SM Baykeeper to Host ‘Online Party’
BY NICOLE KLIEST
Santa Monica Baykeeper is launching its first annual EcoGala, an event that is to be held entirely online. In an effort to lower the group’s environmental footprint, Laurie Feldman, the director of development and marketing for Baykeeper is trying to turn conventional fundraising on its head.
Feldman, who has been in the nonprofit business for 20 years and actively involved in fundraising for the last four is the creator of this approach.
“Traditionally, fundraising is event focused,” Feldman said. “In order for people to raise money, they have to spend money, or they have to come to a party. I think people are ready to embrace change and donate without attending an event.”
EcoGala is an online “party” that takes everything one would see at an actual event and translates it online. Activities include an online auction, monthly contests and drawings, electronic gifts, a tribute journal and blog. Guests even have the opportunity to bid on items donated by celebrities, including Barbra Streisand and Jack Johnson.
“There is a lot of time and energy that goes into planning an event,” Feldman said. “From getting talent to stage production to meals, a lot of money is spent. [With EcoGala] over 90 percent of the money is going to the organization.”
The online event launched Feb. 3 and will run until Dec. 31, with a goal of raising $200,000. The proceeds will go to Baykeeper’s program.
“We have an advocacy program that holds polluters accountable,” Feldman said. “We have a watershed program that restores creeks and waterways that make their way to the ocean. We also have a kelp restoration and monitoring program in which we are trying to restore the kelp forest.”
Because EcoGala is considered a progressive way of planning an event, progressive, eco-friendly promotion strategies are being enacted.
“I’m trying to take Obama’s message of social networking,” Feldman said. “We’re using online resources such as Facebook and YouTube. I think it’s going to work that way because we’re out there social networking via the Internet. I want to help the environment so we’re sending emails, talking about it and getting people engaged [as well as approaching publications like the Malibu Surfside News for articles].”
The Web site also released a video of the president of Heal the Bay, Mark Gold, advocating the event. Other popular endorsers include Barbra Streisand and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
“By hosting the event online, Santa Monica Baykeeper is taking fundraising to the next level environmentally,” said Robert F. Kennedy Jr., chair of Waterkeeper Alliance. “There’s no need to get in your car, no dishes to wash and no need to put on a tux, everything from the auction to the tribute journal will be online. A great creative way to raise funds without taxing our resources.”
“As a longtime supporter of Santa Monica Baykeeper, I support and commend their innovative efforts to raise funds without taxing the earth,” Barbra Streisand said. “I look forward to participating in more events like this that are creative and fun.”
Another upside to the EcoGala being held online is the personal cost to the attendees. They can donate $5, or they can donate $10,000. Anyone can participate and can donate whatever they wish.
To find out how to “attend” the event, visit the EcoGala’s Web site at, www.ecogala.smbaykeeper.org.