Area nonprofits resort to creative fundraising as donations decline

 Bacon adorns Bloody Marys at last year's event. (Courtesy Crossroads Programs)

Bacon adorns Bloody Marys at last year's event. (Courtesy Crossroads Programs)

This Thursday, the second annual Bacon and Beer festival will host a packed crowd at the Scottish Rite Theatre in Collingswood.

You couldn’t be blamed for thinking an event based on savory meat and hoppy brews is all play and no work, but the profits from ticket sales actually go toward a much more serious cause — helping homeless, abused, and otherwise at-risk youth in New Jersey.

The festival is being put on by the Burlington County-based nonprofit Crossroads Programs, which provides shelter and support services to between 200 and 300 children each year.

“We all do our share of runs. We all do our share of golf tournaments. We all do our share of black and white balls and blue jean balls and what have you,” said Lydia Cipriani, director of development and communications at Crossroads Programs.

“We were engaged in trying to find something that would appeal to the public so intensely that we would secure a lot of people, so that we would get funds through tickets, attendance, and so we could get the word out about our organization.”

The group has had to get more creative in its fundraising strategies, as corporate donations continue to dwindle and an increasing number of nonprofits compete for a smaller pool of money, said Crossroads Programs COO Robert Kopcho.

“We have to reach as many different audiences as we can to provide the donations that we need. As stagnant as it is, as troublesome as it is at times, we’re full steam ahead at reaching different audiences,” he said.

Last year’s inaugural Bacon and Beer Festival, which saw attendees lining up and down the block to get in, raised more than $10,000.

And Crossroads Programs isn’t alone. Other local nonprofits have also begun holding foodie-centric events to raise money for those in need.

The Food Bank of South Jersey’s competitive Hunger Games have been a regional hit. MANNA, a Philadelphia-based group that prepares and delivers meals to people with life-threatening illnesses, recently completed its third annual Guac Off.

Although Cipriani says she’s thankful for the support the Bacon and Beer Festival has garnered, she wishes the nonprofit could raise the money it needs on the merits of its work alone.

“It would be awfully nice if the work we did in the community and the support we give to the social fabric of the community was rewarded in a way that did not force us to come up with these ideas to raise money.”

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