A fundraising pivot yields high dollars.
By Wendy Rose Gould
Fundraising is a core component of any Kiwanis club, and sometimes it takes a few tries to figure out what strategies work best in a particular community. In 2018, the Yorkville Kiwanis Club in Illinois recognized that a pivot was in order, so members brainstormed new ways to bring in more cash for their scholarship programs.
“We’d been doing little fundraisers here and there, but they were a ton of work and maybe brought in a thousand bucks,” says Jason Pesola, the club’s 2021-22 president. “We wanted to figure out a way to raise as much money as we could to benefit the community.”
Members landed on hosting an Oktoberfest in conjunction with the United City of Yorkville Parks and Recreation Department. Aptly dubbed Yorktoberfest, the event promised “a good old fashioned Oktoberfest atmosphere” filled with live music, authentic German food and a mix of beer and nonalcoholic beverages.
Hosting that inaugural event was somewhat of a risk due to its newness and the up-front costs for entertainment, food and drinks, security and other necessities. The community was thrilled, though, and the club was able to bring in approximately US$7,000 in net. In 2019, that amount roughly doubled.
About half of the money raised at Yorktoberfest comes from sponsorships via local businesses. The club also makes a profit from drinks, food and front-door admission donations. After covering expenses, raised funds go directly into the club’s scholarship programs.
“We provide scholarships for our local community college, Waubonsee, as well as the Yorkville Education Foundation,” says Pesola. “We’ve also expanded our scholarships to local trade schools, including Indian Valley Vocational Center.”
When 2020 arrived, the club decided to maintain momentum by partnering with a local restaurant that donated 10% of its sales during a designated period of time. But by the time 2021 rolled around, the community and club were very energized, and Yorktoberfest brought in a net dollar amount of $30,000.
This year, the club has decided to take another risk by hosting two nights of Yorktoberfest versus just one — and members are confident they’ll achieve their $45,000 goal. Along with bringing in more dollars for scholarships, the club is thrilled that its fundraising pivot led to an annual event that’s become a Yorkville community staple.
This story originally appeared in the October 2022 issue of Kiwanis magazine.