Stretch the Activity Budget
By Myrtle A. Klauer, ADC, CAP
Director of Resident Services
Illinois Council on Long Term Care
In these times of late reimbursement payments and increased costs across the board,
activity professionals across the nation are looking for ways to stretch their budgets.
Over the years, facilities have held seasonal bazaars, edited specialty cookbooks, and
sold items to produce income for the Resident Council and the activity program.
The residents in today's skilled nursing facilities may not be able to produce quality
crafts that can be sold at a bazaar. Pulling a cookbook together can be time consuming
and expensive to produce. Activity professionals must think "outside the box" when it
comes to fundraising.
The ideas in this article are designed to trigger your imagination. When choosing a
fundraising project, don't forget to include the residents, families, staff, and volunteers
in all aspects of the project. Each entity can contribute something and should be
encouraged to use their creativity to reach your fundraising goals.
Get support from the administrator and other department heads before starting the
project. Present an outline of your plan in writing. Your information should include:
• organizational ideas;
• tentative goal(s);
• approximate staff time involved;
• date of first meeting; and
• method for reporting progress.
Highlight the reason(s) for the fundraiser and the need for staff support.
Hold a brainstorming session to explore different fundraising ideas. Invite the
residents, families, volunteers, and department heads to attend. Have someone record
all the ideas on a flip chart or dry erase board.
Have the group choose three projects to explore further. Ask for volunteers to research
each of these ideas. Set a date for the next meeting where reports will be shared. Have
the research reports due several days earlier so that copies can be made.
A few days before the second meeting, distribute copies of all the reports to the
committee. Ask the members to review the documents and be prepared to make
recommendations regarding the best project to pursue.
Once the project is chosen, ask for a volunteer to chair the fundraiser. The chair does
not have to be the individual doing the research. Be open to having co-chairs to lessen
the workload. Use the rest of the meeting to organize a basic committee and share
ideas for making the fundraiser a success.
Set another meeting date and time. Develop an outline of what needs to be
accomplished prior to that meeting. Make sure committee members know how to
contact each other and where the next meeting will be held.
Turn the project over to the committee and allow the members to do their work. Your
role is to act as the committee's advisor. Provide a meeting place and other support
throughout the project. The important thing is for everyone to have fun while raising
money for the activity program.
The following fundraising ideas range from very simple to complex. Use your creativity
to adapt these ideas for your facility and resources.
• Guess how many: Fill a jar with M & Ms, jellybeans, coins, or other small items.
Charge a nominal amount, such as $1, to guess the amount contained in the jar.
• Walk-a-thon: Recruit individuals willing to walk a set route and gather pledges for
each mile they walk. This can be expanded to include bowling, swimming, rocking, etc.
Include the community in this effort.
• Raffle: Secure an item or several items to raffle. Charge a nominal fee for each
raffle ticket. Set a date when the winning ticket(s) will be drawn.
• Advertisers: Solicit advertisers for the facility newsletter and other outside
publications produced by the facility.
• Barbecue: Sell advanced tickets for a family and community barbecue. If needed,
have several serving times, such as lunch and dinner.
• Carnival: Invite the community to an outdoor carnival. Charge a small admission
and sell tickets at a nominal cost for each ride or game. For additional income, sell
cotton candy, popcorn, ice cream bars, canned soda, etc.
• Sell buttons or t-shirts: Have a contest to design the artwork for the buttons or t-
shirts. Charge $1 to enter the contest. Make the buttons or t-shirts at the facility or have
them manufactured using the original artwork. Give a free button or t-shirt to the winner
of the contest.
• Singing telegrams: Charge a nominal fee for providing a singing telegram for a
special occasion being celebrated by someone living or working in the facility.
• Send a flower or balloon bouquet: For a fee, the sender can send a bouquet of
carnations (or other flowers) to their loved one living or working in the facility. This is
done on a date specified by the facility. This can also be done using helium balloons.
• Plant sale: Begin flower and vegetable seedlings. Take plant cutting, root them,
plant in decorated pots, and sell for a nominal amount. These are excellent projects for
the residents and children in the inter-generational program.
• Petting Zoo: If the facility is in a rural area, "borrow" some farm animals and
organize a petting zoo. Charge a fee for petting the animals.
• Scavenger hunt: Determine a route and make a list of the items the participants
need to find. Advertise the hunt and charge a fee for participating. Give a small prize to
the individual who is able to collect all the items in the shortest period of time.
• Book sale: Hold a book drive for the facility. Sell any duplicate books or ones the
residents are not interested in keeping. Price the books to sell.
• Car wash: Enlist the assistance of students from a local high school and the staff
for a community car wash. If it is impractical to hold the event at the facility, ask a church
or business to host it.
