Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Tap a keg and start counting the cash. Beer:30 at trade shows is more than just social hour. Savvy non-profits turn happy hours (and gear sales) into huge profits that help keep them afloat.
When 5 o’clock rolls around during Outdoor Retailer, the show floor becomes a party of giveaways, happy hours and raffles supporting different charities and nonprofits, but some pull in the dough more than others.
According to Outdoor Retailer Daily’s event listings, there were roughly 87 of these philanthropic affairs supporting 20 different organizations from environmental activism and trail maintenance to youth education and food banks.
Big City Mountaineers was one of the show’s most heavily supported groups, racking up roughly $25,000 in fundraisers at Winter Market 2017. According to their Executive Director Bryan Martin, OR shows aren’t just an extra sprinkling of donations, but a very real factor in the budgets for groups like theirs.
For the Conservation Alliance, who benefited from more individual fundraisers (34!) than any other non-profit, OR show proceeds fund “the vast majority” of CA’s operating budget, according to Program Director, Serena Bishop Gordon. Bishop Gordon wasn’t able to release the total amount CA raised from those fundraisers, but she said OR shows typically account for a large portion of its administrative budget.
So what’s the key to getting in on OR attendees’ generosity? “These fundraisers come out of long-term relationships,” said Bishop Gordon.
Martin and Teresa Martinez, the executive director of the Continental Divide Trail Coalition, also stressed the value of strong brand partnerships. Ideas for events come evenly from both the charity and the brand. “Sometimes they come up with the idea and approach us, other times we do,” said Martin.
For those he does reach out to, it’s typically a brand BCM already has a relationship with, but he brainstorms options and lets the brand determine what they’re comfortable with. For the brands that do initiate, they’re eager to show off their charitable acts to customers, and ensuring they benefit too is important. “Everyone thinks they’re getting something out of it,” said Martin, whether that’s good public relations, a tax write-off, traffic at a brand’s booth, or the chance to highlight a specific item or product through a sale or giveaway. Martinez said a “two-way street” is important.
Planning also plays a big part in high-quality fundraisers. Martin recommends starting to think about events for the summer show almost right after the winter. “Give yourself the lead time,” he said, to adequately connect, plan and promote the event. Then at the next show, just sit back, have a beer, and watch the support roll in.