Barcade Benefit for Heartland Housing

The Project

For our fundraiser, we held an event at Emporium, an adult arcade located in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago. To raise funds, Emporium donated tokens free of charge and allowed us to sell them to bar patrons. At the end of the night, the agreement was to take the proceeds from sales and close out the drink ticket tab; we also paid a 15% gratuity to the bar staff.

We structured our prices as follows, with our take from bags sold being $4:

  • $10 – 1 drink ticket worth $6 and $5 worth of arcade game tokens
  • $4 – $5 worth of arcade game tokens

In addition to selling tokens and drink tickets, Emporium allowed us to bring food into the venue to sell to patrons. We secured 2 20-inch pizzas as donations from Dante’s and sold slices for $5 per piece.

We purchased a Square card reader for a nominal charge, so we were able to accept cash, cards, and VenMo at the event (note for future teams:  Square charges a small percentage fee per transaction).

With this project, we were able to create value for everyone involved, with patrons saving $1 per bag and donating to charity, our team making $4 per bag to donate to our charity, and Emporium benefiting from the sale of drinks to patrons who likely would not otherwise be there on a Thursday night.

Prior to and during the event, we also accepted donations online through a page set up by Heartland Alliance.

The Charity

We chose to work with Heartland Housing, a division of Heartland Alliance, as the benefactor of our event. Heartland Housing was established in 1988 and develops and manages sustainable, innovative and high-quality affordable housing so that the most vulnerable can live with dignity. They house seniors, veterans, people with AIDS, homeless and near-homeless single people and families, ex-offenders, and workers, all who need an affordable, stable place to call home. Safe, decent, and affordable housing is key to a person’s economic security, and unstable housing can catalyze poverty and homelessness.

As a member of Heartland Alliance, Heartland Housing comes from a rich history of social service. Heartland Alliance was formed in Chicago in 1888 by Jane Addams, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and widely recognized as the founder of the social work profession in the United States. The Alliance is active in over 100 communities in 12 countries, directly helps 400,000, and impacts over 7 million through advocacy and policy change. In 2016 alone the Alliance housed over 30,000 people.

Analysis of our success

Our goals for this event were to raise funds and awareness for Heartland Housing. We estimated our total proceeds as follows:

  • $300 on the low end
  • $1000 on the high end
  • $600 as a realistic donation

At the event itself, we raised $433.39 after expenses (gratuities and payment for drink tickets). We also raised $210 in the form of online donations, for a total just above our realistic expectations, $643.39.

Project Management Lessons Learned

Scope Creep is real – When our event was planned, each member of the team continued to think of ideas to make it more effective. Some of these were a net positive and fit with the mission (e.g. selling bags of tokens without drink tickets for those who either want drinks that cost more than $6 or do not drink; providing food for sale to patrons who might enjoy it with their beverages), while some did not (e.g. inviting patrons to bring their dogs to the event; having a silent auction taking place throughout the event).

Role Creep is also real – Our team coined this term to describe the phenomenon of one of the team members who was not the project manager taking on a large role for the planning and execution of the event. In project management, an effective project manager must keep tasks on schedule and know when (and when not to) step in and help. Since this was a passion project for one of our team members, that person had no problem serving as the main point of contact for the charity and bar, while our project manager ensured deadlines were met.

Through all the planning, life is happening – A few days before our event, our main point of contact at the bar had a family emergency arise and needed to leave town. Fortunately, we were able to get in contact with a new point of contact and confirm everything was a go. However, the lesson applies to other projects, as one cannot predict when something unforeseen will arise.

Advice for future teams

Make sure when planning your event to step outside your comfort zones and sell the event to people, not just in your immediate circle, but also people in the neighborhood, friends of friends, etc. If we had not passed out fliers at the public transportation stops in the area, our attendance turnout would have been substantially lower.

Talk to local businesses to receive donations, whether cash or other items. Just by asking, we were able to get the food for our event donated, and also did not have to pay for event space. The worst that can happen is they say no.

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