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The giving party: Making giving fun

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By Rosie Molinary

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — It’s the type of investment that wealth managers only dream about — leveraging $300 in three hours to produce $18,000 of impact.

With the success going far beyond what Perri Kersh dreamed of when she conceived the Giving Party in September 2007, she’s already planning on Giving Party 2008.

Kersh, the owner of Chapel Hill-based Neat Freak Professional Organizing, helps clients who are overwhelmed by the stuff in their lives, diligently encouraging them to “consume” less.

When she happened to see an Oprah interview with Bill Clinton about his book, Giving, she was struck by the many ways one can contribute to the greater good.

Distracted, she moved from the television to her computer to check her e-mail.

“I had three invitations for ‘sip and shop’ parties,” she says.  “After watching that show, I thought, ‘What if there was a party where, instead of buying stuff, you had the opportunity to donate to a charity in honor of someone you love?’”

Inspired, she recruited friends to help her plan and host the event.

Together, they conceived the Thursday-evening party, with selected nonprofits present to receive donations, mostly over e-mail, meeting in person just two times.

A gift card, using the party logo that an artist created for them and a local printer produced for free, would be provided for every gift.

With a few donations of food and wine, the event was ready.

Two hundred friends received e-vites and, ultimately, 65 people attended the party in Chapel Hill to make donations to Family Violence Prevention Center of Orange County, Communities in Schools, DonorsChoose and World Vision.

Donations were made on-site, or contributors used one of the laptops provided to support a nonprofit of their choice.

“World Vision set aside the names of specific children for that evening,” says Kersh.  “Thirteen people chose to support a child for $35 a month. I found a child that was born the day after my daughter.  I thought that would be a neat gift for [my kids] for Christmas.  [They can] learn about a place and about how kids live differently around the world.”

At the party, Laura Brader-Araje, there to represent DonorsChoose, an online marketplace matching donors with public school teachers, surprised each guest with $100 gift certificate from her family foundation to be used on the DonorsChoose site.

After shopping, guests anonymously dropped a piece of paper with the amount they had donated in The Giving Box.

The grand total, without the $6,500 from the Brader-Araje Foundation, was $11,580.

A toast and Kersh’s tears ended the night.

“The entire budget for this party was $300,” she says.  “We had decided that we would feel good about $5,000.  When we more than doubled that, we were just blown away.”

Learn more about the event at http://givingparty.wordpress.com.

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