Ecumen Bethany Gets Creamed in Slapstick Fundraiser

The staff at Ecumen Bethany in Alexandria, Minn. got all whipped up about the annual Ecumen Employee Giving Campaign this year.  When the event planning committee first got together, there was polite grousing.

As reported by Carla Nienaber, the adult day services coordinator and committee chair, the planners were insisting on fresh new ideas.

A strong sentiment to do something that didn’t require eating drove the discussion. “Have you ever noticed that fundraising is always around food?” Carla said.

And so the brainstorming began.  A dunk tank?  No, it’s just too darn cold for a dunk tank. A staff lock- up? No, too hard to take staff off the floor.  And so on…

Finally, the breakthrough came:  How about enticing the staff to give by allowing them to throw cream pies at selected colleagues.  Eight staffers were chosen to be targets of pie tosses based on their willingness to be good sports and the likelihood that other people would pay to cream them. 

Then there were the logistics. How do you make a big whipped-cream mess without destroying the chapel.  Easy.  Just wrap the room in plastic, as if it were about to be painted.

And how do you construct the pies?  It turns out that throwing whipped cream in pie shells is cumbersome, and the shells are a little rough around the edges.  But lots of whipped cream spewed on 9-inch foam plates works pretty well.

Then the whisper campaign began.  Wouldn’t you like to get some revenge on that person who was crabby to you yesterday or has been hovering over your every move?  Here’s your big chance…  (A little devious, maybe.  “But it worked, didn’t it?” Carla said.)

Enthusiasm grew quickly and the day of the event came.  Pent-up desire to heave whipped cream turned out to be overwhelming.   This was an employee event, so the residents didn’t participate, but Carla said they were positively giddy, seeing the staff wallowing in whipped cream.  So much so that the Residents’ Council is considering organizing its own version of the event.

When the fling was over and the creamy mess cleaned up, the Ecumen Bethany Employee Giving Campaign event raised $1,633.

Ecumen Foundation Specialist Alex Hiniker, who runs the Ecumen Employee Giving Campaign company-wide, put the results in perspective.  “That’s a ton!” she said.  “Especially for one event.”

And how much whipped cream did they go through?  “A lot,” Carla said.  “To tell the truth, I was afraid to ask.”

Then Carla set her sights on the future.  “This worked so well, I think we’ll refine it for next year.  I have this idea that we could do a dunk tank — filled with whipped cream.”

Ecumen’s annual Employee Giving Campaign grew out of a “Family Helping Family” program that provided loans and grants to employees in need, financed by company-wide employee contributions.  In recent years, the Employee Giving Campaign has been extended to allow employees to give to any charitable cause of their choice.  In 2013, the campaign raised about $78,000 and 85 percent of the contributions went to Ecumen programs.  Family Helping Family received 37 percent; another 30 percent was given to individual Ecumen communities; and 18 percent went to Ecumen’s Greatest Needs program, which funds initiatives such as helping residents stay in their homes when their money runs out.  The remaining 15 percent went to outside charitable organizations.  Ecumen is proud of the generosity of its caring employees, who work every day to help our residents live life to its fullest.