This September, ECOSS hosted its first in-person fundraiser since the beginning of the pandemic. The concept for this year’s event was to celebrate an exciting transition in the organization with a new Executive Director, highlight local BIPOC-owned businesses and groups, and be able to safely come together in an outdoor space as a community after two years apart. A goal during the planning of the fundraiser was to have more community involvement and equitable access to the event. ECOSS wanted an event that was welcoming to all of its supporters, rather than simply disproportionately valuing attendees who could financially give more.
Here are four ways that ECOSS made its fundraiser more community-centered this year:
1. Sliding price scale for tickets
Cost can be a barrier to some communities attending these types of events, so ECOSS offered discounted $15 tickets, as well as $55 tickets for anyone who wanted to help cover the cost of a discounted ticket. The standard ticket price was $35, and regardless of the ticket cost, all attendees received 2 food tickets and one drink ticket.
2. BIPOC Food Vendors and Performers
ECOSS wanted to celebrate the communities that they serve, so the fundraising committee sought out local BIPOC-owned businesses like Rainbow Fresh, and Garzón Latinx Street Food, whose missions align with ECOSS’ values.
“Rainbow Fresh was born during the pandemic by a strong will to engage with the local community. We are a tight-knit team run by a group of enthusiastic women who love cooking and share this passion with others.”
– Rainbow Fresh
“Our food is Latinx inspired, our chef is Ecuadorian born and raised. [Chef Garzón] also traveled the world playing music with many musical groups, where he found the inspiration for a lot of the dishes you’re eating today. All of our dishes have a story and a cultural background. We advise you to ask the chef for a quick story time.”
Karinyo, a local musician, also performed at the event. Their music mixes cumbia, salsa, and punk rock and addresses themes of mental health, Diaspora, and reclaiming inner power.
3. Raffle vs. Auction
At previous fundraisers, auctions have been a way to raise money in a fun and competitive atmosphere, but due to the fact that they function by outbidding others, the team decided that this form of programming needed an alternate approach to be more inclusive. After sourcing many items from various generous donors like REI, Ascent Outdoors, Patagonia, The Plant Store, Mountaineers Books, and Bikeworks, ECOSS had enough items to do a raffle at the event. Raffles are a more equitable form of fundraising since it is the same cost to enter, and with tickets priced at $5 each, multiple entries could be purchased at a fairly low cost. It was a hit at the event as well, and was a fun way to end the programming for the evening. Over $1000 was raised at the event from the raffle alone.
4. Happy Hour Format
In a major shift from previous years’ fundraisers, this year, ECOSS hosted a Happy Hour “come as you are” style event as an accessible way for folks to interface with the organization and as a shift towards community-centered fundraising. Jellyfish Brewing in Georgetown served as a fitting backdrop for the event since ECOSS has a long history of working with the communities in South Park and Georgetown. The beginning of the event held time for attendees to connect with each other and staff over food and drinks in an informal setting. A short program included remarks and community stories from Villa Comunitaria, members of ECOSS Board, and our new Executive Director, Dr. Chiyo Crawford, who shared her vision for ECOSS and the community moving forward, together.
We are excited to grow community-driven programs grounded in the principles of environmental justice. When we talk about “empowering community,” we envision moving beyond education and outreach to promote the development of environmental leaders in our communities. And when we talk about “sustainable solutions for all”, we see a future where the benefits of sustainable practices are not only tangible to but also defined by our communities.Dr. Chiyo Crawford, ECOSS Executive Director
The traditional fundraising approach focuses on donors who can give large monetary gifts, catering to their interests and values, often to the detriment of those who do not have the capacity to donate as much. There is a fear that if the fundraiser does not center the “high-profile” donors, then the organization won’t raise enough money. But that did not come to fruition for ECOSS. The happy hour raised a comparable amount of funds to previous events while cultivating community among a broad base of supporters. Over 127 people attended the event and helped ECOSS reach $56,414 of its ambitious $65,000 goal. Thanks to a generous challenge donation by a group of board members, every gift received through the end of September was matched dollar-for-dollar up to $10,000.
Want to amplify your impact further? Opt for a monthly gift to ECOSS and frontline communities throughout the Puget Sound region. To make a gift, visit ecoss.org/donate
Photos by Char Davies and Meagan Dwyer