Donors have fun, do good at August fund-raisers
August is prime fund-raising season on Martha's Vineyard. For those with deep pockets and lots of free time, there is no shortage of soirées, where people can have fun and do good at the same time.
There are, of course, the major August events that Island visitors and residents look forward to every year and, in some cases, even plan vacations around, such as this week's Possible Dreams Auction to benefit Martha's Vineyard Community Services. Then there's Illumination Night and the Oak Bluffs fireworks and Agricultural Fair, all next week. But the month is filled with a variety of other large and small events scheduled in order to tap into the generous seasonal residents who drive the summer social scene.
There are Island fund-raisers where the cost of admission is about the same as a casual dinner. There are other pricier affairs where the cost of high-end sponsor tickets equals the cost to rent a restaurant for the evening.
Chilmark Road Race, 2005. Photo by Ralph Stewart
With so many fund-raisers, especially in August, it is inevitable that often this one conflicts with that, and it becomes necessary to choose.
Longstanding loyalties often determine which fund-raiser wins, but marketing can also make a difference. As a result, savvy organizers have found new and inventive ways to attract a crowd, ranging from formal and informal dinners to comedy performances.
On Saturday, the Capitol Steps, a musical political satire group, will entertain people at the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs to benefit the Campmeeting Association. Also on Saturday, the Veteran of Foreign Wars post in Oak Bluffs will host its annual Roast Beef Dinner, an all-you-can-eat event that consistently sells out.
This weekend alone, there are more than 10 public benefits scheduled on the Vineyard. The total cost of premium tickets to all 10 events for those generous and speedy enough to make the rounds would be close to $500, not including the cost of items purchased at auctions and art shows.
The list of benefits includes The Ice Savours, a benefit for the Martha's Vineyard Ice Arena (ticket prices range from $13 to $100 for all listed events); The Great Dancers, Great Dance event at The Yard in Chilmark to benefit the dance center's programs, including the Artist-in-the-Schools program; The Pro-Am Tennis Benefit at the Farm Neck Golf Club to benefit the Martha's Vineyard Cancer Support Group; the Capitol Steps to benefit the Camp Meeting Association; The VFW all-you-can-eat Roast Beef Dinner; and a Car Show at the Edgartown School to benefit the Edgartown School Parent Teacher Organization, which charges participants a registration fee of $20.
Another type of event that reels in cash in a different way is the Edgartown Fire Department Auction on Saturday at 4 pm at the fire station.
This Sunday's Chicken Alley Art Show, at the Thrift Shop in Vineyard Haven, is an annual benefit for Martha's Vineyard Community Services. There is no entry fee for the show, which features various art and collectibles for sale throughout the day under an outdoor tent.
For those with a little bit more energy, the Chilmark Road Race is a great way to make a difference. The five-kilometer race on Middle Road in Chilmark, this Saturday, has been an Island tradition since 1976. With a normally full capacity of 1,500 runners and an entry fee of $22 for adults and $16 for children, the race is sure to bring in a significant amount of money for the Chilmark Town Affairs Council to assist the Chilmark Community Center.
Another annual event is the Blueberry Festival Breakfast, taking place this Sunday at the Federated Church Parish House in Edgartown. Sponsored by the Missions Committee of the Federated Church, the breakfast benefits the Cancer Support Group of Martha's Vineyard, and costs $7 for adults and $5 for children.
While some groups have been sponsoring the same events for years, other groups are just starting out. On Sunday, the Federated Church in Edgartown will hold its first "Meet Your Neighbors Benefit Dinner" to benefit the church steeple fund. Jim Butterick of Oak Bluffs, a member of the federated church congregation, is organizing the event. A gourmet dinner prepared by chef Jaime Hamlin costs $100. That will be followed by desert and a lecture by Tom Dunlop for a donation of $20. Mr. Butterick said that he wanted the event to be in August, because that is when there are more seasonal residents on the Island, but that it was tricky to find an ideal date for the dinner, with so many other events occurring simultaneously. While Mr. Butterick was optimistic that the event will raise a significant amount of money for the church, he also noted that raising money isn't the only purpose of the dinner.
"This event is an opportunity to meet our neighbors and get more acquainted with them," he said. "After all, the church started out as a meeting house."
Mr. Butterick's observation seems to ring true for most Vineyard benefits. As long as people are enjoying themselves, making new friends and seeing old ones, contributing to a good cause only adds to the overall delight of the event.
The organizers of public benefits must also compete for attention with a summer entertainment lineup that includes bands, plays, art gallery openings, lectures and private fund-raisers. But with an estimated 75,000 people on the Vineyard on any given day in August, according to the Martha's Vineyard Commission, there are plenty of wallets to go around.
Linda Dellatorre, manager of tourism services at the Martha's Vineyard Chamber of Commerce, is familiar with the summer crush of fund-raisers. As much as possible, the Chamber attempts to act as an information clearinghouse of sorts so that fund-raising schedulers can try to avoid scheduling conflicts. When provided with information by those responsible for the event, the Chamber of Commerce posts information about public events on their web site and in their annual Visitors Guide.
Ms. Dellatorre said that events often coincide but that organizers and the chamber try to prevent this by informing event planners of other benefits taking place at the same time. The deadline for next summer's Visitor's Guide is October, which can force party planners to start organizing events far in advance, before coveted dates fill up with too many events.