The Lafayette Art and Wine Festival is one of the largest annual events in Lamorinda, with over 80,000 attendees every year! I had long been thinking about leveraging the festival to fundraise for Autism Speaks. So after my mom showed me a festival ad for the event, I decided to give it a try to see if we could get a booth there. I approached the festival organizers and explained to them what we wanted to do, they listened and kindly offered me a discounted booth. However, we were really short on funds so I tried very hard to lobby for even better terms.  Finally, we came to an agreement: Art for Change would send its members to do volunteer work for the festival in exchange for a free booth at the festival! (Special thanks should also go to Sara Regan from the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce for her generosity in working out the arrangement and kindly gifting us a free booth, and Jackie Forsythe from Autism Speaks for her patience in answering my ten million questions and for providing us with Autism Speaks’ tax ID to make the arrangement possible).

Preparing for the festival literally took three months, but every second of it was absolutely worth it. On September 17th, we were all excited and ready to go! However, it became extremely hot: on both days, the temperature peaked at over 100 ºF! Yet we persisted, registered 20 hours of nonstop advertising over the course of two days, played music and approached over 3000 passersby to explain what we were doing and to ask for donations. Everyone on the team was extremely passionate about Autism Speaks and eager to do his/her part, and there was also great cooperation among team members. Our efforts paid off handsomely: the live music performances attracted crowds of people, while our hand-made arts and crafts captured the attention of the little kids. We managed to raise $2118.16 in just two days! Of course, none of our events and achievements would have been possible without the dedication and assistance from countless individuals and several organizations who deserve a big thank you.

In addition, we received a lot of feedback from our volunteers, which can be summarized as follows:

Better displays are needed for the artworks. People with kids will be more inclined to donate if in addition to giving to a great cause, their kids can also get a really cool gift out of it.

The volunteers should wear something that is Autism Speaks related, that way passersby can easily tell that we are raising money for Autism Speaks. Also, we seem a lot more professional than when we’re wearing whatever we want.