Making a Difference Essay Contest

2019 Essay Contest Information

Essay Contest information for the Fundraising and Development for Nonprofits Conference.

Compete for a “Making a Difference” Essay Contest

1st Place receives $500

2nd Place receives $300

3rd Place receives $200

To Submit an Essay  
Write an essay, entitled “Making a Difference,” and submit it via email to . These essays must fit on a standard 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper with no smaller than 12-point font. The deadline is 3 p.m. CST, Tuesday, May 21, 2019.

Essays must have the title “Making a Difference.” Please include your name and the official name of your organization. Your essay will tell a story of how your organization has made a significant difference to an individual or to a group of individuals. The essays will be judged by a three-person panel and awarded points on style, quality of writing, and how compelling your story is.

Winners will be announced at the Thursday lunch. If chosen, you will receive your award in the form of a check made payable to your organization, and you will be given the opportunity to read your essay aloud. GOOD LUCK …and please apply! This is the perfect way to prepare for the conference.

2018’s Winning Essay

“Making a Difference”

Submitted by Renee Thompson, Development Officer at Felician Village

Irene wheeled herself into my office.   As always, she was impeccably dressed in a designer suit.   She told me early on when we met, “I always dress up.  It’s simply good manners to look your best, no matter how you feel.”   Her caregivers knew her style.

However, Irene didn’t look the same today, although she wore her favorite pink knit suit.    Her speech was lessening and her eyes were becoming more hollowed and blank.   In a nursing home, we are familiar with this “look.”   I got up from my desk chair and walked around to her and knelt down beside her and took her frail, cold hand in mine.   “Irene, you look sad,”  I said and continued,  “What’s wrong?”  She didn’t speak; instead bowed her head and wept.

Anyone who cares for people living with dementia and Alzheimer’s cannot imagine the sadness, fright, and confusion of someone who lives with it.   But, we are trained to care for them with safety, comfort, and love.  We stop our work at hand.   We go into their world for a moment or perhaps an hour, helping to redirect their sadness and fear, for that is all that matters to them and to us in that moment.

A piano came to life across the hall.  I asked Irene if she’d like to go to the room.   She and I entered the conference room and listened to the piano as Mark performed the magic of music for his ailing father.    Irene looked around to me as if to ask, “How did I find this “private concert?”  She listened to the music seemingly just for her and this man.  Who was THIS man?

Suddenly, Irene’s hand that had gripped mine like a frightened child, let go.  I went into my memory bank of many sweet visits with Irene over the years.   I recalled that she told me of her favorite song, Begin The Beguine.   She had shared years before that it was the song that she and her husband danced to often.  I asked Mark if he knew Cole Porter’s classic tune.   Not only did he know how to play it, but he knew the words.

When they begin the Beguine, it brings back the sound of music so tender, it brings back a night of tropical splendor.  It brings back a memory evergreen I’m with you once more under the stars….”  Irene began to tap her fingers.  Then her feet.   Her tears stopped.   A smile broke.  She SANG along with the words!   I felt MY face beam with JOY.  Irene was transformed to a time when she and her husband often danced before he had passed.

Felician Village received a grant from the State of WI to introduce a dynamic program of Music & Memory.   An educational and practical music grant of $1,000 five years ago has touched nearly 100 residents on our campus.   It was a priceless gift for one very special resident whose grief on that day melted into joy and happiness.   I visited Irene often during her final year and while she usually no long spoke, “we” often reminisced about that special “private concert” and she smiled.  We bought a CD with her favorite song on it and she listened to it regularly on an old boom box.

When the Lord called her home one bitterly cold day, through my tears, my heart melted and I smiled.   All I heard was the music of Begin the Beguine.  I prayed Irene’s husband was waiting for her, hand extended, to pick up where their last dance ended.   Music & Memory programs are life changing.     Look what it did for Irene.