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Street Fairs Are A Great Way to Raise Funds For Your Community

Every town and city can run street fairs and support their community through a grant or grants to non-profit organizations striving to improve quality of life for its community, or plant trees, improve parks, etc. Proceeds from the "renting" of booth space in the street can fund these programs.

The Manhattan Chamber of Commerce (MCC) has been helping over 130 nonprofit organizations for 10 years through the running of the 2nd Ave. & 3rd Ave. Street Fairs. Through its affiliate, The MCC Community Benefit Fund, MCC has contributed $1 million from 1992 to 2004, to not-for-profit community-based organizations for programs which help improve quality of life ranging from health and welfare to educational and cultural enrichment, homeless, elderly programs, etc. In addition, another $1.0 million has been raised through the CBF raffle ticket program run through the fairs increasing MCC's total contribution to $2.0 million since 1992.

These street fairs consist of one mile of great food, shopping and entertainment from 66th to 86th Streets with over one million people attending each year. This provides a unique way for New Yorkers to gain access to more than 1000 businesses and non-profits located on these blocks. The purpose of these events is to improve the local economy and to build a better community by raising money and distributing it to non-profit neighborhood groups. There are over 800 booths and entertainment stages. Each booth is actually a 10x10' space on the street from the curb out. Participants "rent" the space. Many of the "renters" are shops and restaurants on the street as well as crafters, antique vendors, etc. Local radio stations and publications take over the stages and line up children's programming, jazz, rock and roll, etc. Non-profit organizations wishing to get more visibility for their programs are offered free spaces. So it is a great mix of shopping, entertainment and community outreach!

Those monies raised through space rentals are used to pay the expenses and go into the grant program. Decisions regarding which organizations are awarded grants are made according to the nature of the program. The categories include health and human services, education, arts and culture, economic development, education/arts and culture, civic affairs, and public issues. An actual Grant Committee is set up to review the applications and vet the organizations.

There are organizations that re-apply every year for the MCC Community Benefit Fund Grants. For example, the "Roosevelt Island Disabled Association" has been awarded a grant every single time since 1992. Its program is basically the same every year: either subsidizing the transportation to disabled people by hospital audiences Omni Buses (each trip costs $475) or buying equipment for an Arts & Crafts Program. While the "Roosevelt Island Disabled Association" has received the grant every year, The Doe Fund organization has collected the highest amount of proceeds to support its homeless program. This program called Ready, Willing and Able consists of employing formerly homeless people to help them reintegrate back into society. Their philosophy is "work works", and it does.

In addition to the grants, the annual MCC's Community Benefit Raffle Ticket Program plays an important role in helping not-for-profit organizations on the eastside follow through with their projects. This raffle program consists of supplying 400,000 tickets to over 65+ organizations, schools and social services agencies. Each organization distributes the tickets, taking donations for each one and keeps the money collected to use towards their community programs. In the year 2004, raffle proceeds alone totaled $64,000, and over $1 million has been raised over the past 10 years.

The Manhattan Chamber of Commerce was recently recognized as a finalist for the 2004 US Chamber of Commerce Corporate Citizenship Award for the street fair/community payback program.

We encourage all businesses, chambers and community organizations to consider a street fair in your own community.


Author: Nancy Ploeger

Manhattan Chamber of Commerce 215 Park Ave. South/1255, NY, NY 10003 http://www.manhattancc.org/marketplace/about/about_detail.cfm?QID=103&ClientID= 11001

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