Fundraising During a Recession

October 9, 2010

From The New York Women’s Foundation benefit gala to the Tampa Museum of Art‘s formal fundraising event, charities are feeling the effects of the downturn in the economy on fundraising events. To get some perspective, here are some recent articles that show how charities are continuing successful fundraising despite the economy.

The New York Times’s article “Benefit Season: What Goes on Behind the Scene?” discusses the challenges met by The New York Women’s Foundation, which held their first benefit dinner on October 2 – a day before the approval of the bailout plan. In addition to fears associated with trouble on Wall Street, the foundation had to sell tickets to the event, which was scheduled for the same night as the vice-presidential debate. With a $175,000 budget and an opportunity to watch the debate in a separate room while others danced, the Foundation successfully grossed $675,000.

In Tampa Bay, Florida, organizations are canceling or altering annual events according to a September 10th article in the St. Petersburg Times entitled “Charity Fundraisers Adapt to the Economy.” The Florida Blood Services Foundation canceled its 2009 Gift of Life gala in order to use “more cost effective ways for raising money.” Others like the Tampa Museum of Art’s formal fundraiser are changing the dress requirements from white tie to optional black tie, with hopes of appealing to a broader audience and selling more tickets.

Although fundraising is undoubtedly more difficult today, charities have seen declines in contributions for galas the last couple of months, which in turn has prompted less spending on the actual function. In May, The New York Timespublished “Gala Auction Feels a Chill From Wall Street’s Slump,” referring to the 2008 Robin Hood Foundation Benefit, which raised $56.5 million through an auction, an outstanding number regardless of the economic situation. However, this was 21 percent less than the organization’s 2007 benefit auction that raised $71 million for the charity. Recognizing the economic state, many charities cut down on various luxuries in the Hamptons this summer, by opting for buffets or less impressive attractions as mentioned by Eric Konigsberg’s, “In Hamptons, Slump Means Less Glitz Per Gala.”

Still, some charities may not be able to afford an extravagant gala and may look to unique and creative events to raise extra funds, as mentioned in “Fundraising Galas Out, Quirky Events In for Charities” from Chicago Tribune reporter Erika Slife. In Joliet, IL, 130 people paid $100 each to sleep in a cardboard box to raise funds for MorningStar Mission Ministries, Inc., a nonprofit devoted to helping the homeless. In these troubling times, it might be time to think beyond the standard gala and think outside (or inside as the case may be) the box.

Originally Posted: October 9,2008 on



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