An investigation by the Stanford Review has revealed that Charity Fashion Show (CFS), a Stanford VSO, has yet to donate money to Kiva.org, the charity to which it pledged to give the proceeds of its May 2010 show. In an interview with the Review, Kiva.org confirmed that “Charity Fashion Show has not been able to provide a donation to Kiva at the moment due to unexpected financial difficulties.”
According to CFS Executive Director Thom Scher, over 1,500 people attended the event, which was billed as the “largest fashion show on the West Coast” by the event’s organizers. However, due to large fixed equipment costs, the event ran a deficit of approximately $5,000 and was thus unable to make a cash donation to Kiva. According to Scher, the budget deficit was ultimately covered by individual students involved with the organization.
Scher explained that CFS had rented sufficient equipment to host as many as 2,000 attendees. When ticket sales did not meet expectations, the event’s organizers attempted to “cut expenditures pretty substantially to try to get back into the positive,” Scher explained. “But a tent at that size with the necessary equipment that held up our end of the bargain with all of the designers and models that agreed to participate – you just can’t go cutting lights from an event like that.”
When asked why ticket sales were not as strong as expected, Scher remarked, “501c3s across the country had trouble, and it was difficult to put together events. The economy last year was rough.” He also noted that the choice to keep ticket prices down for students, which ran at $15 a head, “contributed to the deficit.”
This year’s charity, Kiva, a microfinance site that links lenders with borrowers in the developing world, was founded by Stanford alums. Scher said that the opportunity to partner with an organization with Stanford roots was a “brilliant idea” but one that became “increasingly complicated.”
Each year, CFS selects a charity to which it will donate the proceeds of its major spring show. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Doctors Without Borders received a donation of over $5000 from Charity Fashion Show in the spring of 2009.
Regarding the group’s inability to donate this year, Scher said, “[It was] something that we struggled with a lot. Since then, we have tried to find other ways of donating to Kiva.”
One of those ways has been to encourage individuals to make personal contributions to Kiva. Although those donations cannot be perfectly tracked, Scher indicated that he was “aware of over $1,500 in donations that were made by individuals,” a number which is “based on only a few individuals that notified [CFS] of their contributions.”
Scher emphasized that CFS has also fulfilled its commitment to public service in other ways, such as through its continued charity outreach programs with Boys & Girls Club of America and disadvantaged youth at local high schools in the Bay Area. He also noted that Charity Fashion Show’s “primary goal is arts promotion at Stanford and in the Bay.”
For the 2011 show, CFS’s directors have created a revised financial plan with a revised capacity estimate of 1,000 people. According to Scher, the new plan “will almost guarantee substantial charity donation.”
That donation, however, will likely not be to Kiva, this year’s partner. Although he declined to share the name of CFS’s new charity partner, Scher indicated that the group is attempting this school year to create “a Stanford event for Stanford by Stanford,” which will include a charity based at Stanford.
With its new focus and financial plan, CFS will recommit itself to its 2010 motto: “It’s charity, bitch.”