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The Chicago Computer Society -- Users Helping Users

1995 Midwest Regional Conference

Partner with a Non-Profit

Morene Dunn, Morene Dunn Public Relations

The following appeared in November 1994 as an article in Talking to the Boss. Morene Dunn is the owner of Morene Dunn Public Relations, Chicago. She may be reached at 312-642-4651. Reprinted by permission of Morene Dunn.

The season for giving is fast approaching. When you plan charitable donations this year, put your creativity where your cash is. By teaming your business with a charity and using a little ingenuity, you can devise an event or activity that is more profitable than a cash donation-- for both partners.

For example, the local fundraising arm of an Israeli hospital, Shaare Zedek Medical Center, recently held a dinner honoring 12 doctors. A Milwaukee toy company was a double donor with one gift of toy doctor bags. They were first used as centerpieces at the dinner, in trade for an advertisement in the program book touting the company's products. After the event, the bags were sent to the pediatric ward of a hospital, where they were again gratefully received and put to good use.

Another charity found a vendor who would donate wine to on event. It invited him to be on the board of directors, thus ensuring a long-term donation to the charity and access to good potential business for the liquor distributor.

A third non-profit wanted to develop an endowment program. Through networking, it found a financial planner willing to make a trade. The financial planner got access to a mailing list of 6,000, and the organization got a free mailing offering creative charitable gift planning for potential donors.

"Hardly a day goes by without a cause asking for donations of food, or gift certificates for raffles or auctions," says Brian Sylvia, co-owner of LeMargaux in Chicago's Lincoln Park area. "Generally we offer complimentary dinners for two or four. But money raised from a silent auction donation jumped five times its projected $100 when we included a trip to the Halsted Street market to meet our special produce people, followed by hands-on preparation of the meal in the kitchen before they finally sat down to dine. By coming up with a unique idea, we all got more mileage and fun from our donation."

The student-run CHIC Cafe at The Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago makes direct donations to the needy by giving a three-course lunch to a group on a weekly basis. Similarly, after years of donating paintings and art objects for auctions, Orca Art Gallery in Chicago decided to offer non-profits the gallery space for parties. "The cost of champagne and hors d'oeuvres is about the same (as donating art), but it's very potentially profitable for us to introduce new people to our gallery," claims Orca's director, Jay Fahn.

Personnel favorites

Ask employees what organizations, churches, schools, etc. they are involved with. Let them "pitch" their favorite charity, then adopt a cause democratically. Your business may want to research and choose a different not-for-profit to "adopt" each year. You can also rally the staff--and make a matching contribution--to support an employee's walkathon or Girl Scout cookie campaign.

Another possibility is to donate an evening of office space and personnel for a charity phonathon, then pop for pizza. Some businesses have adopted the practice of sending "season's greeting" letters instead of gifts to their customers and clients, saying that in gratitude for their business, a donation to a charity (or two) has been made in their name.

Look around. Is there furniture you are ready to replace, office equipment that is being upgraded, stationery with your old address that is unusable--to you? Check with your favorite not-for-profit or donate it to a resale shop run by a charity.

Using creative methods of donating can yield great publicity, as well as offer opportunities for networking. Philanthropy makes good business sense.

[Editor's Note: Morene Dodd, a specialist on meeting planning, regrettably was unable to present a Workshop session at the Conference. She provided the above article for the Proceedings Manual. -kej]

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