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AIDS Calgary changes fundraising tactics

High-profile party dropped as economy falters

NEW DIRECTION. AIDS Calgary executive director Sue Cress says she will miss the annual Calgary Cares party, but she's optimistic the new fundraising campaign will be more cost effective. Credit: Image courtesy of AIDS Calgary

AIDS Calgary has recently launched its most ambitious campaign ever, seeking $1 million and increased volunteer support at the same time that the city’s overheated economy is grinding to a halt. Despite the economic slowdown, AIDS Calgary executive director Sue Cress is optimistic about the new campaign.

“It is called ‘Everyone, Everywhere, Everyday’ and its purpose is to raise money for our programs that traditionally we have a hard time finding ongoing funding for, specifically our human rights program and our stigma and discrimination program,” explains Cress.

AIDS Calgary’s work on the social justice front can be provocative. Although applauded by many in the community, some donors shy away from funding programs that have an advocacy component. For example, AIDS Calgary talks frequently about how discrimination, homelessness and poverty hamper their efforts, and the organization has come out strongly against the criminalization of HIV.

“Public health law is pretty detailed around partner notification,” says Cress. “It completely disappoints us to see people living with HIV criminalized — we know that when you do that to people it isolates them from treatment, social support, from testing and it hinders good prevention. You cannot talk to people about risk reduction and sexual health if a consequence of revealing their status could be criminal charges.”

“Everyone, Everywhere, Everyday” replaces Calgary Cares, the organization’s high-profile fundraising event that had the local glitterati rubbing shoulders with scantily clad performers and urban bohemians. The ├╝ber-party was regarded as Calgary’s best fundraising event by many. However, Calgary Cares’ high profile did not yield large returns in fundraising dollars.

“We want to do something splashy again, but I am not sure if it will be Cares,” Cress reminisces. “I think the days of us taking on high-risk fundraising events are over — however we are missing it. Now I see that it is more cost effective for me to secure individual donations by stating our case on a one-on-one basis. In particular, the support from the queer community has been huge — it’s our protein.”

The plan seems to be working: the new campaign has attracted pledges of $220,000 in its first few months, but Cress emphasizes that “Everyone, Everywhere, Everyday” is not just about money, AIDS Calgary is looking for community engagement.

“Donate, act or volunteer,” she says. “We want people to get involved — join our Facebook page, volunteer online, donate through the website. If you can give us 10 hours researching, or if you can meet with your MLA to talk about HIV/AIDS issues, then everything else will come.”