Why EC3 Fundraising is So Hard—and This Year’s Auction So Critical

Posted on by Elisabeth Tobia

Fundraising at EC3 has never been easy, for several reasons. First, although we’re a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, we haven’t been very good at serving the community-at-large. Our core competency—early learning and child care—is something that must be done on-site; we can’t take it to the community centers or broadcast it over social media. What’s more, without significant government support or grant funding, we can’t provide it for free to anyone who wants or needs it. Even the dollars we receive from the state for eligible families aren’t enough to cover our costs, and those families must contribute some funds out of their own pockets. In short, EC3 is only able to serve people who can afford to pay at least a portion of their tuition costs—so members of the community-at-large (and most granting institutions) don’t recognize enough of a direct benefit from EC3 to give it donation dollars. It is arguable that children who receive high-quality early learning grow up to be much more likely than others to contribute positively to the workforce (and less likely than others to require public assistance or become part of the corrections system), but it takes a couple decades for EC3’s benefits to convey to the greater community.

Another reason EC3 struggles to raise donation dollars is that its primary constituents and likely donors—the parents and families who have children currently enrolled at any given time—tend to be young adults without much money for philanthropic giving. The average age of EC3’s tuition-paying parents is roughly 31, while the average age of charitable donors in the United States is 64 (according to the 2018 Global Trends in Giving Report). Young adults are typically just starting out in their jobs and careers, and when they’re paying out of pocket for child care (on top of servicing their college loan debt and buying their first house), there is little left over to make donations of great significance. Later on in their careers, when their incomes rise, they are using it to pay another type of tuition as their little EC3 graduates go on to higher education.

Nevertheless, EC3 makes its perennial attempts to bring in non-tuition dollars to help round out the annual budgetary needs and keep tuition costs competitive. We approach our alumni families for year-end contributions, we tap the members of the Board of Directors for regular donations, we apply for small grants to pay for specific trainings or technology upgrades, and we put on the EC3 Auction each spring. The auction event is always the biggest moneymaker, since it brings people together in a fun atmosphere and features many neat items for bid, including original artwork by the children.

This year’s auction fell prey to COVID-19. EC3 was closed from mid-March until July, and even after we re-opened we were not going to attempt an in-person gathering of any sort. But what to do with all the goods we had collected for the silent auction? What about the beautiful classroom items? And how on earth would we make up for the $50,000 hole in our annual budget, which is only compounded by the loss in revenue we’re experiencing right now due to low enrollment? If ever there was a need for a blockbuster fundraiser at EC3, this is it.

So we’re taking it to the cloud. EC3’s auction is going all-virtual this year, and we need it to break every record we’ve ever set. Not only are we seeking the participation of each and every young family currently benefiting from EC3’s services, we are also asking former families and friends and relatives and neighbors (near and far!) to register and contribute to the EC3 cause. Now is the time to pay $100 for that item that’s valued at only $25, and to buy into our “EC-Plea” with a straight-up donation, and to bid up those great artworks even if your own child wasn’t in the class. There are no raffles this year, and the week-long bake sale can’t happen, but the need has never been greater for everyone to contribute as much as they can.

Be a part of EC3’s COVID-comeback. Register now at http://bidpal.net/ec3fudraiser2020 using your email address so you’ll be ready to bid and contribute during the week of September 21st. Share the link on social media and with everyone you know and encourage them to help. If you bid on an item and you don’t win it, contribute to the EC-Plea the amount you were willing to pay. Each contribution counts toward EC3’s financial restoration, making it possible to keep the lights on for the post-COVID world.

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