OUTSIDE THE BOX

Teri L. Lanza Comments
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Most members of the self-storage community know of the good our state associations do. These vital organizations support individual facility operators with business resources; lobby for industry rights; organize networking opportunities; create infrastructure for policies and procedures; provide legal guidance; serve as stewards of our public image; and much more. What you may not know is how these groups help charitable organizations, furthering worthy causes and generating positive industry awareness.

Some groups can afford to; others can only nurture their visions. Because membership dues are necessarily dedicated to the business of supporting operators, there aren’t always funds for the “extras.” That’s why Inside Self-Storage recently gave $10,000 in donation money to five associations that could put it to work.

All existing state self-storage associations were entered into a drawing that took place at the Inside Self-Storage Las Vegas Expo, Feb. 20-23. The organizations backing Arizona, California, Kansas, Vermont and Washington were picked to receive $2,000 for donation to a charity of their choice. Or, if they prefer, they can pass the funds to one of their members in support of an existing charity effort.

So Many Choices

Now that they have some spare cash, how will these lucky associations use it? Some have never had money for charitable endeavors or the resources to create a program. Like kids in a candy store, they now have to narrow their choices.

Erin King, the new executive director for California Self Storage Association (CSSA), has goals to involve the association with charity groups in 2007. Though nothing has been finalized by the board as of press time, she says she has several options in mind.

The Arizona Self Storage Association (AZSSA) is in a similar boat. “Other than suggesting to our members that they might make storage space available to charity organizations, we have not been involved with any charity in the past,” explains Ted Williams, an AZSSA board member and the president of TLW Construction. “We are specifically looking at Habitat for Humanity and Women Off Welfare. We are also looking into any organization that assists abused women and children.”

The president of the Kansas Self Storage Operators Association (KSSOA), Stan Stanton of Sante Fe Self Storage, says his group will use the funds from ISS as a springboard to launch its charity program. He and fellow board members have chosen three local organizations to support:

  • TLC For Children and Families, which provides an emergency shelter for abused and neglected children from infancy through age 12.
  • Dream Factory, which works to fulfill the wishes and dreams of chronically ill children and provide a positive family atmosphere during kids’ time of suffering.
  • Special Olympics Kansas, which provides sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

The Washington State Self Storage Association (WASSA) currently works with one aid organization, but involvement to date is through owners who choose to participate and not WASSA directly, explains Past President Alan Ameche. “The program is for battered women in the greater Seattle area. Owners volunteer to make space available on short notice for women who need to move out quickly,” he says.

Take a Tip From Texas

If you’re a self-storage operator or state association member, you may be interested to hear about the programs launched by the industry’s more established organizations. Larger groups like the ones supporting Texas and Florida are engaging in some truly impressive initiatives, which can be modeled to work for your own state or even an individual facility.

They say everything is big in Texas, and this certainly is true of the state association’s charity work. With a 20-year history and a facility membership of more than 2,700, the Texas Self Storage Association (TSSA) is leading the pack. The group started fundraising for various charities at its annual convention in 1998. Since 2001, it has annually supported the Shriners Hospital for Children in Galveston.

“There are two main reasons why we have chosen the Shriners Hospital as our sponsored charity,” explains TSSA Executive Director Ginny Sutton. “First, this is an incredibly worthy charitable recipient. The hospital specializes in burn treatment of children under 18, and all patients are treated there at absolutely no cost to the child’s family! In fact, the hospital doesn’t even have a billing department or a cash register to accept payments.”

TSSA has also begun making donations on an as-needed basis. At the end of 2005, it donated $10,000 to Habitat for Humanity in Beaumont, Texas, an area that had been hard hit by Hurricane Rita that year. The group then sponsored a Habitat house workday in December 2006 to help finish the homes built specifically for hurricane victims.

How does TSSA raise the money? It solicits donations throughout the year for silent and live auctions held at its annual convention. “Our wonderful members donate everything from gate operators to cases of locks along with a variety of other self-storage items to collectibles and signed sports memorabilia,” Sutton says. “No item donated is too small, as our silent auction becomes a good place for members to bid while staying within a reasonable budget. Members can also make direct monetary donations.”

In September 2006, TSSA raised $41,760 for the hospital, bringing its grand total to more than $100,000 raised since 2001. This year, Sutton says the group is committed to expanding its source of funds. For example, Brom Hoban, director of communications, ran a marathon dedicated to fundraising, with members pledging donations by the mile.

Spreading a Little Sunshine

The Florida Self Storage Association (FSSA) is another group making great headway in the area of giving. It recently created a charitable committee, chaired by Bruce McCardle of Mako Steel, and is in the process of formulating its activities.

Most of the FSSA’s giving has been through the Tampa Shriners Hospital, but it is now embarking on a journey with “Ye Notorious Krewe of the Peg Leg Pirate,” which assists amputees, their families and related organizations. “We chose them this year because we like the work they do, and the fun theme for their organization fits well with the association,” says Linnea Appleby, administrator for the FSSA and president of PDQ Management Solutions. As a show of support, the association’s November tradeshow will even have a pirate theme.

FSSA is also looking into Make-A-Wish and other charities. It expects to support a different cause every year. To create financial support for its initiatives, the association will add a fund to which members can contribute as well as employ silent auctions, games, contests and similar activities at its events.

Where to Start?

As a facility owner or manager or association board member, perhaps you’ve considered a giving initiative but weren’t sure where to begin. Want some sage advice from the experts? “Just pick a very worthy cause and get started!” advises Sutton. No first step is too small.

“When we started in 1998, our fundraising was started late in the game, and we were inexperienced,” Sutton says. “We raised only about $2,000. But we were not ashamed at the modest amount, since it was more than the $0 raised in the past; and it showed us that with more effort, we would get more results.”

She also points out that it helps to have a fundraising chair and volunteers who are passionate about the charity and want to dedicate their efforts to having a successful event. “Find a charity all of your members can support to avoid dissension. Check them out carefully to ensure they have a good track record of making use of donations. And keep meticulous records of handling donations, since fundraising is subject to IRS auditing.”

ISS is pleased to assist state associations in their noble work and looks forward to future collaboration. Running these groups take time, energy, focus and an immense amount of dedication. We tip our hats to the members who make industry associations thrive and wish them success in all their charitable endeavors. 


Hats Off to Charity Enthusiasts

Board members who are passionate about and willing to lead the charge on charity efforts greatly enhance an association’s success. For example, TSSA board member Bill Thomas toured the Shriners Burn Hospital for Children the group’s primary cause in the late ‘90s. Since then he as been extremely dedicated to supporting the hospital and a driving force in the related fundraising. He later organized a hospital tour for the entire TSSA board. After seeing what the group’s contributions could help accomplish, Doug Hunt joined Thomas in his fervor, soliciting donations and attempting to exceed the group’s goal every year.

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