Thursday, November 17, 2005

Not exactly "black tie"

Originally uploaded by tomgivemeaning.

When I think of a fundraising dinner, I think of a room full of round tables, solemn looks and the age-old culinary diveristy of "chicken or fish."

But recently a number of threads collided to make me aware of just how cool a fundraising dinner can be.

The first thread was this article I read in the New York Times about a group of women who get together monthly and take the $35 dollars they would otherwise spend at a restaurant and donate it to charities selected by the group.

Amongst the very wealthy and influential this kind of "home dining fundraiser" has been a fundraising tool for ages but never has this type of get together popular in the mainstream.

Even though we go to a lot of parties, we've never thrown one. Our apartment before the one we're living in now had been taken over by GiveMeaning so there was no space to entertain and our current apartment has a lot more space but with her record being completed and GivingGroups launching, we really hadn't had a lot of time to make our living space really comfy and cozy.

Finally, having decided to make the time to make our apartment a real home, we wanted to share our environment with our close friends. We're lucky to have a working fireplace in our apartment (a luxury in an old building like this in Vancouver) and with really no money, Jess and I have made our apartment really cozy. We jokingly refer to ourselves as the "scrimp-scrapers." Some people pay thousands of dollars for the "chabby-chic look" we spent about $70 including a great couch that was made the same year as our building (1910) thanks for that R.P!!

Jess was understandably uneasy about making our first party, a fundraiser for GiveMeaning. It's a valid point: We spend so much time talking to friends about GiveMeaning and the various GivingGroups on the site that to have a party and then ask people to contribute to a GivingGroup might be a little much. But, we knew we wanted to cook for our friends so we knew that our friends would want to bring something if they couldn't bring food or wine.

We sent out an evite for our "autumn feast" to about 20 friends. In it, we made it clear we were cooking for everyone and would provide the booze. We said "only if you need to bring something here's a list of items we're collecting for a GivingGroup that is feeding and clothing the homeless in Victoria (my hometown).

Because a GivingGroup has an area for "supplies requested" we could email our guests with an exact list of what's needed. With the email invite, friends could check the item they were bringing, making sure that not everyone brought the same thing.

It's so important to make sure that the items people donate in-kind are actually needed by the charity, that's why our supplies wish-list is so helpful. even though it's the worst designed part of GiveMeaning (it's on our list of things to do!)

Anyway, everyone brought something and in one night, the value of the items (that the charity would have otherwise had to purchase) we collected was over $200. In addition, I know of at least two people who made donations the next morning at the website the GivingGroup profile of CARTS, the charity benefiting from that specific GivingGroup.

Jess made a small toast to our friends and spend 30 seconds telling people how their contribution was helping. Everyone walked away knowing who this small grass-roots charity is and the next morning, it appears more than half of the people who received the email invite clicked on the link we included.

If GiveMeaning were to automate what we did such that every GivingGroup displays a list of events (some private, some public) that are all fundraisers for that GivingGroup, I think this would not only be a huge real community builder but also a preferred way to give for many young people.

It's now on our list and though it won't be ready for Christmas, we'll launch it early in the New Year. It goes beyond dinner parties too.. Bands, Art Exhibits, you name it....

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