The FCG Sponsor and Donor packet was the ultimate document that the Sponsor and Donor Relations team was responsible for. Unlike some of the work provided by other teams of ENGL 306, this document had to transcend the bounds of the SNC leg of the fundraiser by using appropriate rhetoric to make it applicable to the larger community for procuring large donations, and competitive enough to be considered for large corporate sponsorships.
As such, the final iteration of the packet (with beautiful graphic design by FCG committee member Bethany Thier) was the product of many rounds of revision and constant communication with our community partner to ensure that this document met their needs.
Open communication with FCG was extremely important to our team from the beginning since it is the main tenet of ethical participatory action research. The tone of our communication was much like the collaborator model of participatory action research, outlined in Randy Stoecker’s book Research Methods for Community Change: A Project-Based Approach. The collaborator model ensures that neither the researchers (in this case the ENGL 306 class) or the community partner takes full control of the project, but rather they work together to get the job done, taking the lead on different parts of the work when appropriate (Stoecker 57). Creating the sponsor and donor packet in the collaborator model helped to ensure that when finished, the document would meet the needs of FCG and they would then be able to take it out into the community and create real change.
Communication with FCG was present from the beginning of the creation of the sponsor and donor packet. The first part of the packet that our team produced was the section on giving tiers and we requested feedback from FCG right away, as detailed in this chain of e-mails. Our communication with FCG prompted suggestions for revisions based on their thoughts and needs. FCG knew the monetary range of donations that they wanted to ask for, and we had originally created them too low since that was not our team’s area of expertise. Communicating with our partner allowed for beneficial changes such as the monetary adjustments as well as the number of tiers to be made that would not have happened if we had not reached out. This first interaction set a positive tone for all future communications and demonstrates how communication with the community partner and the revision process was intimately tied for this project.
When our team finished the first complete draft of the sponsor and donor packet, we reached out again to receive notes.* These notes came directly from lead editor Dr. Scheler, but his feedback was also influenced by the thoughts of Bethany Thier and Cheryl Williams of FCG.
We received many revision suggestions from this round of feedback, but the piece of the packet in most need of revision was the cover letter. The function of the cover letter is to introduce FCG to the reader and compel them to want to learn more (and then hopefully donate). Even though FCG was our community sponsor, our team’s first draft spoke about Brown County UW-Extension Community Gardens too much, and even though they are affiliated with FCG, it would have been confusing to the audience. This was partially because, at the time of writing, BCCG and FCG were in the process of figuring out administrative logistics, and when ENGL 306 was first brought into the project, BCCG was at the forefront. Nevertheless, revisions needed to be made!
The way our team approached working on documents was extremely collaborative: all of the focus was put on getting the document done, and not on worrying about authorship credit. As such, whenever we had to make revisions on a document, the person who had the most time to work on the document stepped up, whoever it was. It so happened that after we received the extensive list of feedback from Dr. Scheler, I was most available to work on completing it. Because the cover letter proved to be extremely tricky to write effectively, I reached out to Bethany Thier for some guidance on what FCG wanted the cover letter to convey. From her e-mails I was able to rewrite the cover letter using problem-framing so that it was clear to the audience who FCG was and what they could do for the community. I was able to essentially boil it down to three story points: 1) community gardening is beneficial in our community 2) gardening in this community is in jeopardy, 3) by donating to FCG you can help save community gardening, and in turn, change the community for the better. I was also able to focus on concision and add action statements to make the letter compelling for the reader. This resulted in a revised second draft of the packet (with a few edits to the cover letter made by Dr. Scheler), and then, after Bethany added graphic design, a second document with last topical revisions that needed to be made before the document was sent to the printers. All of these revisions that made the sponsor and donor packet the best it could be were only possible because our team kept in direct contact with FCG.
In the end, not only was our document created in open partnership with FCG following the tenets of participatory action research, but it also fulfilled its primary function: procuring funds. In the hands of our community partner, the FCG Sponsor and Donor Packet was directly involved in raising $1,500 from major donors. Furthermore, FCG has submitted a proposal including the sponsor and donor packet to Bellin Health that has made them a serious contender for a $25,000 corporate sponsorship with a 5-year commitment contract.
Stoecker, Randy. Research Methods for Community Change: A Project-Based Approach. Ed, 2. SAGE Publications. Thousand Oaks, California. 2013. Print.
*For the purpose of transparency: up to this point I had been responsible for writing the corporate sponsorship section of the first draft, Danielle Gardner for the major donor section, and Abigail McIntyre for the cover letter.