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United Way of Florida

unitedwayfloridaIdeas:

For many years the United Way of Florida (UWOF) received grant funding to employ an event coordinator to organize their advocacy event Children's Week. Upon losing grant funding to organize Children's Week in 2004, the event was in jeopardy of being shut down. As a volunteer for Children's Week, Jason Zaborske had a vision of what Children's Week could be. Even though event attendance had dwindled to less than 100 participants at the State Capitol, UWOF President Ted Granger and CE President Jason Zaborske decided to partner together and not only save Children's Week, but return this once great event, back to major prominence.

Children's Week was once a large 5,000 event in the late 1980's, when then Governor Lawton Chiles lead the effort to host a rally and parade at the State Capitol designed to bring children's advocates together with "One Voice for Children". With the political winds changing in Florida, attendance at an all-time low, and the loss of grant funding in 2004 for the logistical coordination of Children's Week, the future of the event was bleak.

Solutions:

Capital Events (CE) President Jason Zaborske brought a passion and a vision to Children's Week that had been lacking for years. With only a handful of small non-profit partners left to contribute and sponsor, and gross revenues totaling less than $5,000, it was not going to be an easy event to turn around. Jason focused on strengthening existing sponsor relationships, and expanding the event at the State Capitol into a full week of advocacy events and activities. Beginning in 2005 CE added a networking dinner, and redesigned the sponsorship package to entice new sponsors and keep Children's Week going. In 2006, CE and UWOF coordinated and hosted a Statewide Summit on children's issues, and secured Comcast to be the statewide media partner for Children's Week, and host televised interviews of policy makers and advocates at the State Capitol, and the event began to grow. Focusing on gaining "partners" rather than "sponsors", CE grew attendance to more than 1,000, and boasted more than 20 statewide partners to host information booths at the State Capitol. Before long, Children's Week was beginning to turn heads and attract the attention of statewide leaders. Employing the efforts of partners to host new events and activities for children, and enlisting volunteers statewide to organize more than a half dozen committees to organize these new activities, Children's Week underwent a major transformation from just a small press conference and "hand art dedication" at the State Capitol, to a full blown advocacy event in 2007. Partners and volunteers were empowered to grow Children's Week, and the event doubled their sponsorships and attendance again in 2008, and added a free luncheon for children, guided tours, and built partnerships with the Tallahassee Democrat and ClearChannel to begin widespread statewide promotions and advertising, which brought in more partners, volunteers, attendees and local event coordinators from 2008 to 2012.

Results:

Now in their 8th year of coordinating Children's Week together, CE and UWOF are proud to have grown Children's Week's gross revenues to more than $150,000 and is supported by more than 100 paid partners, and hundreds of volunteers and organizations at the local level who make Children's Week the largest event hosted at Florida's State Capitol, with more than 5,000 attendees. Through increased statewide partners, Children's Week events now include a free breakfast and lunch for all attendees, and free books and pedometers provided to local coordinators and participants. The annual dinner and networking event, has been sold out the last five years, with more than 350 attendees, and Children's Week has developed and implements over 200 community events and activities each year, providing thousands of parents, children, policy makers, professionals, community leaders and concerned citizens with the opportunity to share valuable knowledge and information about children's issues in each community across the state and at the State Capitol.