Krawczak: Collective effort gets it done

Fifty-five volunteers. Over 200 hours of volunteer labor. Fifty-one businesses made donations through direct contributions or internal fundraisers. Chamber staff spent more than 200 hours of their time. Thirty-two businesses sold buttons and seven sold H.O.G. fireworks posters. More than 2,000 individuals made cash donations that ranged from a few cents to $1,000. Well over 700 spots (ads) were donated by various media partners.

All of this combined to achieve one goal: raise funds for Alpena’s 2013 fireworks shows. Clearly this combined effort was successful because the goal was not only met, but surpassed by $2,500.

That kind of collective effort is what it takes to make the fundraising for the fireworks successful. Many people giving varying amounts of resources to achieve one common goal. Collective effort is a very powerful thing. And the fireworks fundraising is just one example of many where collective efforts achieve great things. Other examples include area festivals, various fundraisers, sports tournaments, and more.

If we compiled data from each of these activities, I’m sure we would see an impressive number of volunteers, an outrageous number of combined volunteer hours, and a tremendous number of donations from businesses and other organizations in terms of staff time and funds. Collective effort is an amazing and effective use of resources of time, money, and knowledge.

A week doesn’t pass by without someone telling staff at the Chamber office about a festival or event that’s a great idea for the area, and that we should make happen. If we hear it at least once a week, my guess is that it is said much more frequently outside of our office.

When someone comes to us with an idea for a large community event, we thank them for their idea and then usually follow up with, “would you like to chair that committee?” The response we receive is often, “no, I don’t have time for that.” And so we follow that with, “would you volunteer for that committee?” That’s often answered with more of the same but sometimes someone says, “absolutely.”

If each of these events or festivals takes as many resources as the fireworks fundraising efforts, yet we often have people turn down the opportunity to engage in the effort, how are these projects supposed to get done? The doers are already doing. A lot.

There are volunteers in this community who seem to volunteer as many hours a week as they work at their paid job. There are already people who had a great idea and have stepped up to make it happen (in my time here I’ve seen several examples – Wings Over Alpena and Long Lake Lights Festival are two of them). But there are also others who would like to see more, or different events, but are not willing to take on the responsibility of making it happen.

Where did the expectation come from that it’s someone else’s job to make these community events happen? Your community is what you make of it. If you want to see a new festival or event (some of the ones I’ve heard recently: boat races, strawberry festival, wine and food event and additional concerts), then why is the expectation by some that it will get done by someone else? Great ideas are easy to find. People willing to stand behind their great idea and make it happen are much more challenging to find.

So what do we do? Encourage more people to get involved. Give people the opportunity and tools to bring their great ideas to reality with action on their part.

There are plenty of examples of what collective action can achieve. If you have an idea, it is certainly possible to make it a reality. But if you don’t take your idea to the next level, I’m not sure who will. We will keep looking for the next person ready to stand behind their idea. Is that person you? Are you ready to make a difference?

Jackie Krawczak is the executive director of the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce. Her column runs bi-weekly on Tuesdays. Follow Jackie on Twitter @jkrawczak.