Laurels vs. Pelicans Boffer Fundraiser

Delicate Flower of the Northern ArmyLaurels vs. Pelicans was a fundraiser held for three years in the East Kingdom. I periodically get asked questions by people who want to run their own. This is a summary document that covers the questions, plus contains examples from the events. If you have a question that I haven’t covered, you can drop me a note.

Why Did This Work?

Here are the three basic principles we used that seemed to create the success.

  • Fun raises money and increases participation in anything.
  • Keep it simple with minimal structure and rules.
  • This is primarily a theatrical improv performance that’s all about entertaining the audience even though people really did compete and the outcome was unknown.

The fog of warHow Do I Run One?

Equipment Needed

  • No armor. Pad the weapons, not the people.
  • We used local LARP standards, which meant pvc with at least ½” pipe foam on the shafts and 2” of serious foam on any thrusting surface. Nothing narrower than 1”. We’ve allowed projectiles, but gave up on them because they made things less fun.
  • We saved lots of time and money because SCA members who also participate in LARPs borrowed boffers for us. They also taught us how to make this type of boffer so we could produce the specialty weapons.
  • Specialty weapons were very popular and raised the bulk of the money. You need someone who can lead the team that creates them.  (See charts below for examples)
  • People may volunteer to create or bring their own weapons. Just make sure they understand the requirements. We allowed some lightweight Nerf swords on the field, but not the heavier ones.

How the Fundraising worked

  • The weapons participants were given were dependent on how much money was donated in their name. (Dagger – $25, Sword/Ax – $50, Two Sword/Sword & Shield – $75, Specialty Weapon – $100)
  • Fundraising was done via a website. Due to SCA rules, this was a private fundraiser so we could use Paypal. Most of the donations came in that way.
  • The website was updated manually to show the totals. We updated it a couple times a day, but there was a lag. However, it was the only way we could do it with cheap technology.
  • Fundraising ran for 1-2 weeks so people didn’t lose interest and there was a sense of urgency.
  • Fundraising ended a week in advance so we had time to make the weapons.
  • Peers sometimes offered incentives to donors. These worked well.
  • We had a sponsor of the event who underwrote the cost of the materials.
  • The last time the event was run, a musician offered to play musical introductions for each peer. These were popular and raised a fair amount of money.

Oh, it's youHow the Peers were involved

  • We recruited some peers in advance so that no one had to be first to volunteer.
  • Those peers then recruited other peers. A request also went out via the peerage mailing lists and social media to recruit them.
  • The peers created fighting nicknames. It just happened and they were popular. (See charts below)
  • The peers also created the idea of theme weapons to go with their nicknames. The specialty weapons raised lots of money. (See charts below)
  • Ideally the peers will publicize the fundraiser and recruit their own donors. Remember that some peers are on the quieter side or don’t have extensive social media networks. You may need to help them get the word out. Ideally you will have someone involved with an extensive network who can help the peers who haven’t raised much money.

How the tourney was run

  • The format was one-on-one bouts followed by a melee.
  • The sponsor of the tourney was the MC. He was a good showman, made it fun for the crowd and managed the public part of the process.
  • For one-on-one bouts, peers hammed it up before doing the actual fighting
  • For the melee, we made sure the peers spread out because fighting in a clump made for bad theater. They fought until one person was left
  • We used line marshals to keep the crowds from getting too close.

Three HorsewomenRules of Engagement

  • Safety is paramount.
  • No head shots.
  • No hitting from behind.
  • No wind up swings.
  • If a boffer touches you, no matter how light, it’s good. Be aware that in the heat of the moment, people will completely forget this. Remind them going in repeatedly.
  • You can lose limbs and not be dead until you’re hit in the torso. Limbless peers are funny peers.

One Thing You Must Remember

You must have someone in a leadership role who is comfortable riding herd on a bunch of enthusiastic peers. We gave the peers as much freedom as was safe to exercise their creativity. This was about having fun. However, a lot of enthusiastic peers can lead to a lot of craziness because they’re used to being able to run with ideas. There needs to be one person in charge who is fine saying no to them if absolutely necessary.

As much as possible, we tried to not say no. The fun and energy the peers brought transferred to the spectators – the people watching the website or watching the melees. This fundraiser was about making sure people had a good time. The peers knew that making sure these people who donated so generously had a good time was their job. They did it very well.

DSCN2055Why We Stopped Holding It

We saw donations dip in the third year. It was a lot more work on the part of the organizers to make sure that all the peers who listed specialty weapons had a chance to use them. Some of it may have been the location in the kingdom where we held it, but mostly we felt the novelty had worn off. However, it raised give or take around $3,000 each year. In addition, it made the point that the peers were willing to poke fun at themselves for the good of the kingdom. While it lasted, it was a great fundraiser.

Charts From Laurels vs. Pelicans

These Charts from the website include the participants’ names, fighting nicknames, weapons, theme music (year three) and donations.  Click to enlarge.

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