Connie & Dell Sweeris
When you take on the roll of a host city for the US Open, you don't always realize what is ahead. Five years ago Mike Guswiler the president of West Michigan Sports Commission called Connie & I. We want to make a bid for the 2010 US Open for Grand Rapids, Michigan was his message. Would we be willing to help?
To have a chance to have what I feel is the most prestigious table tennis tournament in North America was very intriguing. Grand Rapids had hosted the Central States Open in the 1950s, the All Star Series finals in 1988 & 1989 where we were able to get community support. I had also run the main events at the Baltimore Colosseum in 1990 (won by Jan-Ove Waldner & Deng Yaping) which gave me a taste of the way I thought the event should be staged.
So, we put together an accepted bid that included a promise/intent to raise $25,000 so that the prize money could be increased. The Amway Grand Plaza came up with $15,000 and I was able to add $26,800 from calls that we made. Fortunately the first 7 of 10 calls that I made resulted in a positive response and the others were to let me know. I would later find that the 3 non positives just didn’t want to tell me no. The prize money was boosted from the usual $35,000 total to $70,000. This is where the roller coaster ride starts.
For 2012 the amount raised $73,800 with a big chunk coming from the ITTF ($30,000). The Amway Grand Plaza & our friends Mike & Sue Jandernoa each also contributed $10,000 each. The prize money was increased to $100,000 and great excitement was expected. We also added the ITTF Junior Circuit event to the program. The problem was that the US Open was only 6 weeks before the London Olympics. The attendance was down & we didn’t get the level of players you might expect. The US & Canadian Olympic teams were here but no other Olympians.The tournament was in the black by about $5,000 but did not make the $43,000 that it did in 2010.
For 2014 we had two things to overcome. One was that the 2012 financial results was not up to budget. The other was that Grand Rapids may not be able to attract as many players as we need to have good financial results. So, the amount required to be raised to have $65,000 in prize money was set at $55,000.
The job of fundraising by a novice is not easy. My initial message in 2010 is that this event, in addition to being the most prestigious event in North America, is great for the community. The issue that I faced now that this is the third year that we have asked and some start to questions how many times are we going to support this effort.
I have been able get appointment this year with some new sponsors who are capable of helping out in a sizable way. Some have come through & some turned me down almost right away. The big thing to learn in raising funds is to dare ask and to follow up until you hear no for an answer.
To date I have raised $37,150 towards the $55,000 budget goal, We have answers pending which I must continue to follow up on. Something like 17 all in the fifth (I mean 7 all in the 7th)!!
Yikes!!! Only 10 weeks!!!