The Charles Regional Medical Center Foundation has hosted an autumn wine tasting and silent auction annually for over two decades, and the event has grown now to include about 1,000 guests, more than one dozen food vendors, over 30 offerings of wine and specialty ales and beverages, and a silent auction. They have traditionally netted over six figures from that event in the last couple years.
“It’s a far cry from the beginning when we used to host them at historic homes and we would raise $7,000 and spend $6,000,” said Susan Mudd Vogel, Executive Director of the Foundation. “Our event has been held the last decade at the Port Tobacco Courthouse, so when COVID-19 hit in March, they were shut down and we couldn’t responsibly host.”
So, the Foundation made the out-of-the-box move to take the fundraiser, which normally involves approximately 1,000 guests mingling, wine tasting, and grazing on food for 4-5 hours, and make it into a curbside, contactless event. “We hoped that the community would get excited about something in the fall when other nonprofits were having to cancel,” said Vogel. “We just felt like, if we could figure out how to do this in some good way, we should.”
They identified new opportunities for sponsorship, pulled packages together with their wine and beverage partners, and put together a passport where food vendors made food and discounts available to participants that last between now and December 31. “People could buy our wine tasting package and know that they didn’t have to eat all the food in the same day like they used to,” said Vogel. “They could take their time and visit one food vendor and get their discount that time and then visit the others later.”
They moved their auction online. That was advantageous because people from all over could participate in the auction. “You didn’t have to attend our event to see the items on your computer screen and bid,” said Vogel. They also added commemorative items this year like a cutting board and a blanket that had “#sixfeetapart” embroidered on it. Those items were made available at a lower price, so if people didn’t want to buy a wine package, they could still participate in the fundraiser with the purchase of an item or two.
The event was held on September 12, and it was produced as a drive through where guests came safely in their vehicles to the hospital and picked up their wine and commemorative glasses that they had ordered. They received a passport to use later with food vendors. When it was over, the foundation had raised about $75,000, and without the added expense of an open bar for four hours, tents, transportation, and rentals, they had netted $67,000. Vogel said, “We had a very strong return on our investment and the funds generated are earmarked directly for the needs at the medical center.”
“I think it was well received,” said Vogel. “We had our sponsors come by and pick up their packages, and they could distribute the items to their coworkers or clients. We had individuals who would pick their packages up and go home and social distance and pop open a bottle of wine and maybe enjoy with their neighbors safely.”
When asked if they would do this again, she said, “As the hospital, we always have to be mindful of the safety of our community. I’m not opposed to it. I think the nonprofits who can succeed in that arena will be successful. You just have to keep an open mind and keep it fresh.”
The Foundation still has a few auction items available for purchase through October 31. Visit their web page to make a purchase and support our local hospital!