Donated goods, services key to effective fundraising

Top-quality items bring in the most money 

Fox Valley Hospice in Geneva, IL, receives more than $300,000 in donated goods and services each year for its annual garden party fundraising event. The key to obtaining this level of support is to build on previous years’ successes and remind vendors about the important work that the hospice provides for the community, says Nancy Vance, development director for the hospice.

The silent auction items and the 20 theme baskets that are raffled off represent huge donations from local businesses, which are eager to participate with the project, now in its fifth year, Vance says. "We say to businesses, If you donate to us, you’ll have 850 women in that room who shop,’" Vance says. "Businesses know we’re a free hospice and we’re dependent on those funds, and that helps us."

Silent auction items have ranged from exotic vacations to golf packages to jewelry, and even an original Renoir sketch one year, Vance says. Each chairperson has a list of what was donated over the past three years, and she is able to return to the businesses and remind them of past contributions and ask for something different for the current garden party, Vance says.

The theme baskets have been built around such topics as "American Girl," "Fore the Golfer," "Girls Night Out," "Toyz for Boyz," "College Bound," and "Family Fun." Raffle tickets sell for $5 each, 10 tickets for $40, or 30 tickets for $100. Since these tickets can be purchased by all of the people invited to the garden party, even if they are unable to attend, there typically are thousands of tickets sold each year, Vance says.

The Q Center in St. Charles, IL, where the event is held, donates its space to the hospice for the event, and the facility’s staff donate their time, Vance says. "Many employees are volunteers for us, and we have corporate people who come down to serve lunch and help to orchestrate the logistics," Vance says. "We only pay for the cost of the lunch, which is $16.50 per lunch."

Keeping expenses low

Thanks to the many donated items and services, the event’s expenses are only 16% of the proceeds, Vance says. Other donated items include the printing of the programs and invitations, geranium plants for 90 tables, chocolate party favors that are shaped like flowers, small bottles of wine for the tables, and themed gift bags — such as beach-themed bags that include flip-flop sandals — that attendees can take home with them, Vance says.

Also, the models for the fashion show are all volunteers. For instance, the fashion show for the May 2004 event featured child models who were part of the hospice’s bereaved program, meaning they had lost a parent, Vance says. The adult models also are from the bereavement program, or they are hospice volunteers, Vance adds. "We chose not to hire a production company because they’re costly, and most importantly, because we want the community to connect with the family members and friends who are models for us," Vance says.

The hospice also obtains free media exposure by sending press releases to the very receptive local newspaper, which publishes items about the event several times a week in the weeks preceding the garden party, Vance says. When it’s time to thank volunteers, Vance sends a letter to the newspaper’s editor in which she thanks the community for its support and thanks volunteers by name.