Adding beneficiaries will increase participation, save agencies money on staging fundraisers, according to AIDS Arms ED
Invention can be expensive. And at a time when AIDS service organizations are already struggling to find funds, AIDS Arms decided to help other agencies in the DFW community save money by not having to "re-invent the wheel" in terms of fundraising.
That’s why proceeds from this year’s AIDS Arms LifeWalk will be going to nine organizations instead of the usual three, according to Raeline Nobles, AIDS Arms executive director.
In addition to AIDS Arms, which has owned the walk since 1999, AIDS Services of Dallas, the Gregg Dollgener Memorial AIDS Fund, Legacy Counseling Center, Legal Hospice of Texas, Resource Center Dallas, The Women’s Chorus of Dallas, Turtle Creek Chorale and Youth First Texas will all get a cut of the money raised by the walk, set for Oct. 11 at Lee Park.
"In the past, there were usually three beneficiaries for the walk each year; no more than three," Nobles said. "But there are a lot of issues affecting the walk and all the agencies this year. No. 1 is the economy.
"It is just so difficult for all nonprofits to raise funds this year. Everyone is struggling to meet budget," Nobles said. "On the other hand, there is an increasing flood of people needing to access every agency’s service. So it is a responsibility we have to each other to support each other as much as possible."
One way AIDS Arms can do that, Nobles said, is to broaden the impact of an established event — LifeWalk — by broadening its number of beneficiaries.
"LifeWalk is already an established, recognizable event, and by increasing the number of organizations that are participating as beneficiaries and partners, it allows those organizations to not have to invest in creating the infrastructure for a separate event. It gives these organizations the chance to get involved and raise money without having to expend any money up front to create the event," she said.
While different AIDS service organizations might offer some of the same services, Nobles said each one brings something unique to the table. And each of those services needs financial support.
At the same time, each of those organizations is in many cases trying to draw on the same sources, the same donors in many cases. And even the deepest of those pockets can get tapped out after a while.
"The other thing that is happening," Nobles said, "is that there are so many fundraising events that all of us have started hearing from our funders, our donors, ‘Why not collaborate better and do some of this together? Why not have one big event rather than a bunch of small events?’
"Through LifeWalk, AIDS Arms has the ability to provide that umbrella and do that, at least on one event," she said.
And, Nobles added, a joint event will boost confidence among the agencies’ clients: "It’s important to our clients to see all of us working together this way. Each organization is very, very different. But we all have the same goal: better lives and wellness for our clients."
The event now known as LifeWalk was started in 1990 as a fundraiser for AIDS service organizations in the area. It was owned by Oak Lawn Community Services — which had started its existence as Oak Lawn Counseling Center — until OLCS folded in 1999 and AIDS Arms took over.
Nobles said the 2008 walk brought in $410,000. Nobles said she expects that total to go up this year.
"More people promoting this means more people participating. And hopefully, more people participating means the gross revenue will be larger offering more benefit to our partners and to us," she said.
For each dollar they raise through the walk, partner agencies retain 75 cents. The remaining 25 percent of the proceeds go back into the fund to maintain the infrastructure of the annual event.
But just as important as the money that comes in, Nobles added, are the opportunities for the organizations to reach more people with their messages.
"More agencies participating will hopefully mean more of our clients, more HIV-positive people attending the event," she said.
"The bigger story here is the outreach and the education that can happen through LifeWalk. Dissolving the stigma of HIV and AIDS happens when everyone comes together, HIV-positive and non-positive people coming together on one day to talk and interact.
"When you put a face to the disease, it is a lot harder to turn away from it. You feel compelled to participate when you know someone who is living with this disease," she added.
The 2009 LifeWalk will be held once again in Lee Park. Registration begins at 11 a.m., followed by the walk at 1 p.m.
The event will include live bands, food, beer, games for children and LifeBark, a relatively recent addition to the LifeWalk schedule.
Through LifeBark, pets can participate in LifeWalk with their owners, adding another avenue for fundraising.
"This year we are going to have more beneficiaries, more puppies, more families, more people. We are increasing our diversity every year," Nobles said. "We hope this year it really will be the rainbow we want it to be."
For more information, go online to www.LifeWalk.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 22, 2009.