Charities swap formal fundraisers for playtime at pubs

By Hamil R. Harris
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 25, 2010

At a time when donations to charities are down, a number of nonprofit groups are exchanging pledge drives and dinner dances for kickball tournaments and "American Idol"-style singing competitions.

In Rosslyn, a bar game triathlon will be held at Continental Modern Pool Lounge to raise money for the Arlington Street People's Assistance Network, or A-SPAN. Participants will play Skeeball, shoot baskets and try a tailgate toss to raise money for the homeless.

In the District, the Hope Marietta Foundation will host its own Skeeball tournament April 10 at the Old Dominion Brewhouse to raise money to support research and treatment for congenital heart defects., which uses the Internet to get teens involved in giving, has teamed up with the charitable arm of Six Flags to urge support for school music-education programs. Students who upload a video of their musical performance -- and an explanation about why music education matters -- will compete for a chance to perform at New York's famed Apollo Theater.

"In a down economy, organizers have to find more creative ways of raising funds for their organization," said Robert Albrecht, founder of the United Skeeball Association. His organization works with a number of charitable groups in setting up Skeeball fundraisers.

Several organizations reported that they had experienced a decline in giving last year because of the poor economy. Some said they expected a drop in donations of more than 10 percent, so many became more aggressive -- and more creative -- in seeking donors.

"I am 30, and one of my goals was to get younger people involved in volunteering and donating," said Jan-Michael Sacharko, A-SPAN's development director. He said he was more than happy to give Skeeball a try to bring attention to his organization. "One of the biggest things is raising awareness.

"We had a walk-for-the-homeless event, and this year we raised $120,000, which was double the amount we have gotten in previous years because we recruited walkers by having events at the bars and restaurants in the evening," Sacharko said. "People like doing things for fun and for charity."

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