Homelessness, Cars and Community: The Making of No Fixed Address

fundraising piggy bank

One of the biggest decisions of a non-profit organization is deciding what kind of fundraiser to hold. It’s pinning down a vision, need and goal…and then communicating that need to the public in a way that makes them want to get involved.


This is rarely an easy feat, especially in its first few years.

The YWCA’s Women of Distinction Awards was a great example of honoring leadership in our community.  Started in the mid-eighties, the YW held the awards dinner and banquet to highlight the women in our community who were accomplishing great things.  It was an honor to be nominated, as it was always a wonderful evening spent in a room filled with women the community held in high esteem.  However, this event rarely did anything to highlight our organization—or raise the funds needed to help keep important programs running.  For an 85 year old organization, our profile was still very much obscure within the region.  Few people knew what the YW did for our womenAnd so, it was with sadness that we decided to quietly say goodbye to this fundraiser, the last one taking place in May 2011.

So there we were, without a major fundraiser…and let me assure you that our Fund Developer, Nicki Inch was just a little stressed about this.  Fortunately with some reassurance from our Executive Director, she was given some time to hold a focus group to begin looking into new ideas.  While researching, Nicki came across a 24 hour event held in San Francisco addressing the issue of homelessness and inspiration struck.  She just knew this was going to be a success.

I remember her excitement.  Her mind working on constant overdrive, frantically trying to keep up with the ideas that were just pouring out of her. That excitement was contagious! In fact, it started spreading like wildfire. I remember being so proud of Nicki.  We finally had an event that felt right. I was inspired by her and proud of her not just as a co-worker—but also because she is my Mom.

Now she just needed a catchy name for the event.

NFA LOGOIn March 2012, Nicki began ‘shopping’ No Fixed Address around.  It wasn’t a hard sell, in fact, it really had legs of its own.  For the first time, we had people coming to us; sponsors that had previously turned us down in the past, or been a hard sell were now asking to be involved!  Incredibly awesome people started clambering to sit on the numerous committees Nicki developed to help put the plan into action.  Donations were rolling in…..AND people were signing up to sleep in their cars!

 It has just been so incredible to see the many people that are drawn to this event.  Not only have people embraced it, but they have made it their own. NFA has become a vehicle to educate individuals, as well as, their children about some of the social  realities connected to homelessness.  It has become a common ground for employees to bond beyond the office, while working together for the common good.  NFA has given a voice to those who have personally experienced homelessness.  It has become a venue that exudes hope, offers encouragement and expresses sincere compassion for those in need.  NFA has succeeded in its goal, to raise awareness about the persistent and rising problem of homelessness in Niagara.

So what does fundraising have to do with leadership?

For me, leadership is an entire community coming together to work towards ending poverty and homelessness in Niagara.  Leadership is also the many people behind the scenes who tirelessly commit to seeing the plan through to action.

Be a leader and get involved in NFA.

284752_274619232653331_874822578_nNo Fixed Address is a 24 hour Live-In-Your-Car-A-Thon to raise awareness about and funds toward ending poverty and homelessness in the Niagara Region. Like a marathon or a walk-a-thon, participants will gather sponsorships from friends and family and take part in an event that gives them a taste of what it is like to have to live out of their car. The event will take place from Friday August 15th to Saturday August 16th in the parking lot of the Pen Centre (by the Target side of the mall). Over the course of 24 hours, participants will experience just how little room a car has when you sleep in it, what a convenience store diet means and how difficult it is to find a rest room when you need it the most. Participants will be stretched and challenged and will leave forever changed.

To become involved or learn more information please visit our website at: www.nfaniagara.com

Images courtesy of Google and YWCA Niagara Region.

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