In a time of dwindling corporate donations, fund-raising activists are forced to get creative. And they are finding that people are more likely to surrender their nickels, dimes and quarters to familiar collection contraptions--parking meters and bus-fare boxes.
It all began with Norman Gershenz, a conservation biologist and member of the San Francisco Zoo animal-keeper staff. "I wanted to do something to preserve entire ecosystems," says Gershenz. "I realized that if each person who cared about wildlife conservation donated just one nickel, the collective impact would be great." So he installed a Conservation Parking Meter at the zoo to raise money for the Ecosystem Survival Plan, which he founded in 1987. ESP is a consortium of zoos, aquariums and wildlife groups that helps save endangered habitats around the world. Now more than 30 zoos (though not the L.A. or San Diego zoos) and aquariums have the meters. The Nature Company also has them at all 10 of its Southern California stores and most of its other 150 locations. The meters so far have raked in more than $250,000.
If small change can help save rain forests, why can't it help fund AIDS projects? That thought occurred last March to Rick R. Prickett, marketing director of the San Diego Theatre League, after he spotted one of the Conservation Meters. So Prickett founded Care Fare, a registered charity that has placed about 20 refurbished bus-fare boxes at various spots around town to collect donations for several AIDS-related organizations. Donations are nearing $20,000. "The Care Fare boxes reach an entirely new group of people," says Prickett, "and the boxes do their job quietly."