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Thanks to those who helped

Several weeks ago I wrote about the new Chinese School in Woodbury, which started in September 2007.

To celebrate the beginning of the new semester (Feb. 2) and the Chinese New Year (Feb. 9), to provide an opportunity for teachers, students and their families to get together and to raise some money for student activities, the school decided to have a celebration and fundraising event on Saturday, Feb. 2.

Atlantic Buffet owner David was very kind and generous in offering us a convenient place and a great price to hold the party in his restaurant.

To encourage students and their families' participation in this event, I, as a member of the Chinese school's board, took it upon myself to contact local businesses and ask for their support in forms of gift certificates or gift baskets.

I have never done fundraising before. So this was a learning experience. Thanks to the generosity of businesses I contacted, it was a great experience, too.

The first business I called was Shanghai Market in St. Paul, because it is a Chinese grocery store I have shopped in the past and is well known in the Chinese community. After my brief explanation, the manager quickly promised to give us gift certificates to support our event.

As my first fundraising effort resulted in success with only one phone call and in only a few minutes, my confidence and ambition were greatly increased. Maybe I could do more than just gift certificates from one store. I started contacting businesses in the Woodbury area.

I thought Asian businesses in Woodbury might be more willing to support our Chinese New Year celebration. My first call went to Pei Wei Asian Diner. The manager promised some gift certificates on the spot. I got more encouragement after this second successful try.

I made more phone calls.

I quickly found out it's easier to do fundraising with smaller or independent businesses or stores than big or chain stores. It's understandable. With smaller stores, the owners can make decisions on the spot.

On the other hand, big store or chain stores managers often have to follow certain procedures or go through the headquarters before making decisions.

They receive donation requests a lot more so they have to have some rules and procedures in their decision making process. Mostly I was asked to submit a written request for their review. Big stores need two to six weeks of lag time.

Among the 18 businesses I called, almost half of them responded with positive results. Some businesses didn't return my calls or e-mails. But that's fine. I didn't expect a positive response every time.

I had a pleasant experience contacting the businesses, even in cases where I didn't get any support.

The only frustrating thing that happened to me was I was transferred twice and put on hold twice which ended up in disconnection. I was not interested in calling back again. And, personally, I am not interested in visiting that business again either.

I am thankful to all who did respond to my requests. I was especially impressed with Olive Garden's manager Tom. He was a quick decision-maker. And he also won my most generous award.

I spent a lot of time in making phone calls, writing and dropping off requests, and picking up gift certificates. But it's worth the effort. I got better than expected results out of my efforts for the school.

I would like to say thank you to all the businesses that supported our celebration event. They are Shanghai Market, Pei Wei Asian Diner, Acupuncture Woodbury, Olive Garden, Trader Joe's, Applebee's (Valley Creek location), Kowalski's Market and Noodles & Company.

My biggest thank you goes to Atlantic Buffet for allowing us to host this event. Without their generous support in the first place, I wouldn't have thought about and done any fundraising for the event.

Thank you all for making our first celebration and fundraising event a fun and successful one. The prize drawing was definitely the most fun part. Kids and adults alike all enjoyed it.

I really appreciate your willingness to help and give back to the community. I am sure your support to the local community will be rewarded with more and loyal customers.

My first fundraising experience will certainly affect where I personally shop and do business in the future.