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Partying for Charities, faux and faux pas

Posted on 13 February 2009

We learned this week that the Sagaponack Village Board of Trustees is reviewing parties planned in their neighborhoods in anticipation of the summer season. It is now required by local law that submissions for those events be received 180 days in advance. And while we’re all for supporting a good cause, we feel now is also the time for all boards to look at fundraising parties with a critical eye toward the money making motives that may lie behind the intentions of the organizers.

This week, a local party planner approached the board with plans to host an event at Wolffer Estate for a charity out of Harlem. While a quarter of the proceeds from the event will go to the charity, the planner explained that he will take the remaining 75 percent of the evening’s proceeds. While we understand that much of that money will be used to pay for staff and other costs of putting on the event, we find it rather astonishing that more of the proceeds wouldn’t benefit the named charity.

Many people from other areas come to the East End in the summer to enjoy socializing, attending big events and supporting fine causes — but at a price. While we like to see our local caterers and service people hired for these gigs, there are a lot of other annoyances and inconveniences surrounding these events that we all must bear — like noise, traffic and parking. Is this public nuisance really worth it if charities are only getting 25 percent of the proceeds at the end of the day?

We would like to see all the local boards really delve into the background and beneficiaries of these parties, and if possible, insist that the charity be the true host of the event. We’re reminded of benefits hosted by local organizations such as CMEE, the Bay Street Theatre and Group for the East End. These non-profits do the planning, work and the contracting themselves — they don’t leave it to some outside planner who will take an exorbitant cut of the proceeds.

All fundraisers are not created equal, and just as a wise philanthropist will look at the background of someone soliciting money for a good cause to find out what percentage of his or her gift will actually make it into the charity’s coffers, so too should local boards feel free to poke and prod at the financials of those hoping to reap the benefits of a summer shindig in the name of charity.

With the ever-shrinking dollars that non-profit organizations are going to have to battle for in coming months, it would be helpful if our boards had a way to separate the truly deserving from the merely posing. It’s not that we don’t like the idea of supporting the children’s charity in Harlem, it’s just that we want to be sure that if our resources and nerves are taxed, then the charity in question is getting as much as they should from the event.

And if it comes to having to make choices over which charities to allow to host parties, we would opt first for truly local charities — those non-profit mainstays of the East End who in turn support us not only by providing local jobs, but by serving us all on a year around basis.

 

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