Summer on the Vineyard is many things, but lately it seems to have become the season of fundraisers. Hardly a day goes by without an invitation to a party or event to benefit one of a multitude of charities, programs and causes.
Some of these directly help the Island and Islanders; others are simply taking advantage of the concentration of wealthy individuals on the Vineyard in July and August. While we applaud efforts to raise money for any worthy purpose, we have a particular interest in seeing that the very real needs of the Vineyard are met.
People have different motivations for contributing to the community, and the Island is fortunate to have many residents, seasonal and year-round, willing and able to give generously to nonprofit organizations. Fundraisers that offer food and drink and a chance to mingle with like-minded neighbors have long been the staple of summer philanthropy on the Vineyard, and if the Gazette’s events calendar is any indicator, this tradition only continues to grow.
But holding events is an expensive way to raise money. And donors and fundraisers alike worry privately about donor fatigue, a familiar phrase now that conveys the sense that the same pool of people are being asked repeatedly to give in the same way. And many of the Island’s largest nonprofits are watching as revenue from their once-reliable fundraising events has begun to flatten, while costs continue to rise.
MVYouth, a new philanthropic effort announced this week by Edgartown summer residents Jim Swartz and Dan Stanton, is a laudable effort to introduce a new approach into the mix. Based on a model that has worked successfully in New York and San Francisco, the group is focused on raising funds for new initiatives or capital projects that can be, in their words, game-changing. Targeting programs that help youth on the Vineyard, the group plans to distribute $1 million per year to existing organizations that are well managed and have a strong track record of success.
Their belief is that this approach will interest new donors who may not have been reached by traditional fundraising efforts. Although the names of the founding forty donors have not yet been released, Mr. Swartz and Mr. Stanton say many represent a new generation of Vineyard summer philanthropists.
This is by no means the first effort on the Vineyard to reach new donors in new ways, and our hope is that their objective — to add to the pie, not just cut in a new slice — is successful. The Martha’s Vineyard Donors Collaborative has been helpful in providing information for and about the Island’s nonprofit community, and recently has put some focus on a different segment of the community — the Island’s growing elder population.
The best fundraising starts with helping those who are able to give understand how investing in the vitality of a year-round Island population is the best way to ensure the long-term viability of the place.