Posted by DAVID
“Do you know what you’re doing?”, “What kind of experience do you have?”, “Do you have the money for it?”, “Is there a future in non-profit work?” – These are all questions I asked myself before I decided to start my own non-profit. The decision took less than 10 minutes and the logo took 3 months (of course), but the idea was finally born in the summer of 2011, the Starts with Arts Foundation. In the 9 years of operation, the Starts with Arts Foundation has raised between $125,000 to $250,000 in donations and grants to help raise awareness of arts education and support low-income families with educational and community resources in El Centro, California.
Is it hard to raise money? Yes.
I’ve done it all, from door-to-door soliciting, can/bottle/scrap metal recycling, and multiple GoFundMe pages. It doesn’t get easier. Every year we’re taking on more classrooms and students, expanding our community outreach programs, and this last year having to work through the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet, I do it for the families, the kids looking for an equal opportunity to an education supported through the arts.
The Starts with Arts Foundation would not be capable of reaching over 200 classrooms and 5,000 students year-round if it wasn’t for the hard work and hours our volunteer team has put into the program. It’s the college professor that has extra time on the weekends, the dad wanting to spend more time with his daughter, the high school student needing volunteer time for his community project, my parents (who have been at every fundraising event since day one) – then there’s my co-workers, my team, my work family.
Holidays are extra difficult, the demand is super high, now sprinkle on some Covid-19 restrictions, and you have the hardest year for the Starts with Arts Foundation – so close to closing.
Like many non-profits and businesses, we fought back, we maintained and we pivoted our way to make it work. While there were changes made to our year-round curriculum and event schedule, I wasn’t going to let this ruin our annual Holiday Bicycle and Gift Giveaway. Our biggest community outreach event of the year and our way to giving back to those less fortunate and needing the extra support through the holidays.
In early December, during a Monday morning team meeting, it was announced that the team’s monthly community outreach project was going to be in collaboration with Starts with Arts. I was super surprised and humbled, I’d only been working at Pulse for a few months but they’d taken me in as family, as one of their own. On top of the amazing culture that had been instilled at Pulse, it meant so much to me that everyone would reach out to me and my foundation to help, at a time when I needed it the most.
This December was going to be special. It was early in the month and we’d already raised over $2,500 and picked up a huge donation of brand new clothes (t-shirts, hats, jackets, sweaters, etc.) from our friends at Slushcult Brand. As part of our Holiday Gift Giveaway, we’d raised enough to give away over 12 bicycles and 15-20 boxes of clothes to families across the Imperial Valley. But as I was celebrating how much we raised, my wife was reminding me that all the gifts were needing to be wrapped in Christmas-themed wrapping paper – boy, was I ever going to need help!
Pulse Marketing to the rescue!
On Thursday, December 18, the Pulse team met at my house where we’d spend the next 2 hours organizing and wrapping gifts. The scene in my garage was amazing and full of holiday spirit. Yes, I had months to organize and get ready for this day, but a lot was left to the last minute. And by last minute I mean, nothing was organized, everything in boxes and we were probably going to run out of wrapping supplies – if only we had a Project Manager. In this case, we had two of the best! Courtney and Baylee took control and were a HUGE help in getting everyone organized and making sure we all had tasks. The team accomplished so much in the two hours, everyone participated, everything was wrapped and I couldn’t be happier.
A total of 125 gifts and 15 bicycles were given away to families during Christmas in El Centro. Because of pandemic restrictions, we weren’t able to have the big party/event we’re used to every year, but with help of local non-profits and programs, we were able to find families that needed the extra cheering up this Holiday Season.
It’s difficult not to get emotional when I think back on how hard it’s been to grow Starts with Arts to what it is now, and how many families we’ve reached. This is NO one-man project, it really takes a village. I couldn’t be happier to be part of a team that believes and supports each other and puts time aside to help those in need. I can’t thank everyone enough at Pulse Marketing for their time and effort, it truly means a lot to me and the Starts with Arts Foundation.