The Arc of Loudoun and its Executive Director Lisa Kimball sure do know how to get in the Halloween spirit.
SHOCKTOBER, Northern Virginia’s only REAL haunted house experience, has been a destination event for almost a decade. The signature fundraising event has become so successful that last year, it accounted for almost 50% of the chapter’s fundraising budget. SHOCKTOBER is recognized as one of the best haunted houses in the DC/MD/VA area, and has provided an opportunity to build strong community partnerships, give back to the community, and more.
Fundraising is essential for any chapter of The Arc. Can you tell us a little about your chapter’s fundraising success? Do you find more success with individual giving in your region, or signature events like the Shocktober fundraiser?
As is the case for any nonprofit, fundraising is essential to our success, enabling us to fulfill our mission to empower, embrace, and engage adults and children with disabilities and their families. Our signature fundraisers include traditional fare. Our hallmark fundraising event, however, is very much off-the-beaten-path. We have a haunted house on our campus – not just the usual run-of-the-mill haunted house, but a 150-year old historical mansion that’s transformed into a thoroughly professional, PG-13-level haunt that requires guests to sign waivers before beginning their tours!
From a first-year gross revenue of about $40k (which absolutely thrilled us), we’ve grown to 2017’s 12,000 guests and more than $400k in gross revenue – which equated to almost 50% of our fundraising budget for last year. The exponential growth can be attributed to the expertise and detail that goes into each year’s haunt. SHOCKTOBER is recognized as one of the best haunted houses in the D-M-V, and we welcome haunt aficionados from all over the country and, occasionally, from other countries as well.
Can you give us a little history of the success of this event and other fundraising endeavors for your chapter?
SHOCKTOBER, Northern Virginia’s only REAL haunted house experience, has been a destination event for almost a decade.
SHOCKTOBER has matured into a destination event that includes a carnival atmosphere complete with t-shirts, fun merchandise, line entertainment, food and drinks all available on site (“liquid courage” can be found in the beer and wine tent!). New this year, in conjunction with our beloved community partners – 16 of them our ‘top-tier’ supporters – we’ve launched the “Trail of Terror”, a 3-day guide through Loudoun County to experience breweries, wineries, restaurants, and places to stay, all with a haunted twist.
How are you using this fundraiser/other events like it to build awareness and partnerships within your community?
All of this is made successful through our partnerships with multiple state and local tourism-centered organizations. Visit Loudoun, Loudoun County Tourism, and the Commonwealth of Virginia are all committed to supporting The Arc of Loudoun’s mission by granting advertising dollars to support SHOCKTOBER marketing efforts, spreading the word during meetings around the County to increase awareness of The Arc of Loudoun’s service offerings, and by “walking the talk” of embracing our community’s I/DD members. Each year the Town of Leesburg and the Loudoun County government eagerly participate in SHOCKTOBER; the Mayor of Leesburg looks forward each season to kicking off the event with an official ribbon ‘slashing’.
How does this particular event highlight the mission of The Arc of Loudoun and involve leaders throughout your network, including people with I/DD?
SHOCKTOBER is not just an exceptional fundraising extravaganza; it’s also an opportunity for The Arc of Loudoun to give back to our community. We award five $1k grants to fellow Loudoun County nonprofits whose missions include support for people with I/DD through our annual “We Scare Because We Care” campaign. Additionally, just as our supporters bring their money, time and talent to The Arc, The Arc gives back to our volunteers by providing outstanding educational and social opportunities for area high school students, most of whom return year after year to volunteer. Several of our volunteers (actors as well as those in concession and ticket sales positions) are people with intellectual, developmental and/or physical disabilities, and the five weeks of SHOCKTOBER at The Arc of Loudoun offer a unique experience where everyone is accepted and embraced for exactly who they are and honored for what they bring to the event.