City of Peterborough Raises $87,000 for Flood Relief

With damage to private property pegged at over $1 million following severe flooding in June of 2002, the City of Peterborough had a major predicament. In order to alleviate the impact of the flood on local residents - many of whom were low income families, single mothers, and seniors - the City had to conduct a comprehensive fundraising campaign.

Immediately following the record breaking rainstorm, City Council passed a resolution asking the provincial Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to declare the community a disaster area. It then appointed a committee of volunteers who would be responsible for overseeing the entire flood relief effort, including raising funds and reviewing and settling claims. Under the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program, the province would contribute $2 for every dollar raised by the local relief committee.

According to RoseMary Reid, Secretary-Treasurer of the Peterborough Flood Relief Committee and Assistant to the City Administrator, the City responded quickly, purchasing a subscription to BIG Online and going out into the donations community. With contributions coming in from service clubs, municipalities, corporations, labour, foundations, and the faith community, they succeeded in raising $87,000.

They probably could have raised even more if the fundraising effort hadn't been complicated by two distinct factors. Because most of the water and sewage ended up in basements and was invisible to the naked eye, the level of public sympathy wasn't as high as it could have been. Some people simply felt it was the homeowner's responsibility for not having the right insurance.

Reid adds that the timing of the fundraising effort wasn't great either, as the local United Way had just embarked on its annual fundraising program. "A lot of businesses and organizations had already given their money and any left was earmarked for the United Way."

Where They're Going
With the flood all cleaned up and people in need given some form of compensation from the City, it's the project needs of the community that now dictate how Reid uses BIG Online.

Currently, she's on the hunt for $100,000 to complete the installation of a veterans' Wall of Remembrance in a local park. Peterborough also needs support for its summer Festival of Lights, which features a combination of Canadian musicians, a light show and fireworks.

Due to the success they had with the Flood Relief effort, the City has begun promoting the value of BIG Online to its other departments. "From my perspective there are other departments in the City of Peterborough that could benefit from it as well."

Departments with fundraising requirements are already starting to come to Reid's office asking for support. "Based on that success, it will get used even more"

Although she's completely new to the fundraising business, it didn't take long for Reid to pick up the fundamentals of successful grant development. The first thing she learned is that researching, identifying and qualifying the right prospects takes time and effort. "You just don't go on (BIG) and immediately find the money."

Besides relying on BIG to identify foundation and corporate sponsors, Reid employs the system's sample letters and writing tools to craft professional looking letters of inquiry. The templates help her find the right words to illicit a positive response from potential donors. "That's what I found most helpful."

Overall, notes Reid, purchasing BIG Online, "was definitely worthwhile."

Although the City of Peterborough's Flood Relief fundraising effort is just now wrapping up, Reid is cautiously proud of the results. "I think we did extremely well, given the type of disaster it was and the time of year for our fundraising."

BIG Picture: With their broad project needs and diverse departments, municipalities are natural candidates for BIG Online. More importantly, you don't have to be a seasoned grant writer to get results. You only have to have a worthy cause.

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