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Fun with fundraising WE Fest is very good to nonprofits

Volunteers for area nonprofits like the Lakes Crisis Center have some of their best fund-raising luck on the WE Fest grounds.

It's no secret, there is a lot of beer, music and cash flowing at WE Fest each year.

And whether it's for a good cause or a good prize, portions of that cash are flowing into the pockets of non-profit organizations spending their time selling various raffles tickets to the patrons of WE Fest.

Some clubs and organizations help clean up or prepare the grounds, some have games to play, some help pour beer, some have items to win and some can just find the person with a few extra dollars to support their cause.

With a major partnership with WE Fest, organizations are able to give incentives like free tickets to concerts for volunteers to run many of the booths, games and services that help keep the festival flowing. WE Fest also provides VIP packages for some non-profits to raffle off for next year's concert.

Humane Society

In their fifth year helping at WE Fest, workers with the Humane Society of the Lakes set up chairs one day and pour beer at two of the booths for the weekend. Over 200 people volunteer their time with those projects, and in return, not only do the volunteers get free passes to the concerts, thanks to WE Fest, the humane society also gets money from the sales as a fund-raiser for the organization.

"WE Fest provides us with money for running those booths and chair setup," Cassandra Vigesaa-Disse said.

"We raise $10,500 from the three days at WE Fest. It's wonderful. It's a great support, of course, to the animals and the shelter, and we are so grateful to WE Fest for allowing us to do this and helping us out. It's one of our biggest earners for the year," she said.

WE Fest is also a good venue for shelter volunteers to sell raffle tickets for the upcoming Shelter Fest, which is Aug. 18 at Hotel Shoreham.

"We're so grateful to all our volunteers who donate their time in honor of our furry friends," Vigesaa-Disse said.

Some of those volunteers are regulars with the humane society, and some are just there to help for the weekend so they can get free passes to the event. Either is fine with Vigesaa-Disse, since both help raise money for the shelter and its animals.

"It's truly a blessing to us to have this relationship with WE Fest and for the support we get from the community and from those volunteers that assist us."

As at all beer booths, people tip as they wish. Vigesaa-Disse said that when they explain the funds are going to the humane society, "people tend to be a little more generous at that time, which is wonderful.

"It's a huge event for us."

Boys and Girls Club

This is the first year the Boys and Girls Club staff and volunteers have been at WE Fest selling raffle tickets. At the start of the year, WE Fest approached the club about raffling off a camper that had been donated to them.

After selling the $20 tickets for a couple months, the club had sold about 450. By Thursday morning though, the number had jumped to 1,400 just from being out at the WE Fest grounds -- and WE Fest hadn't even started yet.

"There has been a lot of feedback about the Boys and Girls Club," Resource Development Director Sue Trnka said of the people they sold tickets to at WE Fest. "We've had a lot of people approach us. We've talked to a lot of people that say, this is a great cause."

Not only does the person with the winning ticket receive a 2012 21-foot Gulf Stream AmeriLite pull-behind travel trailer, they also receive VIP tickets and camping for next year's WE Fest (a $16,620 total value).

While the majority of the first 450 tickets sold were to people vying for the camper, the selling point on the WE Fest grounds has been the tickets for next year to see Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban.

"The camper is like the cherry on top," Trnka said. "It's just a different crowd."

And while there may be some younger people that would rather spend their $20 on beer, Trnka said when they tell them that $20 is half a membership for a kid for a year, it changes their outlook.

"It doesn't take much for them to say, 'you know what, I want to get one' or 'me and my buddy will go half,'" she said.

The camper was parked at the concert, and volunteers were out with tickets throughout the concert, with the winner to be announced right before Alabama took the stage Saturday.

"We've had some awesome volunteers. I can't say enough about them," Trnka said. "Some of them had nothing to do with our mission before this. They just volunteered because we had an incentive for them."

