When I began writing novels a decade ago, I vowed to use all my profits to benefit other people. When my first book, Luck of the Draw was released in May 2009, I needed to decide which organization I wanted to support.
I considered many. The year before, my mother had died from lung disease, so the American Lung Association was a good fit. My father and both my brothers had died from heart disease which is the leading cause of death in the U.S. for both men and women. So the American Heart Association is an important cause, as well.
I thought and thought.
I don’t know why, but I kept coming back to the Alzheimer’s Association. Fortunately, there was no history of dementia in my immediate or extended families. My Great-Grandmother Myers had lived to be 91, but only complained of a hammer-toe and how she couldn’t find slippers wide enough to fit comfortably. Her mind was sharp until the day she died.
Still, I kept coming back to the Alzheimer’s Association as my target charity.
I went to my business partner, Allen Hager, founder of Right at Home. He’s the father of my children, a brilliant man, and extraordinary visionary. I asked him how to go about promoting my book to fund my adopted charity. He gave me sound advice. He told me to develop a business plan and run it by my accountant.
My business plan included national events where I would sell my books and talk about Alzheimer’s disease. Afterwards, I would turn over the profits to the local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, wherever the event was held.
Only one problem, my accountant said—I’d have to get a bookstore to attend each event, so they could take care of the book sales.
If I failed to get a bookstore to support me at an event, I’d have to get a vendor’s license for each venue, and collect the appropriate state and local sales taxes, forwarding that money and all documentation to the appropriate revenue agencies. I’d have to keep meticulous records of my expenses and be sure I worked within the laws of each municipality where I sold my book.
Do you see my dilemma? I was headed for more work than I’d spent writing a “sellable” novel in the first place. That had taken me five years. Keeping track of the sales, taxes, and charitable amounts would take more organization than necessary to find an editor to publish the book. That endeavor had taken an additional two years of my time.
I had to cut all the red tape. I had to simply.
I decided to purchase my own books. I decided to provide those books at every event. To give them away for a donation. That way, I didn’t need a vendor’s license and didn’t need to collect sales tax.
I would suggest a donation amount—more than the cover price. But if someone wanted to support the Alzheimer’s Association and get a copy of my book, I’d take whatever amount he or she would offer.
To entice people to contribute, I encouraged them to make out their checks to the Alzheimer’s Association, making their donation, tax-deductible. Or as my accountant warns—“possibly” tax-deductible.
To further persuade people to contribute, I would promise to match all private donations. And if my book signing took place at a sanctioned Alzheimer’s event, I would guarantee a minimum donation amount to the chapter.
I targeted my first book signings for the Memory Walks scheduled in the Metro Omaha areas in the fall of 2009. I named my work, the “Read to Remember” campaign.
Selling the Idea…
People thought I was nuts. Oh, not my friends or family. Their jaws had dropped open months before, when I’d explained my intention to raise money for a specified charity.
The people I promised to raise money for—the people at the Alzheimer’s Association—they thought I was nuts. I guess that’s a harsh term. It’s more politically correct to say they were astounded and incredulous.
The reaction to my pitch went something like this…
“You want to do what?” they asked. They always repeated my plan back to me as though saying it out loud might make me change my mind.
“You want to give away your books—your own books, that you wrote, then purchased yourself. You want to collect donations in exchange for your books. You want to give ALL the money collected to the local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. To OUR organization?”
But wait—there’s more.
(Don’t you love it when the announcer says that in the infomercials?)
“You guarantee a minimum donation amount?” the Alzheimer’s director asked.
“Yes, for EACH event.” I answered.
“And you match all donations made by the people buying your books?”
I held up my index finger to correct him. “Technically, and legally, people are not BUYING the books. I’m giving them away.”
“And donors can make out their checks to the Alzheimer’s Association?”
“Yes, I prefer that actually. It’s easier to keep track of the donations.”
“What’s the catch?” they wanted to know.
Honestly, I had a difficult time convincing the Alzheimer’s Association I was not trying to scam them.
