Fundraisers fight rising costs

Up for auction tonight: the chance to be a character in an upcoming novel by an award-winning writer. Not interested? How about seven nights in a Paris apartment in the same neighborhood Pablo Picasso used to call home? Or perhaps your very own l...

Up for auction tonight: the chance to be a character in an upcoming novel by an award-winning writer. Not interested? How about seven nights in a Paris apartment in the same neighborhood Pablo Picasso used to call home? Or perhaps your very own luxury playhouse?

Those are only three of 135 items up for auction at the Miller-Dwan Foundation's eighth annual ArtCetera, which has evolved into perhaps the city's best-known and most-anticipated charity event.

This year, ArtCetera organizers have set a goal of raising $250,000, a far cry from the first ArtCetera, when Miller-Dwan Foundation president Pat Burns said the goal was to raise a net of $30,000 and ended up with $105,000.

Since then, Burns said the event has generated more money nearly each year, and the stakes are constantly being upped to offer more-creative auction items.

As the cost of medical care continues to skyrocket, local fundraisers for Duluth's two major health-care systems have had to change their strategies to make sure philanthropy needs are met.


"As medicine has become more sophisticated, the costs go really high,' Burns said. "If we want to have that stuff here, we need to come together as a community.'

St. Luke's Foundation, the fundraising arm for St. Luke's hospital, three years ago began its Circle of Light event, which includes a silent and live auction.

This year's event, held Sept. 15, raised $85,000, according to Catherine Carter Huber, executive director of St. Luke's Foundation, all of which went to the hospital's new digital mammography system.

The money raised nets a significant amount of the foundation's end-of-the-year goal of $700,000.

The rest of the money goes toward what Carter Huber called "the softer side of health care': underwriting hospice care and paying for supplies and equipment and other services that typically wouldn't get attention from the hospital.

"The hospital is dependent on the foundation for providing financial resources, patient care, health education and clinical research,' she said.

But Carter Huber said the event is more than about raising money.

"One of our goals is to raise awareness about what's happening at the hospital,' she said.


For the SMDC Foundation, executive director Steven Johnston said the focus has been taken off fundraisers.

"It's an expensive way to raise money,' Johnston said.

Instead, the SMDC Foundation puts the majority of its efforts into working with major donors, those who typically give $10,000 or more. The SMDC and Miller-Dwan foundations both have ties to SMDC Health System.

"There probably are a dozen gifts that make up 60 to 70 percent of the total we've raised,' Johnston said.

The effort has paid off. Since 2002, the foundation has nearly tripled the amount of money raised, to $1.5 million in 2006.

Of that, $120,000 was raised from the SMDC Foundation's four events: the Dragon Boat Festival, the Polo Match, the Curling Bonspiel and a celebrity golf outing.

"We've made sure that besides raising money, the event is very unique and publicity-generating,' he said.

ArtCetera may be when Miller-Dwan Foundation is most visible in the community, but it's not its biggest fundraiser.


Of the $2.2 million raised by the Miller-Dwan Foundation last year, Burns said $231,000 came from the 2005 ArtCetera event.

The majority of the foundation's money came from solicitation, mailings and meetings with donors.

Money raised from the 2005 and 2006 ArtCetera will go toward the foundation's Solvay Hospice House, which will have 12 private bedrooms for end-of-life care.

"We only do one event a year, and we make sure to do it really well,' Burns said.

The key to raising more money each year, Burns said, is to be creative and offer more interesting items.

Last year, the chance for someone to be a character in a novel went for $7,000.

This year, a similar prize will also be offered, along with several pieces of art, a 2007 Ford Focus, the chance to become a superhero in your own 12-page comic book or several trips, including one to Babbitt to tour a taconite mine and blow a mine charge.

But an auction item wasn't even close to the major attraction. Last year was the introduction of three luxury playhouses, designed by local architect John Ivey Thomas and built by local union carpenters and painters, all on volunteer time.


Last year's homes were auctioned for a total of $50,000, a bargain considering that $80,000 worth of labor and $15,000 to $20,000 worth of materials went into them, according to Guthrie Hebenstreit, Miller-Dwan Foundation's special events and grants specialist.

The only prize the general public can get is one of the playhouses -- available this year through a raffle. The $150-per-person tickets to ArtCetera, Burns said, sold out five weeks ago.

But don't be discouraged: There's always next year, where there are sure to be more inventive items up for auction.

"We get people together and brainstorm things we'd like to see,' she said. "I think we'll be creative every year.'

BRANDON STAHL covers health care. He can be reached weekdays at (218) 720-4154 or by e-mail at .

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