FUNDRAISING WITH FLOWERS: How William Wilberforce Fellow Jenna Gibson Raised Thousands Through Local Donors

Jenna Gibson - 29 May 2024

“Let it not be said that I was silent when they needed me.” – William Wilberforce.   

This quote is from William Wilberforce, who inspired the Students for Life of America (SFLA) fellowship program I’m a part of. These words truly encapsulate the mission of SFLA and challenge young pro-life leaders to use their voices for those in need. This year, I discovered that fundraising, an element essential to the success of the pro-life movement, is no easy task. While there were many learning curves, I never relented, and by the grace of God, my group surpassed our original fundraising goal by thousands!   

As president of Students for Life at Christopher Newport University and a member of the William Wilberforce Fellowship Program with SFLA, I took it upon myself to host a fundraising initiative for the Care Net Peninsula Pregnancy Resource Center. I chose this project to challenge myself and learn a new skill. Moreover, Care Net Peninsula is the Pregnancy Care Center (PRC), where our SFLA group has been volunteering since the fall of 2022, and I wanted to find a way to support them financially.    

Trial and Error 

My fundraising project quickly proved more difficult than anticipated. I originally wanted to host a pro-life banquet dinner, which would entail raising at least $7,500 in ticket sales before we turned a profit for Care Net. I set up the space reservation, placed the food catering request, and began advertising materials before figuring out concrete details regarding event insurance and liability. I would have personally been on the hook for the $7,500 cover fee, and I could not carry that financial risk in good conscience. Because of the massive amount of time spent on this fundraising gala idea, it was a scramble to find a new path to fundraise.   

With the help of my pro-life peers and mentors, I decided to embark on a church speaking tour to ask the parishes and local church leaders to advertise fundraising for Care Net. Sadly, we were turned down at all but one – the chapel located within Christopher Newport University (CNU) campus. This challenge put us back to square one: developing a new fundraising idea.  

Finding Success Through Flowers and Generous Donors 

My next idea was to call around to different florists asking for flower donations to help sell on CNU’s campus to raise money for Care Net. One gentleman reached out, saying he’d initially donate 50 carnations to us and continue to donate however many additional flowers were needed. Throughout our three-day flower fundraiser, we sold just under 200 carnations and raised approximately $400. Though this flower fundraiser was terrific, it was not where the blessings stopped for our group.  

During the flower fundraiser, I called many local businesses to ask them to match the donations we raised by selling flowers. One gentleman wanted to donate to our fundraiser, but on one condition: if he were to donate $1,000, we’d have to increase our goal from $1,000 to $10,000. We joyfully accepted his offer. With this new $10,000 goal, I began contacting everyone I knew, contacts our new donor had sent me, and fielding donation after donation. The Lord called this donor and the local community to be generous, and through tenacity and Divine supervision, we managed to raise $7,138!   

More Than a Program 

The William Wilberforce Fellowship program is about learning new skills, bonding with pro-life leaders around the country, and making a difference in your community and on campus. I am proud of the tremendous growth from me and my group throughout this year. My fellow leaders helped me when I struggled to develop new fundraising ideas, and we bonded through shared struggles with our projects. It allowed us all to finish the program as better leaders. My project was unique because it forced me to battle with and overcome repeated failures while learning something new each time.   

I will continue my work in the pro-life movement by leading the Students for Life at CNU executive board and participating in the Student Spokesperson Program with SFLA this coming year.   

This may sound cliché, but that doesn’t make it less accurate:  

Success is not measured by how few times you fall but by how you get up and respond to each downfall. You only fail when you decide not to get up and try again.   

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