I can see their point. I really can. They didn’t know me. I didn’t have any family member with Alzheimer’s. My mother-in-law had yet to show symptoms of dementia. (See photos of her in Read to Remember—Part I.)
Why would someone give away profits— more than the net profits, even more than the royalty amount,—to a charity for a disease that doesn’t affect their family?
I didn’t know.
I wondered if it was a karmic thing. If somehow I “knew” my best friend or my cousin would eventually need the services of the Alzheimer’s Association. For a while, I even worried that maybe I would develop dementia.
But guess what? It wasn’t any of those things.
The more I learned about the disease, the more I knew I had to help. I recalled the clients I’d worked with at Right at Home and the toll the disease took on their families. In 2009, I learned that 5.3 million people in the U.S. had been diagnosed with the disease.
Now that number is 5.4 million. And the number is expected to grow to 14 million by 2050.
I learned that if you live to be 85 years old, you have a 50% chance of developing the disease. Seriously? I’m as likely to get it as to escape it? 50%?
I set my goal to raise $1,000,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association. During the 2009 Memory Walks and through 2010, generous people in the Metro-Omaha and Lincoln areas helped me raise over $10,000.
I know. People are incredibly generous. Especially, in the Midwest. But $10,000 needs two more zeros to reach one million. I’m an optimist and in the scheme of things, I’ve only just begun.
I learned something else as I talked with the wonderful people at the local Alzheimer’s chapters. It’s tough to raise money for the disease. For many reasons.
1) The people who have the disease can’t remember to turn off the stove, let alone organize rallies. And their caregivers are too tired to establish and run fund-raising campaigns.
2) There’s no cure for Alzheimer’s, yet, so people are afraid of the disease. Naturally, they’d rather not think about it.
3) The charity doesn’t have cute mascots like the animal shelter. It doesn’t have a “promise of hope,” like charities raising money for childhood diseases or breast cancer.
But you know what’s on the upswing? Younger-onset Alzheimer’s. Those are the people who get diagnosed before age 65. Some show symptoms in their 30s. Can you imagine a mother who can’t remember to pick up her kindergartener from school?
This is serious business, folks. We can’t hide from this disease any longer.
Every 68 seconds, someone is diagnosed with AD.
Currently, one in seven Alzheimer’s patients live alone. That’s just scary.
Wouldn’t it be great if all people who live to their golden years could live independently, if they choose?
So, how can you help?
You can attend one of my events. (Check back to my website for specific dates and times.) I’ll give you a signed copy of Still Kickin’ and/or Luck of the Draw for a donation. Make out your tax-deductible check to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Please give generously, as much as you can afford.
I’ll match your donation and send the money directly to the local Alzheimer’s Association chapter.
If you can’t make it to an event, purchase my books online through Amazon or Barnes & Noble.com. Or you can save yourself shipping charges and ask your favorite book seller to order my novels for you. The Bookworm at Countryside Village in Omaha is my favorite independent book seller and they carry copies my books.
100% of my royalty check goes to the Alzheimer’s Association.
If you’re not a reader, or my books don’t interest you, then what’s wrong with you and why are you reading my blog? (grin)
Send a check today to the Alzheimer’s Association.
If there is an author reading this blog who would like to join me in giving away your books for donations at Memory Walks in Omaha this fall, contact me. I’ll make room for you and your books at my table. I’ll buy space for a dozen tables if we need it at the Memory Walks. Whatever it takes to raise money to combat the disease and to help the families get the education and respite care they need.
And, I’ll match ALL donations YOU collect using YOUR own books.
If this cause “speaks to you” and you are a published author who would like to start a Read to Remember campaign in your own city, contact me. I’ll work with you to make that happen. Because Read to Remember is not about me or getting people to buy my books. It’s about helping the families affected by Alzheimer’s disease.
We must put an end to Alzheimer’s now.
If you need information about the disease or help for a loved one, contact the Alzheimer’s Association. Check out their website at www.alz.org.