An effort to funnel downtown shoppers’ donations away from panhandlers and toward human service agencies through the Make It Count campaign in downtown Durango may be expanding.
Members of the Business Improvement District board of directors discussed augmenting some 50 Make It Count donation boxes around downtown with several other educational and fundraising efforts.
Some ideas to expand Make It Count:
Creating a round-it-up effort in which customers at restaurants and retail establishments can voluntarily round up their purchase prices to the next highest dollar.Placing old, brightly painted parking meters around town to collect coins.Placing one or two spiral wishing well coin-collection devices around town.Matching the first $1,000 in donations with funds from BID’s Special Projects Reserve Fund.In 2018, Make It Count raised $1,300, which was donated to the Homeless Outreach Program at Durango Christian Church. In 2017, $1,000 was raised and donated to Manna soup kitchen. In 2016, $1,000 was raised and donated to Volunteers of America Community Shelter.
Creating a round-it-up effort emerged as the most practical idea to put in place efficiently with cooperating restaurants and retail shops.
James Allred, owner of Eolus Bar and Dining, said most restaurants could set up software in their billing systems to accommodate a round-it-up campaign.
But he cautioned that if the effort was centered at one or two restaurants or shops, there might be “a fatigue factor.”
“You don’t want patrons saying, ‘Every time I go to Eolus I get hit up for this,’” he said.
One idea to avoid the fatigue factor was to have broad buy-in from downtown restaurants – perhaps creating a competition to see which one could raise the most donations for charity.
He suggested rotating the round-it-up campaign in three-week periods to various businesses in town so no one or two businesses are burdened with carrying the campaign.
Tim Walsworth, BID executive director, also said educational efforts would be needed to convey to waiters the goals of the Make It Count campaign: To spread the word that donations to charitable agencies are better than direct handouts to panhandlers.
Board member David Moler, owner of Durango Rivertrippers and Discovery Map of Durango, said BID had to ensure it was clear and transparent about how the donations would be spread to nonprofits.
Other ideas to expand the Make It Count campaign were more difficult to execute.
Walsworth said charitable fundraising campaigns that had used parking meters as donation devices cost more to keep the parking meters functioning than the donations they collected.
Placing spiral wishing wells around downtown created logistic costs in collecting the donations and also in finding spaces where they could be placed.