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Community:Public offering

Local AIDS fundraising goes from niche targets to mainstream appeal

It’s hard to comprehend the fundraising challenges of HIV/AIDS advocacy groups when 34 million people live with HIV, which still has no cure and no vaccine. And nonprofits battling the virus and the disease it causes face diminishing federal funds and grant money — nonprofits such as Aid for AIDS of Nevada (AFAN), which assists some 4,000 affected clients.

But amid those challenges, it’s been expanding its donor base in interesting ways. Formerly, AFAN supporters have traditionally leaned mostly Left Coast and pivoted a bit toward Wall Street. Lately, though, Main Street is increasingly represented on the nonprofit’s patron brag sheet. Sure, it’s still got its classic base of support in the entertainment realm (Penn & Teller, Celine Dion) cultivated over AFAN’s 30-year existence. But when Antioco Carrillo became AFAN’s executive director two years ago, he altered the blueprint.

“AFAN has a long history of adapting to changes of the HIV/AIDS in the community,” says Carrillo. “Managing a 30-year old organization that constantly adapts to the needs of the community requires a philosophical shift that allows us to reconceptualize how to operate the organization.”

Support comes from

“His focus changed from a gay and lesbian initiative to a real public-health initiative, and that expanded the outreach to more companies … because it was everyone’s issue,” adds Kirk Ryder, AFAN’s director of business development. “So we could go to a construction company and say, ‘You’re affected on some level.’” A glance at the donor roster these days reveals food and beverage outfits, real-estate agencies and even construction companies. To further expand its reach, AFAN also began talking up its Kids’ Campus, which provides support for those under 18, and Holiday Toy Drive for families using AFAN services — a tactic to reach less traditional donors.

Case in point: Henderson-based InCorp, which provides registered agent/corporate compliance services, is deeply involved with the children’s programs at AFAN. “It gives us all immense gratification to know we’ve helped these kids with this debilitating disease have a normal childhood for a second,” says Karolyn Knight, InCorp’s director of affiliate relations.

When AFAN decided to rely less on grants from large corporations and banks and more on individual companies, it framed the pitch in terms of mutual benefit — and a sense of partnership. “It’s a team-building experience,” says Ryder, “getting them involved in the process in what happens when they give those dollars, and one of our 4,000 clients gets to go to a doctor’s appointment.”

Such an arrangement appealed to Marisa Endy, LEV Restaurants’ director of marketing and community relations. She offered to place toy bins in LEV’s Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and Jamba Juice locations during AFAN’s toy drive. “They’re great at cross-promoting and raising awareness,” she says. “It’s always mutually beneficial. The energy is there and alive.”

Other partnerings came as a pleasant surprise even to AFAN — such as when it was approached by Joe Henderson, vice president and in-house counsel for construction company Henderson Steel. Turns out Henderson has friends with HIV who also use AFAN’s services. “In construction, there’s a stereotype that we’re a bunch of rough guys and that we won’t care about HIV,” says Henderson. “That’s not the reality of the situation. My employees have been more caring and open-minded than that.” Henderson Steel is now a staple sponsor of AFAN’s Black & White Party.

AFAN’s other large event, AIDS Walk, has attracted similar Main Street support. At 12,000 participants, AIDS Walk underscores the breadth of the HIV/AIDS crisis — but also the potential for a community to rally for its cause. And sometimes that community is just a set of cubicles or a plate-processing machine or a cash register away. 

AFAN’s Black & White Party is Aug. 23 at the Joint at the Hard Rock. Info: afanlv.org

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