The Right Event Strategy Starts with the Right People

Insights from David’s Refuge ED Kate Houck

Published June, 2024

         David’s Refuge, a local non-profit supporting caregivers of children with special needs or life-threatening conditions, has held its flagship event, Taste of David’s Refuge, for the past 11 years. Over these years, the event has transformed in response to changing times, community needs, and external circumstances.

“Since COVID, we never went back to a formal event,” explains David’s Refuge Executive Director Kate Houck. “We realized the last thing people want to do is go home on Friday night, get dressed 

David’s Refuge provides respite, resources, and support to parents and guardians of children with special needs or life threatening medical conditions where they will be refreshed, restored and renewed in their role as caregivers.

up, and come back out. We took away tables of eight with arranged seating and worked to create an evening where people can come as they are, feel comfortable, and have an experience focused on friendship and laughter with people they want to talk to.”

A group of attendees at Heritage Hill Brewery for the Taste David's Refuge Event.

Attendees enjoying the Taste of David’s Refuge event at Heritage Hill Brewhouse in Jamesville, NY. 

The venue has moved around a number of times and most recently resides at Heritage Hill Brewhouse in Jamesville. This shift reflects the organization’s willingness to stay nimble which has resulted in a continued increase in the event’s popularity year over year. 

Houck says, “It’s been important for us to align our organization’s brand of inclusivity and comfort with the way we approach all of our fundraising events.” This ethos applies to their entire event roster which includes everything from a race car challenge to fun run races, and community nights with live music. 

David’s Refuge’s approach to event sponsorship has also evolved over the years. They’ve left behind the old model of securing sponsors for each event and built more substantial sponsor relationships that extend throughout the calendar year. 

“We’re focused on building meaningful connections with long-term donors,” Houck points out. “Our annual sponsors receive regular updates through our impact and action newsletters, so they are invested in the work we are doing which makes them feel valued and engaged.”

Gifford Staff standing next to a car at a racing fundraiser event put on by David's Refuge.

The Gifford Foundation staff at the David’s Refuge Pineview Champions Challenge fundraising event.

According to Houck, the key ingredient for successful fundraising events is relationship building. “If you are a small staff with a volunteer board, ask yourself, ‘Do we have the right people on the bus who trust us and will help see this through?’” 

Finally, the last critical element, says Houck, is to check your ego at the door. “We really try to accept all the feedback we receive on an event with an open mind and an eye toward growing and improving.”

Learn more about David’s Refuge at

Workshop Series: Getting Grant Ready

Workshop Series: Getting Grant Ready

Workshop Series: Getting Grant ReadyPublished June 10, 2024Tuesday, July 9 & Saturday, July 20The Gifford Foundation is partnering with The Central New York Community Foundation to launch our next two-part workshop series on grant writing featuring consultant...

read more
Maithreyee Dubé On Nourishing Tomorrow’s Leaders

Maithreyee Dubé On Nourishing Tomorrow’s Leaders

Gifford Board Member Maithreyee Dubé On Nourishing Tomorrow’s LeadersPublished June 2024         The Gifford Foundation's Nourishing Tomorrow's Leaders (NTL) program is a transformative nine-week course designed to equip participants with the skills and knowledge...

read more
Event Readiness Checklist

Event Readiness Checklist

A Readiness Checklist for Small NonprofitsPublished June 2024          Fundraising event season in Central New York is upon us. The Upstate climate allows a prime window between May and September for organizations to gather supporters, volunteers, partners, and staff...

read more

Subscribe to the Gifford Newsletter

Start enjoying our free quarterly publication today.

Stay in the loop!

Join our mailing list to receive occasional articles and updates about grants, programs, and the CNY nonprofit community.

You have Successfully Subscribed!