The economic downturn loomed large in the planning for the Mamaroneck Schools Foundation spring fundraiser, but it did not keep the event from reaching its twin goals: raising around $80,000 for innovative educational programs and bringing the community together for a good time.
There was a “sellout crowd” of around 220, reported Edie Roth, the MSF president. Instead of the typical black-tie gala at a country club, the event was “Denim and Diamonds” at St. Thomas Church in Mamaroneck Village.
Under the design of Dee Van Eyck, a member of the MSF advisory board, the church’s Heathcote Hall was transformed into a Western casino. Silhouettes of a Western sunset glowed at every window and old Western movies played as a backdrop. There were jars of lemonade laced with “moonshine” and tin cans filled with daisies to accompany dice and card games.
To keep its spring fundraiser affordable, “We cut the ticket price in half,” said Jennifer Malherbe, event co-chair. “Early on in our planning for the event this year, we made the decision to take a ‘less is more’ approach: less money, more casual.”
The silent auction was also half of previous years and brought in half the revenue.
“We were very sensitive in our soliciting of auction items,” said Ms. Malherbe. They event committee did not approach the local merchants at all. “We decided to give them the year off,” said Ms. Malherbe. “We didn’t feel it was a time to go around town with our hands out.”
“There was also a tremendous sentiment in the benefits committee to keep everything local – in terms of who we chose to cater the event (Larchmont’s Plates Restaurant) and the venue,” said Mr. Malherbe.
“People were able to come, and whether they spent money at the auction or not, they had a joyous community event,” said Ms. Roth. “That’s what we’re really proud of. “
So, Will the Economy Hurt the MSF Mission?
It’s too early to tell how much the Mamaroneck Schools Foundation will raise this year or be able to spend next year, said Ms. Roth. The organization still has months to go and has some new ideas it will be rolling out to raise additional funds.
And steps taken earlier this year should help as well.
By January, when the organization began deciding how to allocate donations for 2009, the economic “picture was already clear,” said Ms. Roth. “Our entire community has been suffering.”
The foundation typically spends all the funds it raises in a given year. But his year, it deliberately kept some in reserve in order to be in a better position next year.
However, the foundation still awarded $275,00 – about as muchs as in the past four years. (See: Schools Foundation Gives $275K: SmartBoards to Smart Music.)