Nonprofits, by definition, simply aren’t profitable. Yet there is a massive return for investors—it just doesn’t show up in a bank account. The impact of nonprofits go beyond a dollar-for-dollar return. Although the identifiable actions each one provides (disaster relief, spaying/neutering, rehoming animals, educating the young, sheltering the homeless, etc.) are different, they all provide the same priceless service: they make the world a better, kinder place.
That better, kinder place is for all of us. So when we invest in a nonprofit, we’re actually investing in ourselves. The more we invest together, the bigger overall return. The impact may not seem financial, but it does affect the economy. Fewer homeless people in the streets increases the values of homes in the neighborhood; disaster relief funds help businesses restart after a hurricane; spay and neuter services reduce the number of strays in the streets and pets entering the shelter system; well-educated youth grow up to be smarter investors; kinder children grow up to be more involved in their community. The money one donates to a charity is an investment that is transformed into a stronger, healthier community economically, physically, and emotionally.
We live in one of the most charitable nations on the planet. Over $410 billion dollars were donated to nonprofits across the country in 2017—most of that coming from individuals. Every day we’re asked to donate—to invest—in each other: from Girl Scout Cookies and bake sales for the basketball team to GoFundMe requests for the friend of a friend whose child is in the hospital. Organizations hold fundraisers through Facebook or have viral online challenges to raise money. Some organizations go about raising money by selling wares: some have year-round thrift stores; others hold annual garage sales. Some nonprofits offer physical gifts for a donation; some have you sponsor one animal or child and you receive updates for your monthly investment. There are endless ways to raise money. But not all are equally successful.
When I took a sabbatical from fostering and transporting after adopting Tucker, I became a connoisseur of charity events, not only to contribute but to study what works and what doesn’t. Tucker and I have walked our way through a number of 5k’s. I’ve been to small wine tastings at wine stores and large craft beer tastings at breweries. I’ve been to plays where a portion or all of the proceeds go to a nonprofit. I’ve eaten at restaurants on charity nights so a portion of the tab goes to an organization. I’ve seen dog fashion shows and attended pet product launches. Tucker and I even went to a Canine Carnival where the dogs played games for nominal fees and the proceeds went to rescue groups.
A few years back, I tried my hand at my own fundraiser: a calendar featuring Tucker and his buddy Odie. While my own venture proved pretty unsuccessful due to my inexperience in the calendar game (my entry arrived too late in the year) and my utter ineptitude at being a salesperson, others have fared much better—such as the extremely successful Charleston Animal Society Firefighter Calendar.
It isn’t just the salesmanship and calendar theme that make Charleston’s fundraiser such a success. From the very beginning of creation to the end distribution, the community is involved. It truly is by the people, for the people, funded by the people. Firefighters from the local community apply to be in the calendar, and people vote online for their favorites for a small donation. Then there’s the debut party, where a purchased ticket gets you inside a party better than any record drop or Oscar after party, to meet and party with the model firefighters. And of course there’s the sale itself of the calendar. People across the country and around the globe purchase it online, and people in town stop by the Animal Society to buy it in person. It raises more than $600,000 annually.
And that’s just one of their fundraisers. Every year in the fall, they hold a chili cook-off with an estimated 6,000 people in attendance. That’s more than the population of some towns in America. The chili cook-off has sponsorships available between $500 and $25,000. One hundred chili teams compete. Three hundred volunteers make it happen. The return is astronomical—not just in money, but in impact. The entire community is involved: by sponsoring, volunteering, cooking, attending, and advertising. All nonprofits are built by the community for the community; this is a party fundraiser thrown for the community by the community. It’s a party with a purpose.
And that is what makes the most successful fundraising events: fundraising that is actually fun. So fun, that the entire community gathers together and invests in the project from start to finish.
Money is the goal of fundraising, but when we come together for some fun at the same time, we’re already achieving the goal of the charity: making the world a better, kinder place.
Bark Avenue Foundation did just that when they teamed up with Home Dog LA for our 2nd Annual Bowling 4 Paws event at the Pickwick Center in Burbank a few weeks ago. An afternoon at the bowling alley wasn’t just some friends getting together to bowl a few frames. A community gathered together–old friends and new–to partake in a silent auction, try our luck at raffles, get our pictures taken on the red carpet, and share some quality time together. By doing so, $9500 was raised for the welfare of pets. We came together because we wanted to invest in our community, and we came together to have some fun—because raising money to make the world a better place should be fun-raising, not just fundraising.
Stephanie Wescott is a freelance writer whose mission is to save animals’ lives through story. Although she hails from New England and resides in Southern California, you’ll mostly likely find her somewhere in between on the open road with her canine companion Tucker, searching for trails to hike and stories to tell. You can follow their tracks and read their tales at www.alltuckeredout.