Guest Blog: Securing funds for our inclusive playground

In June, we awarded the Iola Kiwanis club in Iola, Kan., $25,000 in playground equipment as part of the Make a Difference Through Play contest. Since winning, they’ve been busy with plans, and we’re happy to have an update to share from Michael Ford, member of the Iola Kiwanis club and community resource officer for the Iola Police Department.

After we were notified that we were the grand prize winners of the Make a Difference Through Play contest, our Kiwanis club met with the city council during open council to tell them about the $25,000 award from Landscape Structures. We took advantage of our time in front of them and also asked if they would consider pledging a matching donation to the inclusive playground. They agreed, which already put us at nearly 30 percent of our fundraising goal.

The Iola Kiwanis club asking for a matching $25,000 donation from the City of Iola.

The Iola Kiwanis club asking for a matching $25,000 donation from the City of Iola.

The award and the matching donation had our Kiwanis club energized, and we took that energy to meet with other local businesses to secure funds. The Iola Wal-Mart and a local bank each pledged $5,000, our Kiwanis club has pledged at least $2,500, and we have many more businesses pledging support with donations of anywhere from $500 to $1,500.

We’re working on a couple of grant applications—one through the Kansas Health Foundation and another with KaBOOM!. We also have fundraisers scheduled—a pancake breakfast, concessions at Farm City Days in Iola—with businesses pledging matching funds. Additionally, local construction companies have offered to donate materials when it comes time for the playground installation.

Iola is a city of 5,600 people. When you’re in a town this size, the community members know what’s happening in town. So while we have reached out to many businesses for donations, many have also approached us. We are trying to broaden our reach with a county-wide mailer to tell businesses and individuals that a fund has been set up through the Allen County Foundation so that they can easily make tax-deductible donations.

One design option for the Iola Kiwanis club's inclusive playground.

One design option for the Iola Kiwanis club’s inclusive playground.

Another aspect that was unexpected in this process was helping educate the community about planning, funding and installing a playground. Lots of the community members figured that we’d get the $25,000 from Landscape Structures and that would be it. But our vision is for a truly inclusive playground, and we realized quickly that we weren’t willing to cut back on the amount of playground equipment we wanted, and set our budget to meet that dream.

Stay tuned for another update from Michael next month when he’ll discuss getting community support.