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Cancer nonprofits adjust strategy

Recession has caused fewer donors to attend fundraising events, groups look toward new tactics

Posted: October 23, 2009 10:04 p.m.
Updated: October 24, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Ma Maison employees Kathy Perkins, left, and Claire Morissette show the breast cancer pins, which are on sale at the gift shop for $5.

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Groups raising funds for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month are using new tactics to cut their costs and get cash-strapped residents to open their wallets.

“This year we’ve decided to do more events where we involved places that people frequently go (to) anyway,” said Terry Bucknall, executive director of the Sheila R. Veloz Breast Imaging Center. “We made it easy for people to give without having to actually dig into their pockets.”

The strategy involves partnerships with local restaurants and other businesses to tap donors going about everyday life.

For instance, Lyons Car Wash in Newhall is offering a “Pink Bubble Bath” special. Five dollars from each wash will go toward buying a new ultrasound machine for the Veloz center.

Similar kinds of deals are being offered at restaurants around town, such as StoneFire Grill in Valencia and Golden Spoon in Stevenson Ranch.

Meanwhile, the Newhall-based nonprofit Circle of Hope, which helps cancer patients pay for treatment, made some concessions to more effectively raise funds.

The organization cut down on vendor fees, advertisements and decorations for its sixth annual theatrical tea and silent auction earlier this month, said founder Colleen Shaffer.

“We can’t raise the price, because people won’t come,” she said, adding that even though the $50 tickets haven’t become pricier, they haven’t sold out like they did last year.

“We need to make more money when people cannot give as much.”

The group also catered to participants who might be on tight budgets.

“Our auction items were lower-cost than in the past,” Shaffer said, adding that starting bids reached a maximum of $100 as opposed to about double that amount last year.

She also said she noticed more participants buying raffle tickets instead of bidding on items.

The method appears to have worked, since the event raised an estimated $15,000 this year compared to about $13,000 last year, Shaffer said.

“Survivorship is expensive,” said the founder, a 10-year cancer survivor who said she pays about $3,500 each time she receives a chemotherapy treatment, a lifelong necessity for Shaffer.

Breast cancer victims can accumulate more than $200,000 in medical bills, which can be expensive for patients with limited or no medical insurance, Shaffer said.

“All those little costs add up,” she said. “If you’re on a tight budget, that’s hard.”

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