Program aims to take fundraising burden off nonprofits

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Think of a non-profit organization, like the Shriners for instance, renting its building space out so other non-profits can host fundraisers. Well, as a matter of fact, this is exactly what the Rhode Island Shriners will soon be doing with their Imperial Room, the banquet hall located at One Rhodes Place in Cranston, as part of a program called JUST FOR FUNDs.

The idea, inspired by Dave Kane, comedian, performer and radio talk show host who works on behalf of non-profits, is to take the burden off these groups – who are often strapped for time and money – by setting everything up for them. So, the non-profit would call in, saying it wants to book a night at the Imperial Room to host a fundraiser.

“This is really quite exciting,” Kane said. “It has taken me a long time to get people on board with the project. It’s hard for them to grasp the concept because they're used to the old stuff. But, what I like is that it gives me a chance to take what I do and help others.”

The idea is to book well in advance to give the organization time to sell tickets.

The tickets are bought by the non-profit from the Shriners for a flat fee of $25 per ticket. The non-profit then charges their own rate, say $35, which means they would receive $10 for every person who goes to the dinner and show. Before ever buying the tickets though, the non-profit sells them at their rate and if it meets the minimum number of people – 50 to hold the event – the organization will use the money they have to buy the tickets from the Shriners. Whatever is left over would be the earnings for the fundraiser. And this is all the non-profit has to do. The rest is left up to Kane and the Shriners.

Essentially, it’s taking the all the burden off of the non-profit trying to raise money. It’s a no-risk situation, says Kane, as the drop-dead date is one week before the scheduled event. So, if a non-profit ends up not selling enough tickets, or as many as it hoped to, it can cancel the event at absolutely no cost.

Since there is really no risk involved, and no work to do other than selling the tickets, you might wonder how the Shriners are benefiting from the venture. Tangibly the Shriners, with over 22 children’s hospitals across the nation, are not benefiting from hosting these fundraisers at their building, says Hillary Williamson, the Director of Sales at the Imperial Room. Williamson says she has crunched the numbers and what comes out is the Shriners not making much money.

“The hospital offices and the charity offices are based out of our building,” said Williamson. So, the money made from the flat fee, after Kane’s cut for doing his one-man show, goes to pay the Shriners building expenses. So, the funds the Shriners receive from JUST FOR FUNds are indirectly helping the hospitals.

The no-risk setup is in large part due to when the fundraisers can take place, which is an off night, Mondays through Thursdays. Because the Imperial Room isn’t as likely to be used on these nights, having a non-profit cancel an event that wouldn’t garner the Shriners much money anyway is not a big deal.

In essence, the Shriners are using their building space in order for other non-profits to succeed, knowing full well the events will make them little to no money.

The program is not yet in operation, as Dave and the Shriners want to get the word out first before they host anything. To get in touch for more details, interested parties can contact Hillary Williamson, Director of Sales at Imperial Room, at 467-7102.

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