Mixing fun and philanthropy is nothing new. In fact, LGBT folks have held fundraisers and other benefits at LGBT bars and clubs for decades. Local Carolinas groups are continuing the old trend, reaching out to potential supporters and donors with a mix of fun and frivolity. Many times, they aren’t even asking for money — donations and support are just a natural by-product of their events. Other times, they turn their efforts toward helping others.
Raleigh’s LGBT Center has hosted several “QNights” events since spring. Their aim, according to executive director Bobby Hilburn, is to simply raise awareness.
“It’s more social, but of course we have people who want to donate and we have a suggested donation instead of a cover charge,” he says of the monthly events hosted at gay and non-gay establishments across the Triangle. “We really just encourage people to come out and learn more about the Center, meet each other and mingle. It’s an opportunity to bring the community together.”
Similarly, Greensboro’s Guilford Green Foundation (GGF) hosts about eight “Takeover” events throughout the year.
“Initially it started as a way to show the community who we are,” Luck Davidson, the foundation’s executive director, says. “Now, it’s morphed into developing partnerships with businesses and small business owners. We’ve started deriving more benefits than just the exposure of just trying to get the word out that GGF exists.”
As community interest in GGF events have grown, so too has interest in the organization by the businesses who host their Takeovers.
“Lots of places where we do our Takeovers now want to do things down the road, whether that’s sponsoring a [Green Queen] Bingo game or possibly sponsoring some other events,” she says.
Shane Windmeyer, executive director of the Charlotte-based Campus Pride, also uses fun as a way to raise awareness and bring a positive lift to non-profits’ bottom lines. His drag persona, Buff Faye, hosts several fundraising events including Buff Faye’s Drag Brunch, a party bus and other activities. His recent Queen City Drag Race raised funds for the Human Rights Campaign.
Windmeyer says mixing fun and philanthropy can often serve as a good outreach to those who haven’t ever contributed to an organization.
“I think for an organization, it requires them to think outside of the box when it comes to outreach efforts, how they choose to reach maybe a different audience or a broader audience,” he says.
Windmeyer hopes his Buff Faye events are able to reach an audience of new, potential donors outside of the “typical gay affluent” crowd.
“Our goal is to reach a varied audience,” he says. “For some, going to a drag brunch and dropping $20 or $30 in donations through entertainment is a bit easier and is a good first step toward giving to the organization.”
In Charlotte, the state’s original Takeover Friday first started as a way to socialize, mix and mingle — nothing more, nothing less, no agenda and no ask for cash. Over time, organizer Dan Mauney says, the group has realized it’s potential to effect positive change.
“One thing that made me aware of what we had was the platform,” he says. “We definitely have that: a mailing list, Facebook, stuff that a lot of organizations don’t have. We realized we could actually do some good as well and have fun, too.”
Takeover Friday now routinely uses their email list to encourage participation or attendance at local LGBT and HIV/AIDS organizations’ events. Some of those have included the Regional AIDS Interfaith Network’s (RAIN) AIDS Walk and Gay Bingo. In addition, Takeover organizers have also put together several volunteer days at non-profits like Crisis Assistance Ministries. Last year, they held “Brief!,” an underwear fashion show fundraiser for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation — an event they plan to bring back this fall.
“Anytime we can bring the community together in a central location wherever that might be is a good thing,” Mauney says. “What I’m seeing is people are more apt to help spread the work that our community is gathering ‘here’ and we’re doing ‘that.’”
Mauney also says Takeover attendees have leant their support to the arts, in particular museums. The group has hosted several Takeovers at local museums, including the Mint and McColl.
“We’re spreading our money around and helping the arts community,” he says. “When people are there at the museums they are making donations. We’re cross-promoting.”
Also in Charlotte, local Human Rights Campaign committee members and volunteers are taking their message to the people. Randy Floyd manages HRC Charlotte’s “Charlotte Connection,” a monthly social gathering at Petra’s in Plaza-Midwood. Although Floyd and his fellow organizers don’t use the event to directly solicit donations, it does help get the word out.
“The whole point is to give folks a place to come and find out what we do locally and who we are locally, answer questions people have about how they can get involved and just socialize, talk to like-minded folks about local issues,” Floyd says.
He says reaching out in new ways is simply a smart strategy for organizational success. “One thing I’ve found that rings true for any charity, especially an LGBT charity, is that you want to go where the people are,” he says. “If there are a lot of members of our community who want to go out and have a beer and unwind after work, that might be a good place to reach them.”
Still, Floyd says, outreach in and around the nightlife scene does leave out key constituencies. “The under-21 crowd, absolutely,” he says. “That’s why it is important to not make that your only means of reaching the public.”
Charlotte’s Time Out Youth (TOY) helps fill that void with their youth-friendly events. Candice Langston, TOY’s development director, says the group is careful to plan events that adhere to strict policies, especially as it concerns alcohol. But, she says, that doesn’t stop them from having fun.
Langston says TOY has a “three-pronged approach” to their event planning. “Obviously, we’re looking to increase our funding, raise the level of awareness of what Time Out Youth is and what we do and engage our donors and youth. We look at hitting each of those points,” she says.
TOY’s fourth annual Celebration of the Arts, themed “Gaga for Dada” this year, is set to fulfill the group’s event strategy.
“It is a showcase of all the performing arts, from dance to theatre to singing,” Langston says. “The event is really about bringing everyone together and giving them a great evening out and raising awareness.” : :
Buff Faye, bufffaye.com
Campus Pride, campuspride.org
Guilford Green Foundation, ggfnc.org
HRC Charlotte Connection
LGBT Center of Raleigh, lgbtcenterofraleigh.com
Takeover Friday, takeoverfriday.com