If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
This simple phrase could describe the outstanding (if not legendary) success of the annual UCP of Northwest Missouri Heart of America Chili Challenge. In 2013, the event raised $150,000 to support the mission and work of the nonprofit organization – an all-time record.
Now in its 27th year, the Heart of America Chili Challenge is a chili cook-off filled with friendly rivalry, a smash hit fundraiser and a community outreach event all packaged into one. Preparations begin a few months in advance with the UCP staff and volunteers, including a silent auction, an online auction and organizing 60-plus teams to cook up their best chili creation.
A much-anticipated element of the annual Chili Challenge is the People’s Choice Awards, which allows chili teams to begin raising support before the event – and during the event – in the form of monetary votes from the public. (It works. It really, really works.) The top People’s Choice team, Nestle Purina, earned more than $66,000 in cash for UCP of Northwest Missouri, with other competitors also raising tens of thousands of dollars in support.
The formula for success begins with the way the organization itself fulfills its mission – to create a life without limits for children and adults with disabilities across Northwest Missouri. Through innovative preschool programs, an adult program, and help with career training and job identification that matches consumers’ interests, UCP has helped thousands of individuals with disabilities reach their goals and look forward to bright futures. Everything that happens throughout the year returns to this mission.
The organization’s outcomes tell the story of its success on paper, but it’s the smiles and the joy on the faces of the consumers who are served by UCP that speaks to the heart: this is an organization that truly does what it says it will do. A nicely designed website and publications like the UCP Annual Report help share this story with the public, as well as the testimonials UCP receives from the families themselves.
When you pair this clearly articulated mission with a well-organized team of staff and volunteers, you have some additional elements of the Chili Challenge success story. They’re ready to help, and they know what roles they will be filling and how to carry out the details.
Another vital and remarkable element of the Chili Challenge recipe for success is the continued enthusiasm from local businesses and community entities. They are, in many ways, the heartbeat of the event and are ready to jump in each year with new recipes, new ideas for raising funds and new ways to playfully engage their competition. They’re cheering for UCP all year with their talk and plans for the Chili Challenge, and they have truly changed thousands of lives during the life of the event with their dedication and generosity. They love taking part and it shows.
Today, SJC congratulates UCP of Northwest Missouri on continued success of their Chili Challenge event. When the right mission, the right message and the right people are in place, things really do heat up.