Sparked by a trio of $10,000 gifts and donations from “Erma champions” coast to coast, an ambitious #25K in 25 Days campaign soared past its goal, attracting $37,105 for the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop’s endowment fund.
For every dollar raised, a New York City couple offered to double it, up to $50,000. Thanks to that generous spirit, $87,105 of new funds will boost the workshop’s endowment, which is used to keep the workshop affordable for writers, maintain its national caliber and provide funding for new initiatives.
The campaign attracted $10,000 gifts from Fran Evans Hoak, former vice president for advancement at the University of Dayton and a Bombeck family friend; Anna Lefler, a Los Angeles comedy writer who conceived and funded a writer’s residency launched by the workshop last year; and an anonymous donor. In all, gifts came in from 22 states and Canada.
One of the original Erma champions, Evans served as vice president at the University of Dayton when the workshop began in 2000.
“There’s magic and power in the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop,” said Evans Hoak, an organizational consultant and executive coach. “The power of belief. The power of someone else believing in you. The power of you believing in yourself.”
Anna Lefler conceptualized and funded “A Hotel Room of One’s Own: The Erma Bombeck | Anna Lefler Humorist-in-Residence Program” at the University of Dayton in 2018 as a way to provide emerging comedy writers with a creative, life-changing experience — two weeks in a hotel room to work on their humor projects.
“In these rage-tainted, unfunny times, the workshop plays a vital role in reminding us through humor of the inalienable commonalities of humanity. Humor that serves this purpose brings much-needed light to our world,” said Lefler, who describes herself as a “lifelong fangirl and devotee of Erma Bombeck.”
Beyond fundraising, this campaign, at its heart, was about storytelling, about the power of the written word to change lives. Throughout November, “Erma Champions” shared their personal reflections through videos, blogs and Facebook Live events about what the workshop means to the writing world.
Patricia Wynn Brown, the workshop’s emcee better known as “the mistress of mayhem,” kicked off the effort with a hysterical video. The campaign culminated on #GivingTuesday with more than 50 writers posting funny and heartfelt #UNselfies that are compiled in a Facebook album.
In between, actress and writer Kathy Kinney, The Book Doctors, Parade.com writer Nancy Berk, mother-daughter writing duo Julie Osborne and Lori Mansell, and writers Lisa Marlin and DC Stanfa shared videos. A few brave souls, some for the first time, ventured onto Facebook Live — actress and writer Mary Lou Quinlan, actress Barbara Chisholm and novelist Sharon Short. Flyer Media produced five short testimonials from workshop supporters Fran Evans Hoak, Vicki Giambrone, Joe Valenzano, Bob Daley and Andrea Hansgen. A book trailer featured Allia Zobel Nolan and the 40 women humorists who collaborated on the workshop’s first humor anthology, Laugh Out Loud.
Other writers — T. Faye Griffin, Jim Hands, Daniela Gitlin, Keith Stewart, Hillary Ibarra, Tracy Beckerman, Amy Abbott, Lee St. John and Molly Campbell blogged about their experiences in humorous and authentic ways.
“We were overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from writers in a workshop that has always been powered by the belief in possibilities — turning a blank page into a humorous essay, a compelling book, a stand-up act,” said Teri Rizvi, founder and director. “This is Erma’s legacy in action.”
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 next one is slated for April 2-4, 2020.