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New Winefest strategies, beneficiaries


Last year, Winefest Des Moines, a non-profit organization, presented the proceeds of its inaugural event, $20,000, to the Principal Riverwalk project. A week before the 2004 festival, June 3 to 5, its leaders predicted that this year’s proceeds will be at least double that. Last year during the final week of preparations, the organization had received $180,000 in cash and in-kind donations. This year, the group had more than $500,000.

Area businesses are now more familiar with Winefest, and the its organizers have developed a new strategy for seeking sponsors. “We try to get businesses to look at it as an investment rather than a charitable contribution,” said Karrie Weinhardt, director of Winefest. “I don’t just ask for a donation on those calls; I bring them something that’s going to benefit their business.”

Weinhardt attributes the shift in strategy to professional training. At an International Festival and Event Association conference, she met people who make the charitable-giving choices for major companies. They told her they look for a cause that will help people, but will also benefit their companies or their workers. Now Weinhardt researches a company and its giving patterns before approaching it about being a sponsor.

Winefest received a major boost when Dahl’s Food Marts agreed to be presenting sponsor for the 2004 event. The amount of the sponsorship is not being released.

“Their overall demographic was a good match for us,” Weinhardt said. “There was a great opportunity there to build on the Winefest brand in Dahl’s stores year-round.”

“I liked the cultural aspect of the event, and wanted to contribute to that and to our community,” said David Sinnwell, president and CEO of the supermarket chain. “We’re always looking for ways to make Dahl’s the best place to shop and to work, and to make Des Moines a better place to live.”

Sinnwell says a lot of the people who shop in Dahl’s stores are the same people who will visit Winefest, as evidenced by the high attendance at the chain’s wine seminars. He also said the event is important because it makes Central Iowa a more attractive place for current and potential employees. He says Des Moines has to nurture is cultural attractions, such as the planned Riverwalk, the Des Moines Art Center and the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines, to compete with cities like Minneapolis, St. Louis and Chicago for workers.

“I think Winefest will become as large as the Des Moines Arts Festival over time, and I’m excited to be a part of it,” Sinnwell said.

This year, Winefest chose the Greater Des Moines Cultural Alliance as its beneficiary. That group, which is currently undergoing reorganization, was to distribute the cash to the following cultural attractions: Blank Park Zoo, Living History Farms, Metro Arts Alliance, Des Moines Playhouse, Civic Center of Greater Des Moines, Science Center of Iowa, Civic Music Association, State Historical Society of Iowa, Des Moines Symphony, Salisbury House Foundation, Hoyt Sherman Place, Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines Botanical Center, Des Moines Metro Opera, and the Iowa Youth Choruses. Despite the fact that the Cultural Alliance will disband and a new organization will take its place, Winefest’s money will still reach its intended targets, according to Leann Brunnette, a Cultural Alliance consultant.

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