Fundraising Advent Calendar

This year my daughter Caile inspired me. Throughout the year at her middle school they do exploratory’s. You have a choice of fun extracurricular activities to choose from. Some of them are crafts, art related, sports, all things things above an beyond the normal school day work. They last for a few weeks at a time and you get to choose from a number of options which are being offered. In November she started a new one called Tree of Hope. It was a fundraising option to help raise funds for a couple of local non-profits.

One of the organizations was The Chrysalis House Association. They are a local women and children’s shelter and outreach provider. A more full description can be found on their website.

Chrysalis House is a non-profit grassroots organization that provides shelter, support, counseling, advocacy, and outreach for abused women and their children. Services are available for women who have been psychologically, emotionally, physically, and/or sexually abused. We work with individuals, organizations and businesses in our community to end violence against women. Chrysalis House is located in Kentville, Nova Scotia. We serve the communities of Kings, Annapolis, and Hants County. Public education and community development are also important elements of our Association.

They provide these services 24 hours a day 365 days a year. The work they do is incredibly hard and important. It is also near to my heart. Had it not been for welcoming friends who were willing and able to help us out, our family would have been seeking services from an organization like The Chrysalis House.

Last year I donated to a fun online campaign and the idea was one I knew I could do. After contacting the person who ran the one I had seen and getting some tips I went to work. The idea was an online advent calendar. Each day, from December 1st to December 24th, you reveal a prize which has been donated by a local business. Then by promoting on social media get people to donate. For every $5 they donate they receive an entry to win all 24 prizes at the end.

The idea started pretty late but thanks to WordPress, and it being open source, I was able to quickly get a site up an running to organize and run the fundraiser from. From WordPress.org I found the Hemingway theme to use and with the help of a few plugins and customization I was all set. Of course I installed Akismet and Jetpack which go on about every WordPress site I create, the other main one I used was The Event Calendar. It was probably overkill for what I needed, but it is so well documented I was pretty easily able to customize it up to do what I needed. Instead of displaying events I wanted to display a single post I publish, from a specific category, for each day of the fundraiser. This is truly the beauty of open source. I had access to the source code, could see how it worked, and was able to change things up to meet my needs. Most of the changes came by creating a custom month view for the calendar. If you want to check out the code you can see it here.

With the site ready I contacted a bunch of local businesses explaining the idea and showing them the site which was setup. One of the lessons I learned if I am to do this again is to not wait to so late to approach businesses. Things went really well and I had quite a few businesses commit to donating a prize so I started the campaign and started promoting it on Twitter and Facebook. It was pretty stressful though as when it first started I still didn’t have enough prizes for all the days. About a week in I reached out to some friends who have good connections to businesses and they were able to put me in touch with more people to get the final donations needed. It was stressful for a while thinking I may have to go out and buy some gift cards myself for some of the days. But our local community once again came through and we had over $1000 worth of prizes donated.

On Christmas Eve I closed donations. I had set a goal for $1000 to be raised and we came in at $1070! Once things were closed and I gathered up all the names I was able to go to the Chrysalis House and with their Executive Director and other staff members we choose our winner and sent them off an email notification. After fees from GoFundMe, who I used to take payments, we were left with $973.56. To make things a nice round number I wrote a cheque while there for $1000 even as a donation to the association. It was an awesome feeling and I felt very humble to have our local area help me run with this idea.

Shortly after I arrived home the winner contacted me back and I was able to go and deliver all 24 prizes to her. That was also a very rewarding part. Even though all the prizes and money were donated by others I had the privilege of feeling like Santa by delivering the money and prizes. What a whirlwind of a Christmas Eve! It made up for some of the stress involved not wondering if it would all come together in the end.

Though it is all over if you want to see the site and the list of prizes you can still see the site at https://calendar.ourvalley.ca

First Halifax WordPress Meetup

Tonight I attended my first ever WordPress meetup. When I found out that Alison and Tara were organizing a meetup in Halifax I was very excited. Seeing co-workers going to meetups and WordCamps talking with others who are either passionate about, or wanting to know more and learn about WordPress had me a bit envious.

It was a really great evening, the first talk was about the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org. This is a complicated topic that has a fair amount of confusion around it and they did a great job at laying things out.

Over the years I’ve helped people in person to use WordPress but it was really neat tonight to get to engineer some happiness in person and I look forward to doing more of it in the future as well. I’m far from an outgoing person, but I found it really easy to talk to everyone tonight and can even see myself doing a talk at some point.

One of the highlights of the evening for me was when I introduced myself and my job title someone said, “that sounds made up.”

Thanks again to the organizers and everyone who came out. I’m looking forward to seeing you all again.

Getting Out and Being Social

This is something I struggle with. Working from home I am always interacting with co-workers and other people, but it is all online. As a family we go and do lots with other families and this is wonderful. Our group of friends are a great group and I always have a lot of fun with them and talking to them. Having these in person relationships and conversations are essential for me to stay a sane person.

Tonight I went out to a meeting with a group I haven’t been to in way to long, Refresh Annapolis Valley. There were three presenters tonight and they were all unique. RenĂ©e Downs is one of the organizers of the upcoming conference BlogJam in Halifax. She spoke about being a reluctant blogger and her story how she got started. Cheri Killam spoke about her year long project she’s undertaken called 5 Down. I’ve been following along and it’s an extremely interesting project, I encourage you call to take a look. The last speaker was Laura Churchill-Duke talking about her site and blog Valley Family Fun.

Equally beneficial to hearing the speakers is just the social interaction with other people. There were new people who I met for the first time and there were friends who I hadn’t seen or talked to for some time. Just tonight I’ve been invited to speak at a future Refresh event about WordPress. Tonight I also got talking with a professor who asked me to come be a guest lecture about WordPress to one of her business classes.

After getting a little taste I’m now even more looking forward to going to BlogJam and hearing and talking to more Bloggers in real life and to the upcoming first meeting for the Halifax WordPress Meetup.