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CeDAR's rocking anniversary illustrates power of fundraising events

February 9, 2011
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Concert performance by Bon Jovi helps raise $1 million for facility

Patience and a stroke of good fortune were largely responsible for an unexpectedly rousing success last month for the Center for Dependency, Addiction and Rehabilitation (CeDAR) at the University of Colorado Hospital.

A five-year-old addiction treatment organization for which fundraising events had not been a prominent strategy raised $1 million at a Jan. 21 anniversary event featuring a rare small-venue performance by rock legends Bon Jovi.

“We started out saying, ‘Let’s have a little dinner to mark our five-year anniversary,’” says CeDAR executive director Frank Lisnow. That concept would morph into an event at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver that featured 1,200 attendees, the Bon Jovi concert, and appearances by comedian Sinbad and football Hall of Famer John Elway.

The organization’s connection with the Anschutz Foundation (CeDAR is located on the Anschutz Medical Campus) led CeDAR to the Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) Live and the president of its Rocky Mountain regional operation, longtime concert promoter Chuck Morris.

That would lead to the booking of Bon Jovi, who performed for more than an hour at the January event, as well as the donation of a variety of music memorabilia and premium concert tickets for a silent auction. Lisnow believes that the event’s success would not have been possible earlier on in CeDAR’s history.

“Most of our events have been small, such as lunch and learns,” Lisnow says. “We waited until we were who we now are,” which is a facility with a strong national reputation for treatment rooted in the 12 Steps but committed to current thinking in integrated, whole-health care.

Lisnow admits that he was concerned about plans to sell tables for the event in amounts ranging from $2,500 to $50,000. But every available space sold. “We have a community that cares about our vision and our mission,” he says.

In addition, 200 CeDAR alumni received the opportunity to attend the gala event free of charge, helping to keep the focus on the service CeDAR provides.

The experience taught CeDAR a great deal about the potential of events in contributing to an overall fundraising strategy. It also offered an affirmation that the organization has made its mark in the treatment industry.

CeDAR has broken through in a marketplace that has been defined nationally by a small number of iconic facilities and their leaders, Lisnow indicates.