Philanthropic Match-Making Party Celebrated its 10th Anniversary this March
Over the years, fundraisers for the Cheyenne River Youth Project® in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, have taken many forms. On the local level, our staff and volunteers have baked sweet treats, learned to prepare frybread for Indian tacos, hosted sporting events and fancy dinners, delivered Gorilla Grams and even danced in the streets. On the national level, the not-for-profit organization conducts fundraising through carefully coordinated e-mail, snail mail and social media efforts; meanwhile, its partners around the country host benefit events in their home communities.
One such fundraiser stands out. For 10 years, FriendSwap in Washington, D.C. has played match-maker for hundreds upon hundreds of young professionals — and donated the proceeds to the 24-year-old youth project. This spring, 600 people attended the 10th anniversary FriendSwap party and raised $8,500 to support CRYP’s youth programming and services.
Founded by attorney and Cheyenne River Sioux tribal member Heather Dawn Thompson in 2002, FriendSwap pairs each participant with several proposed “matches.” Then, for a minimum $20 contribution, the participant attends the party and has an opportunity to meet those matches.
“We created FriendSwap in the days before Match.com and the other dating sites became so popular,” Thompson recalled. “The concept is that we all have amazing single friends, and one of them might be perfect for the other!”
Each year a board of 10 to 15 volunteers, headed by author Kerry Reichs this year, puts together a pool of possible participants and invites them to join FriendSwap. The participants enter their information into a confidential database, and then the organizers start matching them up.
The annual FriendSwap party has become very popular and includes young D.C. professionals such as attorneys, journalists and White House and congressional staffers.
“We try to give each person four, five, six matches,” Thompson explained. “Then they meet each other at the party. It’s all a little tongue-in-cheek; we want people to have some fun with it.”
Volunteers work hard to keep expenses low for the FriendSwap party, which is always hosted by a downtown Washington, D.C. bar or restaurant whose owners are willing to provide the venue for free.
“Other than some website maintenance, all the proceeds go to CRYP,” Thompson said.
In the beginning, FriendSwap attracted 300 to 400 people per year. Now, according to Thompson, it routinely attracts 500 to 600; one year, more than 800 participated.
“That was too many,” she remembered with a laugh. “Right now, 500 to 600 is our maximum capacity.”
But that may change. Thompson said that she and CRYP Executive Director Julie Garreau are discussing the use of some FriendSwap proceeds for event expansion. Key items include an improved database and a website that can accommodate an increased number of participants and attract local D.C. area sponsors.
“Right now, we’re limited in how much we can grow,” Thompson said. “We’d love to be able to attract more people, perhaps host a party several times per year and raise $20,000 or $30,000 to support the youth project.”
In addition to raising funds, the publicity around the annual FriendSwap party also raises awareness and helps educate young D.C. professionals about Indian Country. As a result of the party, nearly a dozen young D.C. policy-makers have traveled to the Cheyenne River and Pine Ridge reservations to learn more about Indian Country and the issues facing native youth.
To learn more about FriendSwap, visit this link to a 2004 Washington Post article: www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A34778-2004Mar29.html.
To learn more about the Cheyenne River Youth Project® and its programs, and for information about making donations and volunteering, call (605) 964-8200 or visit www.lakotayouth.org. And, to stay up to date on the latest CRYP news and events, visit the youth project’s Facebook “Cause” page. All Cause members will receive regular updates through Facebook.
The Cheyenne River Youth Project®, founded in 1988, is a grassroots, not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing the youth of the Cheyenne River reservation with access to a vibrant and secure future through a wide variety of culturally sensitive and enduring programs, projects and facilities that ensure strong, self-sufficient families and communities.