Faster than a speeding bullet … able to leap tall buildings in a single bound

Would you rappel 24 stories to make a difference in your community?

When I first started at United Way a few years ago, I began presenting some “unusual” ideas to my board for creative ways to fundraise. As many of you are aware, there are a large number of nonprofits in our community and an even larger number of fundraisers. If you were so inclined, you could probably go to a 5K race, golf tournament, charity gala, silent/live auction every week. Nothing at all against these fundraisers… there are many of them precisely because they are successful at helping organizations to raise money for their causes. However, since United Way is the single nonprofit with a responsibility to support all our community’s nonprofits, we feel strongly that it would be “un-neighborly” to do a competing fundraiser like one of these. And that’s the rub, because what else can you do when all of the good ideas are already taken?

Well as it turns out there are still some other good ideas out there, but let’s just say that they are a little bit more extreme. My first suggestion was our sleepout event, United We Sleep. When I suggested it as a way to raise awareness as well as funds to help end homelessness, I got more than one raised eyebrow. The proposition to raise money for the opportunity to sleep outside in the rain or cold in or on a cardboard box by the side of the road might, for some, not be all that glamorous of a fundraising idea. But since we have a lot of people who care about ending homelessness and a lot of great experts to also present programming on the topic and raise awareness, it worked! And over the past 5 years we’ve been able to raise over $350K to help fund programs which work at breaking the cycle of poverty.

So, one day I was sitting at my desk when my colleague Liz forwarded an email to me for something called “Over the Edge.” The idea is crazy… people fundraise for the opportunity to rappel from the rooftop of a tall building. Now I will tell you straight up that I’m terrified of heights. Always have been. For a while I put the email aside and tried to ignore it. But my colleague Liz is almost always right, so after a few weeks I went back, reread the note, and gave Over the Edge a call. As it turns out, that call was one that has brought in about $600K into our community over the past 4 years!

Here’s how the event works. Coming up this June 28th, we will have recruited approximately 100 participants from over a dozen different nonprofits. Each nonprofit helps pay a small share of the event cost and then recruits a team to fundraise. The money they raise goes back to their own organizations. There is also a United Way of Greater Nashua team for people who want to participate in the event, support the community, but aren’t part of one of the other teams. After raising a minimum of $1,000 a participant gets the opportunity to rappel with us. We’ve had teams that have raised as much as $20K plus for themselves and we also have some terrific event sponsors, like Bar Harbor Bank, Brady Sullivan, and Boston Billiard Club to help cover the event costs.

This year we already have 14 teams recruited with about 50 participants, and there is still room for more teams and more participants. If you want to check out the full details of the event, you can do so at the webpage www.tinyurl.com/luote2022 The opportunities to get involved still include becoming an event sponsor (as you might imagine, there is a LOT of media exposure at this event), or to join with a new team, or to join as an individual. Getting involved in any of these ways is a simple as a phone call to us over at United Way.

When I suggested this idea to my board, of course they were about as excited as the idea of sleeping outside, but they had learned to humor me, so they said yes. After all, we weren’t competing with anybody else and were, in fact, giving a number of organizations like Marguerite’s Place, Family Promise, and the Doorway an opportunity to raise money outside of their normal activities. In fact, I’ve now had a number of board members actually participate themselves, including Dr. Cynthia Whitaker from Greater Nashua Mental Health, shown below rappelling last year.

I’ve also been lucky enough to encourage my staff, including Liz and Sara, to go over the edge with me in previous years, although this is clearly NOT in their job descriptions!

This year our goal is to raise $150K at Over the Edge, so now is the time to join us in the effort!

Two years ago, we started another fundraiser which is even more extreme. Instead of just rappelling off a mere 300-foot-high building, we also now go skydiving from 11,000 feet to support the resources in our Ending Youth Homelessness fund. That event, SKYDIVE UNITED, is coming up in July… so if you ever wanted to go skydiving, and you care to join us in the fight to end youth homelessness, and if rappelling just isn’t scary enough for you, then give me a shout and we’ll talk about throwing you out of a perfectly good airplane! Because great things happen when you sleep, rappel, and skydive united!

Mike Apfelberg is president of United Way of Greater Nashua.