• Talent auction: Advertise for individuals willing to provide a service or talent that
can be auctioned. Write up each talent or service and invite the community to the event.
Have a volunteer auctioneer for a live auction or do a silent one. The service or talent
goes to the highest bidder.
• Food sale: Sell donuts, hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, or other food items. Keep the
menu simple -- it's best to sell just one item. Try a different item each day, such as hot
dogs on Monday, donuts on Tuesday, nachos on Wednesday, etc.
• Door decorating contest: Advertise the contest around a theme or holiday.
Participants pay a fee for decorating the residents' doors. Gather a group of residents or
community leaders as judges. The winner gets a small prize and their picture in the
• Classic car show: Invite an antique or classic car club to be part of this fundraiser
by displaying their cars at the facility. Charge an entrance fee to the public. Sell canned
soda and popcorn.
• Dress down day: Set a date when the staff can make a donation to the activity
program for the privilege of wearing street clothes to work. Set ground rules regarding
appropriate attire for the day. Be sure to post the event at the main entrance so visitors
know this is a special day and that is the reason everyone is out of uniform.
• Talent show: Round up all the talented individuals who live or work at the facility
and organize a talent show. Sell advance tickets to the event -- have the residents come
• Karaoke: Borrow a karaoke machine and have an evening of karaoke. Advertise
the event and invite the community. Charge a fee for anyone wanting to sing.
• Recycle: There are new programs that give cash or goods for recycling used
printer cartridges and old cell phones. Office Depot will exchange each cartridge for a
ream of paper. The facility may also qualify to receive cash for old cell phones. For more
information, visit: http://www.activity therapy.com/fund.htm.
Monthly theme ideas:
January ~ snow art contestHints for Success
February ~ St. Valentine's dance
March ~ kite flying contest
April ~ umbrella sale
May ~ Mother's Day tea
June ~ Father's Day tie sale
July ~ picnic
August ~ fishing contest
September ~ school supplies sale
October ~ pumpkin decorating
November ~ turkey raffle
December ~ gift-wrapping service
To encourage donations from the community, develop a letter of introduction that clearly
states who you are and the reason for the fundraiser. Make it simple and easy to read.
Don't ask for outrageous things -- businesses are inundated with donation requests.
Make the letter personal by obtaining the name of the person in charge of community
relations. Don't forget to follow-up with a phone call and a thank you letter.
Hold the fundraiser on payday or the day after. Be sure to publicize the event well in
advance so everyone knows how to budget for the expense. Include food sales
whenever possible to boost profits.
Include the residents in all aspects of the planning, execution, and post-event activities.
Whenever possible incorporate their suggestions.
Advertising is very important. A fundraiser is only as good as the money you make and
the people who participate. Have a goal of what you want to make and let the people
Send thank you letters to everyone who works or donates to the event. People like to
know their efforts are appreciated. By saying "thank you" they are more likely to
participate in or donate to a similar event.
Send out press releases and take lots of pictures. If the press doesn't cover the event,
be sure to submit a story and pictures after the event.
Keep a folder with all the information regarding the event. Include copies of the flyers,
advertising, meetings, set-up diagrams, letters, etc. Have a wrap-up meeting and write
down what was forgotten and what went wrong so you won't forget the next time. Rate
the success of the event and whether it's worth repeating next year.
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NAAP is the only national group that
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catalyst for both professional and personal
growth and has come to be recognized by
government officials as the voice of the
activity profession on national issues
concerning long-term care facilities,
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Professionals recognizes the following
The quality of life of the
client/resident/participant/patient served is
the primary reason for our services.
The strength of NAAP lies in the diversity of
its members. NAAP recognizes the rich
cultural, and educational backgrounds of its
members and values the variety of
The strength of NAAP also lies in the
development and promotion of scientific
research which further defines and supports
the activity profession.
NAAP values the development and
maintenance of coalitions with
organizations whose mission is similar to
that of NAAP's for the purposes of
advocacy, research, education, and
promotion of activity services and activity
NAAP values members who become
involved at the state and national level to
promote professional standards as well as
encourage employers to recognize them as
NAAP affords Activity Professionals across
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NAAP successfully worked with members of
Congress to secure a change in the nursing
home reform title of the 1987 Omnibus
Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA).
Through our efforts, it became mandatory
that an activity program, directed by a
qualified professional, be provided in every
nursing home that receives Medicare
and/or Medicaid funds.
NAAP was the only professional activity
association to participate in HCFA's
workgroups that revised OBRA's interpretive
guidelines now in effect.
NAAP provides assistance at the state level
to promote certification of activity
professionals, working toward uniform
professional standards for activity practice.
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