Creative Non-Profit Marketing: Tips from the Real Housewives

I'm not afraid to admit that I'm a fan of the Real Housewives of New York City. You can call watching it a frivolous waste of time, but if it's the way I want to unwind after a long day, then so be it. (And I know I'm not alone because the ratings for RHoNYC's season finale jumped 50 percent from its debut!)

But regardless of your feelings toward the show or the ladies in it, I think it's hard to deny that they know one or two things about big events—both attending them and planning them. After all, they seem to have some big New York event on their social agenda at least once or twice every week, and many of them, at least in the show, planned events of their own for various charitable and non-profit organizations.

Over the weekend I was watching "Unfashionably Late" (which actually aired a few weeks ago, but I'm behind on my Tivo). In it, housewife Alex goes to a fitting for an item that her husband Simon bought at last year's Go Green Expo: a FEED bag corset. Designed by couturier Maggie Norris, it was made from three FEED burlap bags along with buttons from a military jacket, leather from a pair of boots, and other found objects.

A little background: the non-profit FEED Project's mission is to "create products that help FEED the world." In an effort to help raise funds for the UN World Food Program's school-feeding operations, the organization produces and sells FEED tote bags, wallets, even teddy bears. Alex's corset was obviously a unique item, which Simon had bought at the expo for $7,000.

Certainly, the corset itself is questionable for those with a fashion sense, but I have to give credit to Alex for raising awareness and to the non-profit group for its clever methods of promotion. As Alex blogged, "What a great way to send a message to the world—and different than a t-shirt or hat."

These days, non-profits need to be even more creative when it comes to fundraising and spreading the word about their respective organizations. But a couture corset? If it gets the job done (and I'd say it did, considering the price tag and the fact that Alex was photographed wearing it at the opening of NYC's Metropolitan Opera), then it just proves that nothing is off limits.

What are some of the most creative—and successful—items you've used to raise money for your non-profit and/or to boost promotion for your charity event? For those not involved in an association, what are some of the most memorable event marketing pieces you've seen?
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