Five Questions for… Barb Miller

By Rebecca Berfanger  //  Photography by Dasee Johnson

What is Dancing with the Johnson County Stars?
Dancing with the Johnson County Stars is a two-day, fundraising event showcasing local non-profits and their “celebrity” dancers. It is held at the Artcraft Theatre. This year it will be September 8 and 9 at 7 p.m. Each dancer will perform two dances with their dance instructors, provided by Five-Star Dance Studio. Friday night, which is preview night, the Best Dancer Award will be presented based on scores from four judges. Saturday night awards are: Best Dancer (may be different because there are different judges), Most Valuable Dancer, which goes to the dancer who independently raises the most money for their agency and the coveted Mirrored Ball Trophy, which is awarded to the agency that raises the most money.

When was it started and how has it grown?
The first event was held in 2014.  Eight agencies participated and the goal was to raise $100,000.  We exceeded the goal by raising over $180,000. To date, 20 agencies have participated and we have raised over $3,500,000. This year, we have three new agencies participating.

What is your background and how did it help you with your current role?
The two things that helped me most with organizing this event are my sales and project background with Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and my involvement with several non-profit agencies in the county. The volunteer experience taught me how much local agencies needed money and helped me with community connections to secure sponsorships. The work experience helped me raise money to provide for the infrastructure, which allows the agencies to participate in a major event without financial risk.

How does this help the non-profit organizations in the long run?
It helps in several ways. First, it provides community awareness about the agencies and their mission. This helps them connect with clients and raise money. Second, it motivates them to raise money — something most people don’t like to do. Third, it encourages collaboration and the exchange of ideas among the agencies. Finally, during the process of meetings, fundraisers and the event, the agencies learn some tips about recruiting sponsors and dealing with the media, fundraising, and creating donor relationships, donor appreciation and retention.
I like to think of it as an incubator that allows agencies to learn and grow without financial risk. The costs of the event are paid by Event Sponsors, which I recruit. This allows the agencies to keep 100% of the money they raise. It’s not shared, it’s available for their use as soon as they receive sponsorship or fundraising dollars.

How does this benefit our community?
It builds stronger agencies, provides information to the community about the various services provided by the agencies and funds many varied needs of the people — and animals — in the community. It also provides two nights of great entertainment from the dancers, the comments of the judges and from our great MC, Rob Shilts, executive director of the Artcraft Theatre.