Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Alcohol for a cause

Last week’s Portland Phoenix has an article about “drinks for a cause” (Fine Wine, Fine Cause by Leischen Stelter, March 31, 2010)—a way to raise money that has been gaining popularity in recent years. Alcohol and fundraising can seem to go inevitably together.

21 Reasons staffer Jen Hodsdon worked in the development field for many years, and responds to the Phoenix article:

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard development people say that they need event attendees to get a few drinks in them before they’ll start bidding in fundraising auctions or donating money. I think it comes from a larger cultural situation in which adults feel like they need to drink to get together. However, I’d like to encourage non-profit organizations, especially ones that serve youth, to consider reducing or eliminating alcohol-based fundraisers.

It’s true that fundraising events can feel awkward, because the people there are getting together for a cause rather than because they necessarily like each other—and alcohol is a shortcut to relaxation.

But youth watch what adults do, and tend to mimic the behavior and beliefs of adults that they admire. They observe how we calm our anxieties and relax, and drinking to do this can send the message that alcohol is a necessary tool for relieving stress—and can encourage teens to self-medicate with alcohol to relieve their own stressors and anxieties.

To avoid sending this message, adults can demonstrate and discuss other ways to get over the anxiety of getting together with strangers, like using icebreaker games or practicing conversation topics before the event.

Event planners might also believe that everybody is serving alcohol at their events—and they fear that people won’t attend if there’s no alcohol or if it’s restricted. However, I did a survey last year of 185 Portland non-profits, and about half of the respondents said that they didn’t hold any events that served alcohol!

And, it turns out, most adults don’t mind: a national survey showed that 80% of adults support restricting alcohol sales at events. In addition, alcohol-free fundraisers would be more appealing to people who prefer events that are free from alcohol-related problems.

21 Reasons has released a guide for non-profits on serving alcohol at community events. It give tips for managing risk if you do decide to serve alcohol, and some things to consider if you’re thinking about going alcohol-free. The guide is available digitally or in hard copy by emailing Jen.

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