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Organizations look for revenue in new places

Rochester Business Journal
April 5, 2013

Camp Good Days and Special Times wants as much junk as it can get.
Not just any ordinary refuse, though. The non-profit actually is looking for used electronics, and it is putting them to good use. For the third straight year, Camp Good Days has teamed up with electronics recycling company Sunnking Inc. on a fundraiser that turns old electronic equipment into revenue.
The E-Scrap 4 Camp program uses more than 170 donation sites to collect the electronics, and Sunnking gives a per-pound donation to Camp Good Days. Last year the fundraiser yielded $10,000 in revenue for Camp Good Days, and this year it is projected to raise $15,000.
It may not be a large revenue stream compared to state grants or major donors, but an increasing number of non-profit organizations are turning to outside-the-box fundraisers to hedge the loss of other sources of revenue.
The YMCA of Greater Rochester Inc. has found success by turning itself into a real estate agency of sorts. For the last four years the organization's branches in western Monroe County have partnered with real estate developers to build and sell a home, with proceeds going to the YMCA.
This year the organization is teaming up with Faber Homes and just broke ground on a house that will be completed in the summer. Bidding on the 2,208-square-foot home, which includes the latest in home trends and technology, began in mid-March.
"The YMCA has a great history of earning funds without big events like galas, and we've had great success with some of the out-of-the-box things we've done," says George Romell, CEO of the YMCA of Greater Rochester.
The idea for the Dream Home Project actually came out of another fundraiser, he notes. A few years ago the YMCA implemented a multiple-year annual giving society, one that requires a minimum commitment of $5,000 over three years.
With that program established, YMCA development staff members began talking about other ideas and decided against adding special events to an already large-scale program.
"We turned to the branches and asked for their input, to see what they could do to support the communities they're in," Romell says. "We had one branch executive who had come from St. Louis, where they had done the model home program, and it seemed like a great fit."
The YMCA found many willing partners in the real estate development community.
"We went to them and asked if they would partner with us, working to reduce the profit margin so you could pass the profit on to the Y," Romell says. "So they're building it at cost and donating the rest of it to us when the house is sold."
The YMCA partnered with Wegman Cos. Inc. in the first year, then Riedman Development Corp., then Matco Builders and Developers Inc. in the third year.
"We try not to ask the same builders each year, and each builder has their own ideas of how they want to build it and display the home to the public," Romell says.
In the last three years, the fundraiser has brought more than $100,000 to the YMCA, he adds. The money raised from the effort supports the YMCA's financial assistance program, which helps pay for the memberships of people who qualify.
For an organization that already receives great support from donors and through memberships, it is a great addition, Romell says.
"We didn't see adding another gala or event like that and didn't want to impose on our giving community, because we're already raising $2 million a year through that and didn't want to ask them to write another check," he says. "This is a perfect fit for us."
The George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film also has had success with some unusual fundraisers in recent years. In 2010 the museum held an auction in New York City that featured donated pieces of art and film memorabilia, raising $650,000.
It followed that up with another auction the next year. Though director Bruce Barnes has said the museum now has a more traditional, donor-centered focus and is working to grow its donor base through touring exhibits and an expansion of the area it serves, there still are fundraisers close to home.
When the Dryden Theatre was renovated this year, patrons were able to purchase the old seats or pay to have the new ones named after them. In a time when revenue from government sources has become more constrained, this type of fundraiser-along with turning to private foundations-is a help, Barnes says.
Partnerships with the business community have been helpful, says Lisa Donato Booz, regional director of Camp Good Days.
"We have been very fortunate to have such outstanding support from Sunnking," she says. "Their funds have helped us continue to provide fun and laughter for many children dealing with cancer, which we are beyond grateful for. It is always so inspiring to see businesses and individuals come together to support our kids."
The Camp Good Days benefit was Sunnking's idea. The company had wanted to find a non-profit organization to partner with, and three years ago it decided on Camp Good Days.
The recycling drive not only benefits the non-profit organization but makes more people aware that recycling is an option for their old electronic equipment, says Zachary Hussion, director of marketing at Sunnking.
"It's nice to tie in electronics recycling with a good cause," he says. "It's a win-win because it's raising money for Camp Good Days with minimal effort on their part and people who may not have thought about electronics recycling are thinking about it now."

4/5/13 (c) 2013 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email

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