At RLS, we call our fundraiser events "fun" raisers. Our goal is to raise much needed cash to continue our mission, of course, but it is important to have a fun and enjoyable time, too. The work of poverty law can sometimes be a grim affair, with gut-wrenching client stories, not enough resources for too many in need, and seemingly insurmountable odds stacked against our clients as they struggle for equal access to the civil justice system. So when we do our fundraising, it helps to inject hope and joy and humor and whimsy into the mix. We are never far from the grim realities of everyday poverty law, but when we plan a fundraising event, we are looking for something that will engage our donors, attract new supporters, and offer a truly enjoyable experience in exchange for that support. If the event is fun, maybe the attendees will want to return the next time we throw a party.
So when you go to any event, fundraising or otherwise, what makes it fun? Good food? Music? Good company? Hanging out with people who share your passions? Learning something cool and interesting? When I think back on all the memorable parties I have enjoyed, the best ones have a combination of some or all of these factors. They may have taken place in spectacular venues or someone's modest living room; they could have involved 70,000 people (I'm talking about you, Austin City Limits Music Festival!) or just three close friends.
In the whole amazing history of RLS, over the course of forty challenging years, we have never quite come up with a signature fundraising event, one that occurs annually and that attracts a core group of donors as well as new recruits to our cause. We have tried yard sales, silent auctions, and other assorted events, but so far, we have not hit on the one event that will become that recurring fun raiser we are looking for. Over the last eighteen months, we did manage to have a lot of fun trying to find that event...In September of 2011, we enjoyed a mellow evening under the stars with all-you-can-eat crab and a groovin' blues band (the event had the groaner of a moniker: "Crabahannock Legal Aid!"). In December of 2011, we held a classical music pipe organ recital at the magnificent venue of St. George's Episcopal Church in Fredericksburg. Also in the classy zone was our wine tasting event at Prince Michel Winery called Raise A Glass For Justice.
And then there was the Smackdown. In May of 2012, we staged what might be the most unique idea for a fun raiser: a female attorney arm wrestling competition, held (where else?) at the local branch of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library! The Fredericksburg Chapter of the Virginia Women Attorneys group, with the indefatigable creative energy of attorney Edith Min, produced that event for our benefit, called the FWA Smackdown, and featured well-respected female attorneys who assumed hilarious fight personas (Allison Wonderslam, Florence Nightinjail, Ghengis Mom, etc.), complete with outrageous costumes, edgy behavior and even entourages of raucous supporters. The evening was so much fun that my face was sore from smiling and laughing so much! I reckon that after that, RLS was shown to be capable of just about anything in terms of fundraising formats.
Now, in 2013, RLS is fortunate to be celebrating our 40th Anniversary, and of course, we are throwing a party to mark the occasion. In keeping with our goal of raising fun and funds at the same event, we have settled on the theme of "Where Were You In 1973?" For those of us who recall 1973 and what the world was like back then, images of mimeograph machines, carbon paper and weirdly wide lapels come to mind. It was a regrettable period in the history of fashion, to be sure, but it was also a time when fax machines, computers, the Internet, and cell phones did not exist, which definitely made the practice of law a very different enterprise from what we know today. We are looking forward to celebrating how far we have come as a vital nonprofit in the Fredericksburg region, arriving at our 40th Anniversary with hope and determination for the future of RLS and our mission.
What will our party be like? Why don't you come and find out? It will be on a Saturday, May 4, from 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM at the Fredericksburg Expo Center. We will offer a reception, sit-down dinner, the premier of a commemorative short film about RLS, and a great silent auction with intriguing and must-have items (what would you bid to receive a painting by local artist phenom, Brandon Newton?). The gorgeous quilt we have been raffling tickets for all year will finally be taken home by a lucky winner, too. The evening will be filled with friends new and old getting together to celebrate the extraordinary work of helping low-income folks find equal access to civil justice, including awards for pro bono work and a riveting client story told by a former client, to remind us about what this is all about. Those who attend will be moved, entertained, well-fed, and might even leave with a treasure or two from the silent auction. Vicious, cut-throat bidding against your friends for premium silent auction items is encouraged!
To make this party a success, we need you. Please check out our website at www.rapplegal.com and click on the fireworks image for more information and to find out the latest silent auction items we have procured. Buy some tickets for you and your posse; become a sponsor at any of the various levels; and bring your sense of fun and inner party animal. We would love to see you at our party as we celebrate 40 years of working for equal justice for all!