Vail nonprofits get creative |

Vail nonprofits get creative

Special to the Daily/Sue Barham

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – Betty Ford isn’t coming to the latest event at the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens in Vail. Neither should you.

Actually, the folks at the gardens don’t want anyone to come, except to visit the gardens or volunteer to help. But they’re hoping not having an event can be an effective fund-raiser. Instead of the annual Spirit of Betty Ford Award event, the gardens this year is holding a “non-event” fund-raiser. The invitation states, in part:

“Jacket and tie NOT required.

“Feel great about NOT attending.”

Of course, donors are being asked to write checks to help support gardens, and the non-event invitation notes that all donations are being matched dollar for dollar. If everything works as it should, the non-event could end up with a total of $200,000 – $100,000 in donations and an equal amount in matching funds from a donor.

The invitations were only mailed out a few days ago, and there’s already been one important donation – from Betty Ford.

“We ran it past her before we did it,” Alpine Gardens Executive Director Ann Kuronnen said. “It’s great to have her support.”

Kuronnen acknowledged that this is a difficult year for donations, and said she and the gardens’ board thought this could be something a little different that might get a few more donors on board.

Just as important, though, having a non-event saves a lot of time, effort and money for planning and putting on an actual event. When every dollar has to do as much as it can, that’s important.

The Vail Valley Foundation has always had a philosophy of being careful with its spending, but director Ceil Folz said that’s even more important now. Sometimes, that means making tough decisions.

“When somebody writes a check, they have to believe what you do makes a difference in the community,” Folz said. “If something isn’t making a true impact, it has to go away.”

Folz said the foundation’s donor base has remained solid over the last couple of years, although the checks those donors are writing these days may not be quite as big as they once were.

To keep the donors’ support, Folz said the Foundation has taken a few new steps, including making a more focused attempt to let people know about everything the foundation does. It’s a long list, ranging from coordinating the effort to bring the World Alpine Ski Championships to the valley, running the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater and the Vilar Performing Arts Center, running a program that ensures every valley kindergartner can go to school all day, and the “Sowing Seeds” program at Brush Creek Elementary School in Eagle.

“The more we can communicate that message, the better,” Folz said.

Besides publicizing its programs, Folz said foundation employees are reminded regularly that they’re the face of the organization when they’re out and about.

“We’re always on,” she said.

While events are a lot of work, they’re still important.

The Vail Valley Salvation Army saw its caseload nearly triple from 2008 to 2009, and the group is always on the lookout of donations of everything from cash to food to time. Last year, the Salvation Army rolled out an “empty bowls” fund-raiser. The event – which features a soup kitchen stocked with soups from some of the valley’s best restaurants, served in handmade bowls – raised more than $10,000.

With last year’s success, the event has been put on this year’s calendar, on Aug. 26.

But the Salvation Army, like most local nonprofits, has had to cast a broader net for help. The good news is that as the need has risen in the valley, so have the number of people helping the charity meet that need.

The Eagle County Combined Courts has a program that lets some people work off their court-ordered community service by shopping for, and delivering food to the Salvation Army’s food bank. That’s added up to more than $12,000 worth of food between October of last year and June of this year. The courts have also diverted fine payments to the Salvation Army.

“People are doing creative things, too,” Salvation Army caseworker Tsu Wolin-Brown said. “We had a local boy and his friend do a lemonade stand and they tithed $13 to us.”

Being creative in tough times is the key. But, while this year’s non-event at the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens will replace the annual award ceremony, Kuronnen said the award party will return next year.

“We want to honor someone next year,” she said. “This year we’re honoring the spirit of the gardens.”

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or

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