Thursday, July 13, 2000

Robes, hoops, money

Fund-raiser helps Special Olympics

By Sarah Anne Wright
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Seth Hall of Kings Island competes in last year's Olympics.
(Michael Snyder photo)
| ZOOM |
        Racing around in a bathrobe with a powdered doughnut and toothbrush is actually good for the bottom line. So is jumping through hoops.

        Hula Hoops, that is.

        Today, around 500 corporate employees will converge on Fountain Square for the fourth annual Cincinnati Corporate Olympics to benefit the Hamilton County Special Olympics.

        This year, the two-hour event has raised $82,000 from participating companies — a 14 percent increase from 1999.

        The money raised by the Corporate Olympics funds half the operating expenses for Hamilton County Special Olympics.

  What: “Hoots with the Suits,” the fourth annual Cincinnati Corporate Olympics, featuring 23 corporate teams and Special Olympic athletes. New this year is the Mascot Mayhem, a Simon Says match among Cincinnati's best-known mascots.
  Where: Fountain Square.
  When: 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., rain or shine.
  Cost: Free to watch.
        “This event is huge to our program,” said Chris Smith, special events coordinator for Hamilton County Special Olympics. “Pretty much, if you're one of the large companies, you're here.”

        The fun atmosphere of the Corporate Olympics belies the hard-won efforts that go into event fund-raising.

        “Hoots With the Suits” as the event is also known, is a literal field day, with 23 corporate teams competing against one another in contests such as Profit Squeezer, the Late-for-Work-Again-Relay and Straw Boss.

        Unlike personal giving, which has posted healthy gains in recent years, corporate giving has more or less held steady at about five percent of all donations, according to the American Association of Fund-Raising Counsel (AAFRC).

        Companies are giving a heartier slice of their bottom line to charities. The percentage of pre-tax income donated to charities actually climbed .3 percent in 1998, to 1.3 percent.That's $11.02 billion of all charitable giving.

        “A lot of companies probably wouldn't just cut a check,” said Carol Sanger, vice president for Federated Department Stores Inc. and a board member on the Hamilton County Special Olympics for six years. As enthusiastic as the corporate participants are about this event, it was not easy money.

        “I don't see many (nonprofit) organizations having a lot of (fund-raisers),” said Tom Pollak, assistant director for the Urban Institute's Center on Nonprofits and Technology in Washington, D.C. “Fund-raisers are expensive and time consuming, and many, many hours of manpower.”

        Charity events also yield the lowest net return compared to other means of fund-raising, such as grant writing and direct marketing.

        “It takes a lot of hours to do something like this,” Ms. Sanger said.

        The 2000 Corporate Olympics are not a cheap production. Staging the event costs $15,000 to $20,000, all of which Federated pays.

        On top of that, Federated puts in another $15,000 as a presenter of the event along with KeyBank/Gradison McDonald Investments and Chiquita Brands International. Its Lazarus division gives $5,000 as a sponsor.

        All told, Federated has put as much as $40,000 toward the two-hour event. Wouldn't it be more efficient for the company to donate that amount?

        Not from a public relations standpoint. Along with money, the fund-raiser generates visibility and potential volunteers, Ms. Sanger said.

        Special Olympics is no longer a once-a-year track and field event for people with disabilities. It sponsors year-round activities that include “unified” leagues made up of people with and without disabilities.

        Today's teams are made up of five corporate members and one Special Olympian.

        Fifteen-year-old Ryan Leigh of Cleves was a key player in last year's Olympics. He found the games “funny,” but was unfazed about wearing hats and going through Hula Hoops.

        “I'm not shy at all,” said Ryan, whose enthusiasm helped the Procter and Gamble team take first place.

        Ms. Sanger agreed that gusto is what usually wins at the Corporate Olympics.

        “Some of those athletic types aren't so good at going through the Hula Hoops,” Ms. Sanger said.

Bass Pro should reel in shoppers
Mall owner buying other properties
Merger talk turns to Delta
- Robes, hoops, money
Toyota unveils Hebron parts distribution center
What's the Buzz?
Tristate Business Summary
Tristate Earnings Reports