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The fields are ripe for harvest in Iowa, and Ankeny Women’s Connection is hard at work on this year’s Fall Fundraiser, its annual silent auction.

It’s a big job, one group members work on all year. “We start planning it the second the current one is over,” said Jennifer Godwin, Co-Chair. She spearheads the gathering of donations for the silent auction, a popular event widely supported by businesses throughout Ankeny.

Why are local shops so accommodating? Here’s how one manager, a favorite benefactor who never turns down their request, puts it: “We’ve seen how our community is impacted by your group and how it serves the women in our community.”

Jennifer is one of the founding members of Ankeny Women’s Connection. “A friend of mine is a Stonecroft Speaker, and she wanted some help getting the group started. After getting it going, I stepped back, only to return four years later.”

She’s built rapport with business owners and workers by visiting them regularly, putting up flyers and dropping on the counter postcards about luncheons and other upcoming events. “When I approach them for donations for the silent auction, I’ve already been in their business 12 times that year. Some of them have been to our lunches, too,” Jennifer said.

She’s fearless about reaching out to potential donors. “I just look at it this way: What’s the worst they can say? ‘No?’ Big deal! I just go in, smile, and ask if they are willing to donate to our silent auction. They usually say ‘yes.’”

Jennifer’s creativity leads her to think outside the box, targeting potential donors whom others might not consider. “We had a goal of $10,000 a couple of years ago, and I was determined to ask just about any business I could find,” she said. She reached out to a forklift company; they gave her a brand-new iPad.

And, yes, Ankeny Women’s Connection made its goal.

A full third of the income generated by the Fall Fundraiser comes from scouring garage sales for new items purchased for pennies, then auctioned for much more. “We use money from our funds to make really good buys,” Jennifer said. “This takes a lot of time; that’s why we work on it all year long.” Donations and garage-sale finds are stored at her home.

When it comes time for the silent auction, the pieces are either combined in baskets or auctioned off individually. Most small things can be clustered together, but fundraiser planners have found gift certificates draw more money on their own. Some of Jennifer’s favorite auction items over the years have been food gift cards, oil change coupons, and donated vintage jewelry.

To show its appreciation, Ankeny Women’s Connection features businesses and their donations on the group’s Facebook page. The group lists donors on handouts distributed at its luncheons and sends thank-you letters to each business, along with a coupon for a free luncheon. “I always tell male business owners they can give it to their wife, mother, or a favorite customer,” Jennifer said. “I want them to feel that they really helped our group.”


Cheryl Gochnauer

Cheryl Gochnauer

Freelance Copywriter

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