleet and snow and a relocation 24 hours before the event, the Northwest Arkansas Heart Walk brought in over fifty thousand dollars more than last year’s event.

Thank you to all the Northwest Arkansas volunteers – you are truly inspiring by example!

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