2017-12-28 / Life in Leelanau


Jingle Bell time a swell time for local nonprofits
By Jennie Berkson
Of The Enterprise staff

REPRESENTATIVES OF Leelanau County nonprofits such as Island Seas Education Association say the Christmas season represents their biggest fundraising time of the year. Photo: Inland Seas REPRESENTATIVES OF Leelanau County nonprofits such as Island Seas Education Association say the Christmas season represents their biggest fundraising time of the year. Photo: Inland Seas Folks around the county have probably noticed that, just like winter holiday music and decorations, requests from local non-profits for financial and other donations have picked up.

Such organizations receive anywhere from 20 to 50 percent of their donations during the six weeks following Thanksgiving, according to staff and board members in the know.

“We send out a letter and an annual report around Thanksgiving which talks about what we’ve done in the past year and hope that people want to help us continue our work,” said Kerry Kelly, Board Chair of Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes. The all-volunteer organization “obtains and administers grants and memorial funds which individuals, companies and other organizations wish to provide for the benefit of the park,” according to its website.

THE FRIENDS of Sleeping Bear Dunes organization, which sponsors snowshoe trips through the Lakeshore, rely on holiday gift-giving to fill its budget.THE FRIENDS of Sleeping Bear Dunes organization, which sponsors snowshoe trips through the Lakeshore, rely on holiday gift-giving to fill its budget.
Kelly said that end of the year fundraising totals about $25,000, which is about one quarter of what it raises annually. The funds support projects such as “making trails and beaches more accessible and visitor booklets,” Kelly said. The annual newsletter also highlights the Pierce Stocking interpretive signage and the transportation costs for school children who learned to snowshoe and explore trees and wildlife in the wintertime, courtesy of Friends of Sleeping Bear funds.

“We’re short about $50,000 right now,” said Rebecca Lessard, founder and director of Wings of Wonder, the raptor sanctuary and rehabilitation center located in Empire. The organization sends out one hard copy mailing at the end of the year with highlights and “brick and mortar items on our wish list. My bookkeeper always reassures me that the money’ll come in, but if not, I guess my salary will get cut. The birds have to eat.”

Lessard said several big donors had “regretfully” cut their donations this year “due to the economy.” In addition, the organization’s expenses increased in part because of the larger number of bald eagles they took in.

“They get hit by cars or get lead poisoning from ammunition left in deer guts,” said Lessard. “They are also more vulnerable because of habitat being destroyed as a result of development. We get fish for free to feed them but that doesn’t provide vitamin D. We’re going through a lot of rabbits.”

The organization sends out email updates several times a year “with fun visuals and stories. Facebook has also been great for us. Photographer Ken Scott has been a wonderful asset.”

Wings of Wonder is also able to raise public consciousness through its eagle releases. “It’s certainly a way to get the word out,” Lessard said. “We pass the hat at those events to replace our food coffers.”

Feeding humans and providing them with other basic needs is the priority of Leelanau Christian Neighbors (LCN).

“We get donations throughout the year,” said Director Mary Stanton, “but a very large chunk of the community support comes at the end of the year. We send out an end of the year appeal, a letter that tells our story, where the money goes and ask people to think of us.”

LCN has four programs that benefit the community: a food pantry, a baby pantry, a financial arm, and Blessings in a Backpack.

“We appeal for donations to both restricted or unrestricted funds,” Stanton said.

The organization also receives in-kind donations of food at its location on Duck Lake Road or at various drop-off boxes throughout the county.

“We use it all, from canned corn to a side of beef,” Stanton said. “We have a walk-in freezer and cooler where we can store perishables.”

Many of the organization’s supporters make a donation instead of buying each other gifts, Stanton said, “and that’s really lovely. We really appreciate all our donations — we wouldn’t be able to do what we do without them.”

At Inland Seas, the Suttons Baybased organization “dedicated to helping people of all ages experience the Great Lakes through hands-on, experiential learning activities aboard a traditionally rigged tall ship schooner,” about 20 percent of funds come in after Thanksgiving, according to Courtney Bierschbach, program coordinator.

“We make it a point to connect with people in a lot of different ways ... email, cards, calls and other mailings. We focus on hope for the Great Lakes and that the funding donors provide is continuing that hope through young people who will be the next stewards of the Lakes,” Bierschbach said.

Inland Seas makes use of many social media outlets to inform its supporters. “Every day we have an outreach through some sort of outlet,” Bierschbach said. She also pointed out that “Paypal is giving an extra 1 percent for every online donation and we use the Amazon holiday shopping Smile program which gets us (0.5) percent of every order.”

Families and others who sail with Inland Seas over the summer often do not realize that the organization does work beyond providing “something fun to do on vacation,” said Bierschbach. “We take the opportunity to let them know that we are a larger organization providing educational activities and many people who sail with us turn around and realize they can be part of that as well.”

The Fishtown Preservation Society in Leland is another organization which develops interest in its work through visitors in the summer and sees about one-third to one-half of its donated funds come in after Thanksgiving.

“Many of the things we do earlier in the year are paying off now,” said Amanda Holmes, Executive Director. “Having the welcome center down in Fishtown allows us to have one on one conversations with visitors, many of whom don’t know we are a non-profit.”

Holmes said that the organization has used the theme of “joy” this year to raise awareness of the organization’s work. A party attended by 100 people was held this past fall serving pasties made by Joy Lang Anderson and a Mawby Vineyards special “JOY” wine along with other local delicacies accompanied by the presence of the fishing tugboat Joy. This was followed with a booth at the Old Art Building’s Merry Marketplace which sold Fishtown Preservation Society themed merchandise and informed attendees about the organization’s mission.

“We have wonderful supporters and we send out letters twice a year,” said Lisa Drummond, operations manager for the Northport Community Arts Center (NCAC). “We’ve been here for a long time ... and serve our community with quality entertainment.”

Founded in 2001, the NCAC is “committed to bringing the performing arts to Leelanau County with inspiring performances that are also affordable.” The organization holds its performances in the Auditorium located in the Northport Public School.

“Our two annual fundraising letters are called the Performing Artist Fund,” said Sherry Koenig, NCAC Board member. “In addition to these two fundraisers we also seek sponsorships for our individual performances. About 2/3 of our donations are generated from our Performing Artist Fund and a third of our donations are from our sponsor requests both of which help to offset the cost of our performances.”

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