Lions Club

Probably the oldest running non-profit organization partnership out at WE Fest is the Lions Club. Partnering with WE Fest almost since the beginning of the festival, Armand Radke said they've been raffling tickets and providing games for concertgoers for at least 25 years.

"It started out, we sold raffle tickets for box seats and camping and pictures of the bowl itself that Caulfield Studio took," he said. "That transcended into a dunk tank and the raffle tickets."

The dunk tank went by the wayside eventually because it was too weather dependent, there was a problem finding someone willing to be dunked continuously, and there was a bit of a liability with the balls being thrown around the bowl and hitting random people.

"We decided that's not safe, so we went to the High Striker, which has been pretty fun because the guys, and occasionally the girls, can show off their macho-ness and ring the bell," Radke said.

People can then win trinkets for ringing the bell, and the Lions continue to sell raffle tickets for VIP packages for the following year courtesy of WE Fest.

"The raffle tickets have been the steady throughout the 25 years," Radke said.

All of the money raised from both the ticket sales and the striker attempts goes back to the Lions, which in turn donates to various charities and scholarships throughout the area and mission trips.

Besides raising funds for the club, there are several benefits that have nothing to do with money.

"One of the biggest things is the camaraderie amongst the Lions, working together. There are things that happen that are funny," he said. "And people, even the younger people, came up last night that say, 'we respect the Lions. Here's $5, I'll try to ring the bell, and here's another $5 just for donation.'"

He said the age of the club is a bit older than most at WE Fest, and it's fun to connect with the younger generation.

"Overall, I think it's a way to connect with the people out there and to tell them what we do -- eye mission work, hearing work, diabetes work, and you get a chance to explain where the money goes to.

"It maybe gives them an idea in their mind that a service group, maybe not the Lions but some service group, should be an important part of their life as far as a way to give back."

Passing the bucket

There are three times during the concerts when a bucket is passed through the crowd, each time the funds going to a different organization. Funds go to the North Country Food Bank, the American Cancer Society and the Lakes Crisis and Resource Center.

"They allow us to do a bucket drive," crisis center Executive Director Jan Logan said. "We go out and ask people to donate to us."

In return, the three organizations help out in their own way.

The food bank serves the food in the VIP tent, the cancer society delivers free skin screen at their booth, and the crisis center is available with any situations that develop at the three-day event that may warrant the crisis center.

"We have a great relationship with them. They're great to us," Logan said of WE Fest. "

She said on average, the crisis center raises about $2,500 from the bucket drive, though it varies each year.

"We've earned more some years, but I'd say average $2,500 to $3,000.

"It's certainly good for the economy of the community," she said, "and they have been wonderful to work with. They are very good to us."

WE Fest

While all the organizations are happy to work with WE Fest and raise funds for their causes, WE Fest organizers are just as happy to work with the organizations and their volunteers.

"It's good publicity for us and it gives us something to focus on other than WE Fest, WE Fest, WE Fest," said Dave Larson, who serves as promotions director as well as several other positions at WE Fest.

Secondly is manpower. Larson said he has about 1,000 volunteers for the event, all of who get a free pass to the concert.

"The food bank has 300 people onsite and they are volunteers that collect donations as well as serve the 20,000-plus meals we serve during the course of the event," he said.

Other non-profits they pair with, like the Historic Holmes Theatre, for example, provide a good way to distribute information for WE Fest.

"We use them to get into the campgrounds on Tuesday and Wednesday, which are the best days to sell raffle tickets, and then give them information about the shuttle, showers, gate openings and promotions we're having and have them hand out programs too," he said.

If it weren't for those 1,000 volunteers, WE Fest would have to staff that many more people, a bigger expense than giving out the day passes for volunteers to attend the concerts.

For example, having to hire out the shuttle busses, which is a fund-raiser for the Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce, would cost $30,000 to $40,000, Larson said.

"The shuttle system is a huge benefit to everybody -- traffic wise and safety wise."

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.