RDC fundraising pays huge dividends

On behalf of Red Deer College, I wish to comment on the Advocate’s recent article concerning fundraising events in our community (Charities having to spend money to make money, June 28).

On behalf of Red Deer College, I wish to comment on the Advocate’s recent article concerning fundraising events in our community (Charities having to spend money to make money, June 28).

Considerable reference was made to one of RDC’s recent major events, our annual Athletics Scholarship Breakfast, which this year featured Wayne Gretzky as our keynote speaker. The question posed, for this and other “celebrity” events, is if the investment in an appearance fee is worthwhile, whether for Red Deer College or for any other charitable organization. That’s a reasonable question; all of us who donate to charitable causes want funds raised to be used to maximum benefit.

To have a full appreciation for the “value” of Gretzky’s fee or any other high-profile individual who charges an appearance fee, it’s important to look beyond simply the net proceeds at the given event. I suspect our charitable counterparts can offer the same context.

Specific to RDC, this event was its 10th anniversary and in the planning, there was a desire by our community volunteers to make the Athletics Breakfast “big” — and indeed it was. We virtually doubled our past attendance benchmark to 1,400, a much wider audience of individuals who had not been to such an event in the past.

Not only was attendance well beyond our expectations, it laid the groundwork for future participation in upcoming events hosted by the college. It added to our profile as we seek to attract new students to all of our programs. Red Deer and RDC captured national media attention — both conventional and social media channels — during Gretzky’s appearance and it created a buzz that resonated for some time after the actual event.

But we accomplished much more. All RDC events are designed with our learners in mind and their student experience at the forefront. Specific to the Athletics Breakfast:

• We highlighted our student athletes in general and honoured two significant athletes who received awards for their academic achievements and athletic prowess.

• Attendees were able to support the Athletics Leadership Fund, which is helping to provide financial sustainability for all of our RDC athletics programs, as well as much needed scholarships/bursaries for RDC’s student athletes.

• We enlisted the support of each and every RDC student athlete to volunteer at the event, which provided them with the opportunity to engage community members and hear a world-class — and much in demand — speaker that they might never have the opportunity to hear from otherwise.

• We were able to invite guests to a major special event — individuals and businesses who already invest in RDC and the success of our students, as donors, or who are considering future investments.

In addition to funds we raised specifically at the Gretzky event, attendees will know we announced significant major new donations to RDC Athletics and our students, totaling $430,000, the largest of which was tied directly to Gretzky’s appearance. Like all community events, we had the participation of many sponsors and volunteers who enabled us to grow the breakfast significantly; certainly that helped us to defray actual costs. That continuing support is invaluable to us and we are sincerely grateful for that endorsement and to the 1,400 people who attended. The exciting challenge for us will be the encore.

No doubt there is a similar story to be heard from any of the charities’ events noted in your article that opted to bring in a celebrity or a major musical performer, to elevate the profile of their cause. Fundraising events are a platform to highlight your organization and the conversations that result go far beyond the event itself. Governments at all levels are looking to post-secondary institutions like RDC, to the not-for-profit and to the charitable sectors, to be increasingly self-sustaining and less reliant on taxpayer funding. Special events help accomplish that.

We agree there is a balancing act in terms of risk assessment and “bang for the buck” for events such as these. At RDC, we think we’ve struck the right balance.

Michael Donlevy

Vice-president

Enterprise and Community Relations

Red Deer College