The Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop at the University of Dayton will launch a “25K in 25 Days” campaign in November, thanks to the generosity of a New York City couple who have made a $50,000 challenge gift in honor of the late Erma and Bill Bombeck.
For every dollar raised, the anonymous donors will double it, up to $50,000 — all to benefit the endowment, which is used to keep the workshop affordable for writers, maintain its national caliber and provide funding for new initiatives.
“Erma was a voice for women who did not have one,” said the couple. “Bill helped start the workshop in her name because she appreciated what writers could accomplish with support and encouragement. We’re delighted we can help continue that legacy through our gift.”
Beyond a fundraising effort, this campaign is about the power of the written word to change lives.
Throughout November, writers are invited to be “Erma champions” and tell their personal stories — in 280 characters on Twitter, 20-second videos, Facebook Live events and posts, blogs or “#UNselfies” — about how the workshop changed their lives, and what it means to the writing world. Enormously popular, the 2018 workshop sold out in less than five hours and attracted writers from 41 states, three provinces in Canada, and even Madrid, Spain.
The campaign officially launches on Nov. 2 with Patricia Wynn Brown, the workshop’s hysterical emcee better known as “the mistress of mayhem,” engaging with writers and Erma aficionados through a video. “25K in 25 Days” ends on #GivingTuesday on Nov. 27, when Erma champions will again be asked to post their most creative “#UNSelfies” on social media. Celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, #GivingTuesday is a global day of giving.
“There is no better way to support writers than through a living, breathing conference of storytellers and funny people, willing to risk putting pen to paper,” Betsy, Andy and Matt Bombeck wrote in a letter to supporters.
Teri Rizvi, founder and director of the workshop, expressed gratitude to the anonymous donors: “We’re grateful for this remarkably generous gift that allows our supporters to triple the impact of their own gifts — and under what all writers thrive on, a deadline. This workshop is powered by the belief in possibilities. A growing endowment allows us the opportunity to keep the workshop affordable and the flexibility to introduce new initiatives that encourage and inspire writers.”
Private gifts have helped underwrite two such projects within the last year. More than 400 writers competed for the opportunity to spend two all-expenses-paid, blissful weeks at the University of Dayton Marriott on “the Dayton Riviera” to work on their humor projects as inaugural winners of “A Hotel Room of One’s Own: The Erma Bombeck | Anna Lefler Humorist-in-Residence Program.” More than 100 writers submitted pieces for consideration for a humor anthology, Laugh Out Loud: 40 Women Humorists Celebrate Then and Now…Before We Forget, published in collaboration with prolific author Allia Zobel Nolan.
In 2004, University of Dayton alumnus Ralph Hamberg and his wife Cindy gave a $100,000 gift to start a workshop endowment fund in memory of her cousin, Brother Tom Price, S.M., the English professor who launched Erma’s career with three simple words of encouragement: “You can write!”
In recent years, fundraising for the endowment has gained momentum, thanks to gifts from the Bombeck family and contributions large and small from writers. In 2015, author and performer Mary Lou Quinlan brought her poignant one-woman show, The God Box, A Daughter’s Story, to the University of Dayton for two benefit performances.
While the University of Dayton’s Alumni Association underwrites the cost of scholarships that allow between 20 and 30 University of Dayton students to attend the biennial workshop for free, its scope extends far beyond campus into the writing world. Since its inception in 2000, the workshop has attracted such popular keynoters as Dave Barry, Phil Donahue, Art Buchwald, Nancy Cartwright, Don Novello, Gail Collins, Connie Schultz, Lisa Scottoline, Liza Donnelly, John Grogan, Roy Blount Jr., Adriana Trigiani, Amy Ephron and Alan Zweibel, among numerous others.
“Registration fees cover only about half the cost of operating the workshop,” Rizvi said. “To keep the workshop affordable for writers, we need to continue to boost the endowment. The size of the gift doesn’t matter. We’d love to see broad support from those who love the workshop and believe in its future.”
To make an online gift, click here. Checks can be mailed to the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, University of Dayton, 300 College Park, Dayton, OH 45469-7056. If you or your spouse works for a matching gift company, the impact of your gift may be doubled or tripled. Please check the list here or your human resources office for details. To donate by phone, call 1-888-253-2383. For more information on the workshop, click here.