Here’s a safer idea: Give a donation of $50 to the worthwhile charity of your choice this week and then deceptively blur your words together — say it fast: “Amazing Raise” — and you might just secure bragging rights among your more easily impressed friends.
That’s not exactly the spirit of giving that contestants — hundreds of area nonprofits registered as beneficiaries in the Amazing Raise — and organizers of the second “season” of the Amazing Raise are banking on, but it’s close enough as the Raise kicks off Wednesday morning at 6 a.m. with all those charities vying over the next 36 hours not only for donations from people like us, but also for a chance at a slice of the $100,000 pie that will be distributed among the biggest fundraisers.*
When Give Richmond and the Community Foundation launched the Amazing Raise last year, Commonwealth Autism Service was an enthusiastic participant, cheering when they managed to raise $6,675 for their cause, including $2,500 of that awarded for meeting a challenge benchmark of getting a certain number of $50 donations within a set period of time. But this year, the race — er, Raise — means just a bit more.
Earlier this year, July to be exact, the organization acquired the Dominion School for Autism, a necessary if expensive kindergarten through high school program for autistic children.
“We’ve been involved with them in the way of training, support, consultation for some time,” says Commonwealth Autism Service President and CEO John Toscano. “Through this process, the founders of the school recognized the value of the school would be strengthened by an association with us — they realized there would be a value in us managing them.”
That said, all the management in the world still relies on money to make those services available to the seemingly ever-expanding pool of children diagnosed with autism.
Currently the Dominion School has about 20 kids, says Carol Minter, Commonwealth Autism’s community outreach coordinator, who also is serving as team captain for the Amazing Raise this week. And though those 20 kids keep the school plenty occupied, “we have room for more students to come.”
The current capacity of the program allows about 36 students, though the need, Minter says, is without doubt much greater.
But it’s an expensive program to run. At a cost of about $37,000 yearly per student, Minter says Commonwealth Autism tries to subsidize that cost as much as it can, providing grants to eligible families to pay for part or all of the program. Private health insurance also picks up the tab for some families, though Medicaid currently isn’t accepted.
Minter says Commonwealth Autism is trying to stay modest about its Amazing Raise ambitions: “$10,000 is our goal, and all of that money is going to the school” for purchase of new — and needed — technology to aid students in training and communication.
Still, even if they’re not betting the farm on the top $20,000 prize, Minter says, the stakes are no less dramatic when you’re in the middle of the race.
“It’s kind of addicting,” says Minter, who will arrive at the office around 5:30 a.m. Wednesday to launch a blitz marketing campaign among the organization’s regular donors. While doing that, she says, “you’re constantly watching the leader board.”
* Full disclosure: This blogger has a radio show broadcast by one eligible nonprofit, the Virginia Center for the Public Press.