Charities create new ways to entice donors to give Feeble economy is forcing fund-raisers to be inventive.

October 14, 1991|By Michelle Singletary | Michelle Singletary,Evening Sun Staff

The standard charity banquet at a downtown hotel may become a thing of the past as non-profit groups seek innovative ways to appeal to a shrinking pool of contributors.

Although federal economic indicators say the recession is over, charitable groups serving people in Maryland are trying to find creative ways to solicit funds from individuals and, particularly, corporations.

Marylanders interested in donating to their favorite char

ity can now play golf, run, walk, shop, eat crabs, bid at auctions, or at the very least give money for the pleasure of just staying home.

The more creative the better, say executive directors of local charities.

"People want more for their money," says Lee Kingham, president of the Maryland Association of Community Services for Persons with Developmental Disabilities. The group represents 100 non-profit organizations.

The Association for Retarded Citizens in Harford County is staging the "murders" of five fictitious detectives to raise money. For $15, participants of the Lock House Murder Mystery get a chance to guess "whodunit."

"Chicken dinners, bake sales and other such events take a lot of time and the facilities to hold them are expensive, so it becomes hard to charge reasonable admission," says Joyce Bauer, who is responsible for fund raising for the ARC in Harford County.

So, a play written by Paul Trimbur especially for the Harford charity leads guests through the Susquehanna Lock House in Havre de Grace in search of a killer.

"The more original you are, the more advantage you have," says Bauer, who will play a character in the mystery.

Bauer says organizers hope to raise about $1,000 from the murder mystery event, which is scheduled for four performances on Oct. 18, 19, 25 and 26.

More recently, golf tournaments have become popular among non-profit groups.

Bauer says her organization's annual golf tournament this year raised $12,000.

Kingham, who is also executive director of the Epilepsy Association of Maryland, says the group's golf tournament this fall netted her organization $24,000 -- $4,000 more than had been expected. The group already is planning the golf tournament for September 1992.

The Associated Catholic Charities annual golf tournament raised $90,000 this year, according to Mary Kaye DiUbadlo, special events coordinator. The organization charged $1,000 a person to play at the Avenel Tournament Players Club in Potomac, site of the Kemper Open.

The Baltimore area's non-profit sector is composed of more than 700 organizations with 70,800 employees and a payroll of about $1.3 billion and operating expenditures totaling $2.5 billion, according to a study by the Institute for Policy Studies at Johns Hopkins University. As a result, competition for charitable dollars is tough in any economy but especially so now, as layoffs come among the ranks of white-collar workers -- people who are more willing to pay to attend fund-raising dinners.

"It used to be that the gala was the thing to do. But they have become too expensive and people want more of their money to go directly to the charity," DiUbadlo says.

In all, DiUbadlo says, Catholic Charities holds about nine special events a year. Most recently was its briefcase relay in which companies sponsored teams of five people paying $500 a team.

"At one time hardly anybody was having runs; now everybody does them," she says. "After a while you tap out on how to be creative while not spending a lot of money."

Donna Stanley, executive director of the Associated Black Charities, says her organization succeeded in netting $100,000 when it brought in singer Ray Charles for a charity performance at the Joseph Myerhoff Symphony Hall last spring.

"I think the public really gets weary when groups are always asking for money," Stanley says. "You have to come up with innovative, unique ways to raise money. I will not disparage chicken dinners; there is a place for every type of fund raising."

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