Charity fundraising in overdrive

‘Tis the season to be jolly – and to be hit up for donations at the grocery store.

Battling a sagging economy and with year-end fast approaching, several charities are making a push to garner as many donations as possible during this holiday season.

An emphatic example of those efforts occurred Saturday when major fundraisers by both the Lions Club of Grand Cayman and Rotary Club of Grand Cayman were held at local grocery stores. Cayman HospiceCare also held a fundraiser that day in the parking lot of Governors Square.

The charities freely admit that their earnings from fundraising have struggled over the past year.

‘Our donations are off, I can’t give you an exact percentage,’ said John Felder, fundraising committee chairman for the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman. ‘We’re having to think out of the box [and] do things that have not been done in the past.’

One of those ‘outside the box’ things was Rotary’s radio-thon on Saturday, which invited listeners to donate either over the phone or to come down to make a donation between 8am and noon at Kirk’s, Foster’s, and Hurley’s supermarkets and at Cost-U-Less.

‘It’s the first time we’ve ever done that,’ Mr. Felder said of the event which raised about $5,000 for Rotary. The club supports such programmes as Meals on Wheels, local youth scholarships, and the Bonaventure Home for Boys.

He said fundraisers working for Rotary at these events were generally there to supervise drop points for those who wished to make donations.

‘I apologise if anyone was offended,’ Mr. Felder said. ‘We’d like these fundraisers to be seen as positive events.’

Cayman HospiceCare manager Jennifer Grant-McCarthy said what amounted to an invite-only fundraising and remembrance event was held Saturday afternoon at Governors Square, causing the parking lot to be blocked off for several hours.

Mrs. Grant-McCarthy said the initial plan was to fly Santa Claus in on a helicopter that was to land in the Governors Square parking lot. The scheduled landing meant police had to block off the area for safety reasons.

As things turned out, the helicopter couldn’t make it and Santa was carried in on a fire truck.

‘We know Christmas is tough because everyone is out there with their hand out,’ she said. ‘I know it was annoying people, not being able to get into the parking lot.’

HospiceCare is a charity that provides care and in some cases housing for terminally ill patients. Mrs. Grant-McCarthy said with economic realities setting in over the past several months, people are being choosy about what they give.

‘Fewer people have fewer dollars,’ she said. ‘Before, there were maybe 50 charities and people would give to 10. Now, maybe that’s down to three. We’ve actually done very well this year; we’ve been extremely fortunate.’

Concerns about the extent of fundraising efforts, particularly at local grocery stores, are not new. In fact, earlier this year, one local supermarket chain took steps to bring the charity events held outside its doors under control.

Foster’s Food Fair Managing Director Woody Foster said that his supermarkets usually try to limit fundraising efforts held outside stores to two groups, possibly three if it’s not too much of an issue.

However, in certain cases Foster’s has turned away charity groups for various reasons. One of those instances involves school fundraisers where children are raising the money.

‘It’s little kids with no parental supervision,’ Mr. Foster said. ‘We’ve really stopped allowing that because you’ll get four or five of them running around in the store.’

Mr. Foster also said the supermarket is trying to move away from fundraisers that simply ask people for cash.

‘We want them to be selling something of value, a raffle ticket or bake sale or something,’ he said. ‘A few of the older and larger organisations have been grandfathered in (still allowed to ask for cash donations).’

On Saturday, Mr. Foster said both the Rotary and the Lions Club had previously sought permission to hold their fundraising events and that there appeared to have been no problem with either group.