They've washed cars and baked cookies and gone door to door peddling wrappingpaper and mistletoe and pizzas with everything. Over the past six years members of Cloggers USA have been able to raise enough money to pay for trips to places all over the globe - without asking for a dime in donations.
But now the internationally acclaimed group from Spanish Fork has a chance todance during the inauguration of President-elect George Bush, and it needs to come up with money fast. So fast that there may not be time to go door to door, especially up sidewalks buried in snow.With the inauguration only three weeks away, Cloggers USA suddenly finds itself standing in line with hat in hand, knocking on the doors of big business.
As Cloggers USA director Mary Jex has discovered, it's a long line.
From the New Shakespeare Players to the New Hope Multicultural Center, from high school bands to political candidates to non-profit organizations crusading against every disease known to man . . . everybody these days needs money.
The number of Utah groups looking for donations, in fact, gets bigger every year, at the same time that the number of big Utah corporations able to donate money gets smaller.
"It's really mind boggling," says Fred Rollins, district director of marketing for Delta Airlines. The airline, he says, sometimes gets as many as a dozen requests a day for either money or free air fare. Rollins has worked in other Delta markets and has noticed that Utah has an extra penchant for this sort of thing.
Other Utah companies find that they, too, can hardly open their mail these days without finding a letter asking for something.
Salt Lake developer Dick Prows calls it being on a "hit list."
"People who are visible - car dealers, the Jon Huntsmans, people who have a lot of public exposure because of the nature of their businesses - get on a list."
US WEST, formerly Mountain Bell, is one of those corporations on everybody's list. Last year US WEST received 223 requests for money, up from previous years.
All of these are worthy causes, says Ken Hill, the phone company's director of public relations. But, like other corporations, US WEST cannot fund them all. Like many other companies, US WEST has a contributions committee that evaluates each request, looking for well-run groups that can help the most number of people. Last year US WEST funded 166 requests totaling $543,000.
Although requests to corporations, foundations and Rich People are up nationwide - due to a cutback in federal monies for the arts and social programs during the Reagan years - in Utah there are other factors, too.
An overall decline in the economy in recent years has meant less state money for the arts, social services and even education. Public schools are standing in line now for donations; and way out front, with the biggest hat, is the University of Utah, which is trying to raise $150 million.
Economic problems have also meant that some once-thriving businesses have less money to give away now. "The bottom line is that there are no bottomless pits," says developer Prows, whose Prowswood, like many other real estate development companies in the state, is not as prosperous as it once was. "We are not in a position now to participate in that kind of gifting."
In Utah, in addition to the economic factor, there is also the tithing factor, notes Karen Shepherd, director of development and community relations for the U.'s College of Business. Because members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints generally give 10 percent of their incomes to their church, there is less money left over for other charities and groups, she says.
Because the state is faced with so many social ills, groups find that they sometimes get rebuffed for asking for money for less pressing concerns. Lynn Davis, director of marketing and development for Hogle Zoo, asked one local bank for a donation and was told: "Why should I give money to you when outside my door there are homeless people?"
With so many trying to raise so much from so few, organizations have to try harder these days to justify their requests and to make the requests specific to the donor.
"Gone are the days when you could send out a blanket proposal," says Davis. Like other groups, the zoo has figured out that some corporations are more likely to give money if their altruism leads to better name recognition or increased sales.
Next spring, the Utah Division of the American Cancer Society is teaming up with Harmon's supermarkets for a "Harmon's Fights Cancer Day," complete with celebrity baggers. Harmon's will be donating money and employee time and in return will get publicity and, undoubtedly, more shoppers. The Cancer Society also holds its annual "Jail-a-thon" and its "daffodil days," and still has its army of 40,000 volunteers who go door to door. As an extra incentive for volunteers this year there will be "mystery houses" that will yield prizes.
As the Cancer Society's Barbara Kuehl explains, "You have to continue to be creative in your approach," a lesson that many local groups have learned. With more and more groups standing in line for corporation donations, these groups have had to come up with alternative, off-beat fund-raising ideas.
The Children's Museum of Utah holds its annual "Cookie Lovers Festival" and its "No Ball At All." There are "Murder Mystery Weekends" and costume balls and treasure hunts.
And of course groups still rely on contributions from regular folks. The other day Ballet West got a check for $3 in the mail. It will cost nearly that much to process it, but in fund raising it's also the thought that counts.
Even a $3 check creates, in the mind of the donor, a sense of ownership in the organization. And, who knows: Someday that $3 check writer may become the CEO of American Express.