Do Not Open Until After Xmas

A pair of clever fundraising ideas caught the Nonprofiteer’s eye, but she passes them on with the caveat that you should plan to use them at Easter, or Shavuos, or St. Swithen’s Day–even if you had time to execute them before year-end, no one would notice in the holiday charity-event crush.  There’s nothing necessarily holiday-esque about them: they’re just variations on the theme, "Something that sounds like fun and therefore evokes charitable behavior in people not otherwise opposed to it." 

"Sounds like fun" is not just for the benefit of the benighted souls working on the event, or even just to maximize cash-flow-per-hassle.  "Sounds like fun" is the sine qua non of positive press coverage, because reporters are bored and jaded and grateful for amusement but also because they suspect most charities, like most other institutions, are run by idiots.  But (reporters figure) if you’re smart enough to make something virtuous sound like fun, you’re probably smart enough to be trusted with other people’s money.

Ideas in this category:

  • Wilmette Lutheran Church in the Chicago suburbs just held an Alternative Christmas Bazaar at which the only things for sale were contributions to charities in the name of family members.  "Gifts include a month of care for an orphan in Zimbabwe, medical supplies for a low-income patient, safety materials warning of land-mine dangers, and livestock for families in Peru, Kenya and Haiti."  Come up with a list of gifts matching your agency’s activities, and serve it up with suitable gift cards for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. 
  • The Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago just received a surprise gift: a portion of author Scott Turow’s winnings from his recent stint on Celebrity Jeopardy.  Okay, okay, you may not happen to have a bestselling author in the ranks of your supporters–but there’s nothing to prevent regular Jeopardy contestants from giving their winnings to charity, too.  If you have a Board member or volunteer who’s a bit of a nerdy loner, see whether s/he’ll go for the idea of seeking an audition for the show (they conduct auditions all over the country) and then donating some or all of the winnings to you.  This can be a great solo project, but also a great team-builder as other volunteers help prepare the champion.  And it can work even if the first person to attempt it doesn’t get a spot on the show: an effort to get on Jeopardy for a good cause, even (especially?) if stymied repeatedly, will get you underdog press attention of the kind you can only dream of when what’s being stymied is your effort to place foster children or secure affordable housing for those who need it. 
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