Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Will Eat for Cause: Local Nonprofits Head to the Kitchen with New Fundraising Efforts

By Maggie Roth
Gordon College News Service
February 2, 2010

They’re sharpening knives, grabbing aprons, and cooking up a storm, not for some culinary prize but for a good cause.

On Monday, February 8th, Beverly area chefs will show their stuff in the first annual Bootstraps Best Chef Competition. Sponsored by Beverly Bootstraps Community Services, a nonprofit organization in Beverly, MA, that seeks to give “a hand up, not a hand out,” the unique event began as an idea from an intern and has grown into a cook off involving four local, chef-owned restaurants competing against one another, taking the majority of their ingredients from the Bootstraps pantry and hoping their creations will win the flavor-favors of prominent local judges (including Mayor Bill Scanlon of Beverly, CEO Ken Hanover of Beverly Hospital, and cookbook author Anna Kasabian of Manchester).


As more local nonprofits feel the economic crunch, they’ve begun turning away from traditional fundraising to new, more creative methods, like the Bootstraps Best Chef Competition. The results have meant wild, fun and even a few lucrative events.

“Events are very important to us (now) because they fill a large place in the budget and they also give us a different venue to serve,” said Sue Gabriel, the executive director of Beverly Bootstraps. “Raising money creatively is a fun way to fundraise that sweetens the pot and also gets everyone together and behind one common cause.”

Harborlight Community Partners, a nonprofit that provides affordable housing across southern Essex County, came up with the idea to co-brand products with the Atomic Cafe and Tapas Corner Restaurant, two Beverly-based small businesses. The Atomic Cafe provides a private labeled coffee called “Harborlight House Blend” so when customers buy the coffee a portion of the profit supports Harborlight Community Partners.  Similarly at Tapas, an entrée was named after the nonprofit and Harborlight gets a percentage of the sales.

And for January’s hunger month, the Greater Boston Food Bank in Boston, MA, hosted a “Super Hunger Brunch,” which included some of Boston’s finest restaurants that donated their time, food and services for a brunch where100 percent of the proceeds benefited the food bank.

“I think creative fundraising works well because nonprofits these days are always looking for a hook to secure limited donor funds,” Andrew DeFranza, the executive director of Harborlight. “Creative ideas get attention and therefore raise funds.”

Across the board nonprofits are looking new and innovative ideas to involve the public in their organizations and also to have fun.

But Dave Welbourn says events are not always the most productive way to help. Welbourn, the president and CEO of Essex County Community Foundation, an organization that promotes local philanthropy and strengthens the nonprofit organizations of Essex County by partnering with donors and supporting nonprofits with grants and services, says most nonprofit organizations are better served with other strategies.

“If you really figure out the total cost of events, money is not being made,” said Welbourn, whose organization works with over 2,500 local nonprofit organizations in the Boston area. “Events are very labor intensive and if you put a value on people’s hours and time you make less money than how much effort gets put in.”

Instead, Welbourn suggests the best way to raise funds is to go out and ask people for money face-to-face. This is where he sees a value in creative events.

“Events are much more productive for making friends rather than funds,” he said. “Events make friends and then you can go and talk to them and have a conversation about donating.”

Welbourn also said that he has seen an increase in need due to the recent financial stress in the economy. He says that this too has been a good thing for nonprofits.

“During the Great Depression fundraising went up because the need for giving was clear,” said Welbourn. “When the economy is in trouble there is more of a need for help—the margins for people who are not prosperous gets thinner. Americans are going to give away $300 billion in 2010 because right now there is a much clearer need for help and the public is more aware of the need for giving now then they have been in the past (decade).” 

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