Today, there is much interest in making the outdoors including lakes and rivers more accessible to those with disabilities. Accessibility products like adaptive kayak and boat launches, accessible fishing piers, and other applications, are popping up all over. Despite the strong desire to create more accessible public spaces, the movement is in its infancy and there is much work to do. Chances are that your local lake needs an adaptive kayak launch and accessible floating docks and piers. Many states’ budgets do not allow for the purchase of adaptive kayak launches, and communities have had to rally together to raise money to purchase and install the products. They have shared their best practices with us so that you can may your local lake more accessible, too.
Below is a guide of best practices to help you fundraise for accessibility products for your local park.
1. The first thing that you should do is contact us. Let us know who you are, where your park is located, and share the goals of your project with us. We will be able to give you general assessments of which products would work best at your location and provide a ballpark estimate for the cost of the project. We may also be able to facilitate introductions to groups in your region who have done similar projects. Also, we can share photos, designs, videos, testimonials, and case studies to help you make your case. We are here to support your efforts!
2. The second most important step is to contact your local Friends of Parks Group. Most states, like Pennsylvania, have these groups. Friends are people like you who volunteer their time, services, and support, to our state parks and forests. Chapters form for a variety of reasons but all understand the value of their state park or forest and share a common goal to make that park or forest the best in the state. If you are in Pennsylvania search for your local group here: https://paparksandforests.org/friends-groups/.
If you cannot find a Friends group that supports your local park, then start your own. A comprehensive guide to starting a Friends Group in Pennsylvania can be downloaded for free – https://paparksandforests.org/friends-groups/start-a-friends-group/
3. Assemble your ideas. Create a presentation, flyer, brochure, and other documentation that outlines your thoughts and ideas for how the accessible launch, docks, and piers will improve your local park and community. Again, contact us for photos, testimonials, videos, and other resources.
4. Take your show on the road.
- Engage local civic groups. Many groups like the Lions Clubs, Rotary, Kiwanis, and other groups, have missions that align with accessibility in public spaces for the benefit of the community. Local groups like these have been known to generously give to such projects as well as enlist volunteers to fundraise and organize events.
- Engage local advocacy, disability, and support groups. There are many organizations in communities designed to help and empower those with disabilities. These groups have mission alignment with accessibility projects and may be able to provide money, resources, and volunteers towards the project’s goals. These groups range from local support groups, nonprofits, and social groups like Team River Runner and other clubs of adaptive athletes.
- Seek corporate and local business sponsorship. Making your local park and lake friendly to those with disabilities is very appealing to businesses looking to give back. Create a package of benefits, like signage and recognition, for those who wish to donate to the cause.
5. Once you’ve mobilized local groups, then organize fundraises, events and drives. This can range from a Saturday car wash, selling hot dogs at a football game, or hosting a charity dinner. The extent of your imagination is the only limit. Remember, these opportunities are a great way to educate people about accessibility issues.
6. Write Grants. Seeking grants is an excellent way to seek larger donations. Grant opportunities are available not only from the state and federal governments but also from local charities as well. Many local civic groups, like Rotary and Lions, have international groups that may offer to match or donate to the project. In Pennsylvania, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is a great place to start.
7. Be sure to check in with us from time to time and let us know how we can help.
8. Watch this video and be encouraged! Fundraising may seem like a tall task, but it is possible. Watch how three, small, rural Lions clubs raised money for an adaptive launch and accessible pier.