Every year I struggle to come up with new and interesting approaches to celebrating Homeownership Month and getting participants, community members and media representatives involved. I know now is the time to start planning, do you have any suggestions

Sincerely, Looking for ideas


Dear Idea Seeker,

You’re not the only one to struggle with this annual opportunity to boast about the program and your organizations success in it—that’s a lot to cover in one event and June will be here before you know it! There are always the ground breaking events, open houses and work parties. But, last year RCAC Self-Help Housing Team members’ brain stormed this same topic for a longtime grantee with a similar plight, here’s what they suggested:

A couple of groups I work with always have success in attracting folks when they have food!  I don’t think that is a secret to any of us. However, your agency may consider getting the local lumber store, or, for example, one of the agency’s material suppliers, to sponsor the event. Hamburgers, hotdogs, the usual family affair, seems to attract large crowds.  In addition, they always invite a local legislator and/or government official to attend, which is an education for all and exposure for the program.  They may want to include credit counseling agencies, chamber of commerce etc.—not necessarily a new idea but worth consideration!

Take a group picture (with smiling families waving their keys for example) to distribute to funders and key supporters/politicians. One group had the families’ children write a short paragraph on “what it means to have your own home…” – that was pretty compelling (and inexpensive) stuff to show to key figures.

How about, on a smaller scale, taking Rural Development staff members and government officials, maybe even a local reporter, to visit a family or two who have been in their homes for a while? I recall many years ago one of my current grantees took me to a home that was part of a building group that had been built a few years earlier.  I was the take out lender for the group and had never seen the finished homes.  The owner opened the door with a baby on her hip and proudly showed me through the home.  Unlike a tour of a finished new vacant home, this home had the owners’ personal touches.  She pointed out the tile work and cabinets and other work they did when building the home.  As we walked out to the backyard she noticed that the door trim had come loose.  She mentioned that she would repair it after we left.  If you did this type of tour later in the afternoon you might even have some of the younger children grabbing your hand to show you their very own room.  It can be very heartwarming.   If you can’t get a reporter to come, the grantee could always write up a story and submit it to the newspaper with a few photos.  A few nice quotes from the household and you have a great marketing piece.

Host a Thank you dinner to their partners, not a homeownership event, but an event for folks like material suppliers and contractors that work behind the scenes.

I remember one of my grantees sent invites to folks on their waiting list and they grilled hamburgers and hot dogs at their office. A couple of past self-help families attended and gave testimony on how happy they were with their self-help homes. The grantee staff gave a general overview of the self-help program and also did a private Q & A, which was helpful for folks who wanted to know updates on their waiting list status. They also raffled off four $50 Home Depot gift cards (don’t remember if the grantee bought the gift cards or if Home Depot donated them).  The entire event lasted about two hours and they actually got a pretty nice crowd (about 50 folks including kids).

I’d say getting politicians and the Rural Development state director to attend is key to having media coverage, so make sure the grantee contacts their representatives’ staff and the state director. Donations from those who profited from the build should be easy to obtain, and perhaps one could be raffled off to the general public to generate interest.

Hopefully one of these suggestions will work for you or at least helps to spur some ideas that will work in your community. Good luck and we’ll keep an eye out for your event!

Sincerely, Sher

Dear Sher is a regular Self Help Builder News feature. If you have a question you would like answered or researched by Sher, please send it to asisco@rcac.org and your question may be featured in a future publication.