We are thrilled to announce the winner of our fourth Donation Give-Away drawing of 2016!
Congratulations goes to Stacy Agee, Director of Communications & Development at Fortress Youth Development Center (Fortress YDC) in Fort Worth, Texas. Fortress YDC brings hope to the lives of at-risk children by providing resources that will help them break the cycle of generational poverty. The programs are designed to ignite spiritually, engage relationally, and equip academically.
After the drawing, we reached out to Stacy to find out how she plans to use the prize to generate more revenue at the upcoming 9th annual StoryLand Dinner and Auction. We were blown away by her story! Read on to learn more about Fortress YDC's work bridging the education gap in Fort Worth, Stacy's fundraising challenges and successes, and get a sneak peek at our next prize.
An urgent mission
Many people assume all students in America have the same opportunity to succeed in life.
A recent study by advocacy nonprofit organization Children at Risk shows otherwise. They compared 1,059 elementary schools in Texas and found that one school in Fort Worth was ranked number 1,020, while another school just 5 miles away was ranked number 10.
It's clear not all kids have the same opportunity. Fortress YDC is here to help close that gap.
Fortress exists to provide academic, emotional, and spiritual support for kids (and families) growing up in an impoverished corner of Fort Worth, Texas. Through After School, mentoring, preschool, summer, and Parent Engagement programs, their goal is to provide at-risk children kids with the tools and motivation they need to break the cycles of generational poverty and fulfill the amazing plans God has for their lives.
Fortress: a model of success
Research confirms students with involved parents earn higher grades, pass more classes, attend school more regularly and have better social skills, regardless of family income or background.
One of Fortress's most important ventures is the Equip parent engagement program, now beginning its third year.
The program provides regular parent-involvement activities and classes such as a weekly parent support group, bimonthly parenting classes, family fun nights, Fortress-sponsored community events, and home visits. They are designed to encourage, engage and empower parents to be more intentional in the academic and social development of their children.
So far Equip has been a rousing success with 90% of parents participating, well above the initial goal of 75%. Stacy envisions the program continuing to strengthen in the coming years and one day being organized and run by parent volunteers - the ultimate sign of its success.
Another touchstone of Fortress' work in the community is improving literacy in the After School program.
"Our goal is for every one of our students to read on grade level by 3rd grade – the year in which students cease learning how to read and begin applying what they’re reading," Stacy explains. "We see an average 1.5 grade level increase in reading each year in our Literacy Lab."
This number has been trending downward recently, and that's a good thing – it means the Reading Lab is working! More and more of Fortress' kids are reading successfully, so they're seeing fewer gains overall.
Event Fundraising: The Annual StoryLand Dinner and Auction
As you can see, child literacy is an essential part of Fortress' mission. That's why their only fundraising gala of the year, the annual StoryLand Dinner and Auction, highlights the joy of reading.
Each year, the theme reflects a different genre: fairy tales, western-themed books. This past year, the event focused on toddler board books in celebration of a newly constructed preschool.
"My biggest challenges in the past have been donor fatigue and competing with other nonprofits," notes Stacy. "For these reasons, we moved our annual auction from the fall to the spring this past year. It meant going 18 month without this particular fundraiser, which presented a budgeting challenge, but it was a strategic move that I’m glad we made."
The silent auction features items such as The Giving Tree (featuring surprise gift cards valued up to $50 behind every $10 leaf donors pick), Home and Hearth (featuring some of Fort Worth’s best craftsmen and artist’s offerings), Gift Baskets (donated by local offices, church groups and civic groups) and Experience Cowtown (showcasing excursions and date nights in America’s Best Home Town!).
They also hold a live auction each year. "This is always the highlight of the evening," Stacy says. Historically, Fortress YDC has offered at least one Winspire Experience in the annual live auctions. This year the crown jewel will be the five-night stay at Waikiki Parc, Hawaii.
"I'm ecstatic that this year, we don’t have to worry about meeting a minimum bid to turn a profit for Fortress. As a free gift, every dollar bid on this trip will go directly into our programs. Now to find airfare to include in the package!"
(Another great way to get 100% of winning bids: secure underwriters to cover the cost of an amazing Winspire Experience! Procure more event sponsorships with the free Sponsorship Kit below.)
The 9th Annual StoryLand Dinner and Auction is scheduled for Saturday, April 8th, 2017. To find out more, follow Fortress YDC on Facebook and Instagram for updates, and check the website starting in late January for ticket details.
Resources from Winspire
How did Stacy get started with fundraising? "I fell into fundraising as a volunteer back in 2003," she explains. "I was asked to 'turn all these donations into an auction,' and I thought, 'Well, that just sounds like a big party, and I love to throw a party!'
"The Monday after that first event, the organization’s Executive Director called and offered me a job."
"I always tell young adults that it’s okay if you haven’t found your calling yet – I was 40 when I found this job, and I didn’t know what I wanted to be or what I was really passionate about until it landed in my lap."
For inspiration, Stacy turns to our blog, Winspire News. "At the end of the day, what I do is a passion and I’ll never tire of it – but in the mundane details and everyday tasks, sometimes a little motivation and a creative spark is exactly what I need to keep going.
"Winspire has been invaluable to me as an event planner and fundraiser," Stacy shares. "From free webinars to complimentary template downloads to encouraging phone calls at auction time, the folks at Winspire are all about equipping me to achieve my fundraising goals."
Although Fortress is a small nonprofit, Stacy has found success including a few "fantasy" trips in her fundraisers, which generates buzz and raises the overall caliber of the event.
"Since our donor base is made up of people with more passion for our cause than wealth for our coffers, I love the no-risk options Winspire affords. It’s great that we can offer bucket-list trips in our auction. Regardless of how high the bids end up going, these trips offer excitement and help drive bids on the other live auction items higher.
"I can’t imagine not using Winspire in my next fundraiser."
We know many of you have stories similar to Stacy, and the need could not be greater. That's why we are passionate about developing resources and giving away donations that raise more money for your causes.
Could your organization be next? As a perk for our current blog readers, here's a sneak peek at what we're giving away next. Click below to find out what we're giving away to kick off 2017.
Win over $1,000 in Auction Items
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