M.C. Mobility Systems fields many inquiries about how to get grants for wheelchair vans or other financial assistance for handicap vans. Every situation is different, but equally heartbreaking, like a recent request on Facebook:
“HOW CAN I AFFORD ONE OF THESE VANS? … MY INDEPENDENCE IS DYING. IF I CAN’T DRIVE ANYMORE MY LIFE WILL BE OVER.”
Wheelchair vans can be expensive, and many of our customers find that they simply cannot pay for one on their own, even though they desperately need an accessible van to maintain independence. The first thing M.C. Mobility Systems recommends is contacting a nonprofit dedicated to your specific disability, such as the MS Society, Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), or the National Spinal Cord Injury Association. We have worked closely with many of these organizations to help people with disabilities get the mobility equipment they need.
After getting in touch with a non-profit, we then recommend contacting all pertinent government entities that aid people with disabilities. For example, if you are trying to get back to work Vocational Rehabilitation is set up specifically for you regardless of income.
(Picture to Left: Sherry Langland standing by her wheelchair van she got through her BB4K fundraiser.
When all else fails, though, it may be time to roll up your sleeves and do some fundraising yourself. We have been a part of many successful fundraisers for wheelchair vans and it makes getting that much needed wheelchair lift or lowered floor minivan that much more special when hard work has gone in to getting it. Here are ten steps to a successful wheelchair van fundraiser:
1. Make sure that you really need to have a fundraiser
As we previously mentioned, non-profits and government organizations can often provide enough assistance to purchase a wheelchair van. We also offer conventional financing that you can apply for directly through our secure website. Even if you don’t think you will qualify, it never hurts to apply.
2. Emotionally prepare yourself for all the possible outcomes
Fundraising can be an emotional experience and the outcome can be uncertain. Make sure you have prepared yourself for the possibility that you will not raise enough money for the van you really want, but maybe you have raised enough for another option, such as a portable ramp or a wheelchair lift. Even those who hold successful fundraisers sometimes express a feeling of guilt over having to ask others for help. Never feel this way. There is no one on earth who has not needed help from people around them at one time or another.
3. Pick a Leader
With any large event, it is important to have clear leadership. Sponsors and attendees will need to know who the specific point of contact is. If you feel too overwhelmed to handle all of the event planning and donation solicitation, ask a close family friend or church member to be the fundraiser leader. Sometimes it helps to have someone outside the day to day struggles to bring a fresh perspective and energy to the project.
4. Have a Clear Goal
Anyone involved with your fundraiser is going to want to know what they are donating for. Have a clear goal in mind going in. Sometimes it helps to pick out a specific van you want and then make that your goal. Is your goal to raise $20,000 for a used van? Are you trying to get that 2003 Oldsmobile Silhouette with the Fold Out Ramp? If you aren’t sure what is realistic for your particular needs, contact a mobility consultant and they will be able to help clarify what is reasonable in your situation.
5. Develop a Budget
Make a list of all possible expenses you will have to pull off your fundraiser. Can you get the food and drinks donated? Is the venue going to charge rent? Remember, everything from invitations to raffle tickets have some kind of cost associated with them that you will either have to pay for or get donated. Once you have a budget, you are ready to start asking for those initial donations.
6. Decide on Your Target Audience
Who can you ask to attend your fundraiser or give donations? Is this something that everyone in the community could attend or are you going to limit it to groups and organizations related to your specific disability? This is the stage where you will start making a list of individuals and businesses to contact.
7. Plan the Event
This is probably the step that will take the most work, but can also be the most fun. Think outside of the box when putting on your wheelchair van fundraiser. There are the tried and true fundraising ideas, such as walks, cookbooks, and spaghetti dinners, but you could also do something really unique like a Wheelchair for a Day event where in addition to food, drinks, and games participants are asked to perform daily tasks while in a wheelchair. It will not only be something different for participants, but it will drive home why a wheelchair van is so important to your family.
Think of all the ways to spread the word about your fundraiser. Take out an ad in your local paper, contact all the local TV and radio stations, setup a website or a Facebook page, and start papering the neighborhood with fliers. Make a video about your family’s situation and post that to your event page. Ask local businesses if you can post information in their front windows or if they will put a link to your event on their website. M.C. Mobility Systems has often agreed to help advertise wheelchair van fundraising events on our blog in exchange for the fundraiser agreeing to get the van from us. Anyway that you can get the word out is good.
9. Check and Double Check
Before the event check and double check that everything on your to do list is complete and that everyone involved with the setup knows their jobs. This will put your mind at ease and allow you to enjoy the big day more. If you have done the hard work during the planning process, the big day should come off with very few problems. No event goes without some minor hiccups, but by being diligent beforehand those hiccups should go completely unnoticed by your attendees.
10. Say Thank You
You will probably be so overwhelmed with gratitude by the outpouring of support that you get, that you will not need to be reminded of this step. So it goes without saying that your guests and sponsors deserve a thoughtful thank you. Plus this is your opportunity to share how your family’s new wheelchair van has changed your life.
Never give up on your independence. Many wheelchair users before you have pulled off successful fundraisers and you can to!
M.C. Mobility Systems has many wheelchair vans and other mobility options that we try to fit into any budget. If you are holding a wheelchair van fundraiser, contact us and we will see how we can help provide you with a clear goal in the form of a used wheelchair van or wheelchair lift.