“Do it for the kids.” “We’re in the fight to end homelessness/drug addiction/(or fill in the blank).” “Never again.” All phrases that typify the call to arms of those in the nonprofit world who want to rally people, and money, to their cause.
First, a disclaimer: In addition to being a divorce and child custody lawyer in my day job, I’ve worked on many startup nonprofits, and I’m on the board of a few nonprofits. So I know something about the operations of the nonprofit world.
The participants in nonprofits all generally have high ideals in mind and lofty goals they strive for. I believe most of the people individually want to do good, and that’s why they get involved, either as volunteers or as employees.
Whether it is the Boys and Girls Clubs or the Save the Aardvark society, the people who are engaged and active want to do something to change the world, or at least their small corner of it.
This past weekend my friend Dr. Jackie Yaris held a fundraiser at SoulCycle, sponsored by her employer One Medical. They had food from Tara’s Himalayan on Venice Boulevard and the event raised over $14,000 for the nonprofit Himalayan Healthcare. This type of event-based fundraising is excellent for cause awareness and to keep people engaged. The publicity from T-shirts and corporate sponsors like One Medical and Soulcycle create donating opportunities.
We’ve seen the opportunities over the years morph from walks and bike rides to the non-event event — a new spin on an old type of fundraiser where people bought their way out of attending an event; if you donated above a certain level, you didn’t have to break out the tuxedo, leave home or eat rubber chicken, but instead stayed in your jammies. Lately, this is being used by PATH, which is a coalition of agencies and nonprofits to end homelessness. On the PATH board are people like Santa Monica City Attorney Marsha Moutrie and Myrna Hant (Dr. Yaris’ mother, who I’ve known for a very long time). PATH is operating ImaginaryFeast.org and asking people to forego the black-tie dinner and donate the money saved instead. So far, they’ve raised more than $20,000.
All of these are great ideas, but what most nonprofits need is a consistent stream of income from which they can build a capital base, finance operations and plan for the future. It’s not an easy thing for a nonprofit to do since most people don’t make monthly or even annual contributions that can be relied upon.
So the savvy nonprofit looks for ways to create financial stability. One of the time-honored ways is to take in donations of new and gently used goods and resell them. The donor gets a tax write-off and the nonprofit gets to sell something it didn’t have to pay for, so it deeply discounts the prices and everyone is happy. Except for the IRS, but who cares about their feelings?
The American Cancer Society is a national nonprofit that provides 24/7 access to support, options and information for cancer patients and their families through their 800 number call center. Fifty years ago the ACS decided it was going to open retail shops to take in donations and resell the goods — they were called Discovery Shops. The Discovery Shops are celebrating their 50th anniversary this coming weekend and our local shop, located at 920 Wilshire Blvd., will host a Golden Anniversary ribbon-cutting in conjunction with the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce at 11:30 a.m. Friday, June 12. There will be hourly savings and mystery savings up to 50 percent on Friday purchases. Starting Saturday, prices are half off through June14. The Discovery Shop is looking for survivors to come out this Friday and help celebrate and bring awareness and community to their event.
The Discovery Shops have a fine selection of high-quality clothing and housewares that have been donated. When I walked into the shop to meet with Tonya Wagner, the manager, Adele was playing on the radio and one of the first things I notice was a jar of dog treats, so I knew I liked this place from the get-go. This is not your average thrift store with racks and racks of stinky clothes; this has a boutique feel that would easily fit on Montana Avenue — in fact, I’m certain that many of the clothes in this shop started out on Montana.
Throughout the year the Discovery Shop has different sales. In July it hosts a “Blast From The Past” sale and showcases vintage clothing and housewares. It recently had an “Only The Best” designer sale event. Volunteers help run the shop, and they are rewarded with a 20-percent discount for their purchases.
Nonprofits are groups of people doing good to help others. You can help out in many ways, from riding a bike to shopping for a new outfit and, sometimes, by not even showing up — just send a check.
David Pisarra is a Los Angeles divorce and child custody lawyer specializing in fathers’ and men’s rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at email@example.com or (310) 664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra.