$2 million August fills the coffers of Vineyard fund-raisers
From church suppers to political meet-and-greets to an orchestral extravaganza, Martha's Vineyard seemed the center of the fund-raising universe in August.
The generosity of local residents, and the deep, deep pockets of some well-heeled seasonal visitors has made the Island a magnet for those looking to raise money for charitable and political causes.
A conservative approximation shows nearly $2 million was donated to various organizations in the month of August alone. That figure is very likely much higher. Some organizations could not report totals because they are still counting the proceeds. Some totals are estimated because the organizations will not release information about the events, and some totals could not be reliably estimated at all.
For two weeks in August, presidential candidates were practically bumping into each other. Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. Barack Obama, former senator John Edwards, and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney all mined Vineyard check books for the massive amounts of money needed to sustain a modern political campaign, with Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean throwing a bash for good measure.
While some campaigns are secretive about how much money they have raised (until they are forced to report it to the Federal Election Commission), others are still tallying up the donations.
Based on estimates of the crowds who attended the events, and the required donations for various levels of access to the candidates, some reasonable estimates can be made.
It is clear that Sen. Clinton hit the fund-raising jackpot, pulling in an estimated $110,000 at her August 25 political rally at the Martha's Vineyard Camp-Meeting Association Tabernacle. She went from the Tabernacle directly to a fund-raising event at the Edgartown home of political supporters Frank and Carol Biondi.
The Clinton campaign says about 450 people attended the second event. If 300 of those people donated the $1,000 requested for a reception on the lawn, and 150 donated the maximum $2,300 requested for a talk with the candidate inside, then Sen. Clinton would have raked in $645,000 for her presidential bid.
Sen. Obama, according to one news report, drew 275 people to a private fund-raising event in Oak Bluffs, raising an estimated $372,500 from supporters.
Mr. Edwards raised an estimated $15,000 at an informal event where the requested donation was $50.
Mr. Romney boosted his presidential bid with an Island fund-raiser on August 19, but his campaign staff would not release information on attendance or money raised.
"We don't give out that information," said campaign spokeswoman Sarah Pompei.
Philanthropy appears stronger than ever. The annual Possible Dreams auction raised $510,000 for Martha's Vineyard Community Services, despite being rained out on its scheduled date.
The Boston Pops concert in Ocean Park netted $95,000 for the Martha's Vineyard Hospital, while the Hospice of Martha's Vineyard took in $100,000 at its Summer Soiree and Auction at Farm Neck Golf Club.
Dozens of organizations got into the act, and proved that even without "A" list celebrities or direct connections to wealthy donors, a little imagination can yield dramatic results.
The annual Chicken Alley Art Show at the Thrift Shop in Vineyard Haven drew an enthusiastic crowd. The word is out that this event is the place to find fantastic bargains on art.
"We had 200 people waiting to get in when we opened," said Thrift Shop Manager Dolly Campbell. "We sold $23,000 in the first hour."
The sale eventually raised approximately $40,000 for Martha's Vineyard Community Services.
While most charitable organizations were happy to report the money raised for their causes, a few were reluctant.
The Oak Bluffs Firemen's Civic Organization raises money throughout the year for the much-anticipated August fireworks show in Ocean Park, as well as scholarships, food baskets, and other charitable work.
But the organization won't say how much the fireworks cost, or how much it raises through tee-shirt sales, bucket donations, and other fund-raising activity.
"I don't give those figures out; that's nobody's business but our own," said Ken Davey. "It's off about $3,000 from last year, business donations were off."