Fruits of Your Labor
Besides providing an opportunity for good-will giving, non-profit organizations like the custom electronics industry’s Elf are also an object lesson in small-business management.
CustomRetailer: Tell us a little about the Elf Foundation’s history and where you are, as you begin your eighth year as a non-profit.
Doug Weinstein: Elf Foundation [which creates entertainment theaters in children’s hospitals through the generosity of the custom electronics industry’s integrators and manufacturers] was incorporated July 2001, and made $76,000 in donations and opened six projects our first year. Last year, we opened 10 new theaters and donated over $850,000. There are now 70 Room of Magic theaters open in North America, which were created with the involvement of about 60 integrators. We are currently working on 45 projects that take us out to 2015, and are working with many new dealers. And this year, at CEDIA Expo, we’ll interview more. We don’t recruit—it’s totally volunteer. We’ve also worked with about 100 manufacturers, although there’s a core 10 that are Platinum sponsors, who were there since the beginning. They include Runco, Stewart, Sonance, Lutron, Yamaha, Crestron, Middle Atlantic, Chief, Monster Cable—and of course, CEDIA.
CR: How are you structured regarding corporate sponsors and dealer involvement?
Weinstein: Corporate sponsors make donations of money and/or equipment. They also sponsor fundraisers with equipment or services donations. Dealers perform all of the design and integration on a pro bono basis. Some also conduct local fundraisers to support their project. We average approximately 80 percent in in-kind equipment donations and 20 percent cash expenditure for each Room of Magic theater.
Our agreement with the dealer is they provide one year of free service to the hospital. That being said, every single dealer in every project has said, ‘I’ll take care of it for as long as I’m in business.’ They become a vendor, actually, and when a hospital builds a new wing, they are usually asked to submit a spec for doing the job, even though they may not be commercial integrators. Our dealers have already gone back into projects and replaced old plasmas, or they put new bulbs into projectors once a year. It ends up being a labor of love. Once they get into it, they all come back to me saying, ‘When I took my crew in to look at the project and they saw the kids, and told them, “We’re going to build you a movie theater and give you some Xbox 360s and put some computer terminals here,” and they looked at their reaction, then our whole company got infused with enthusiasm.’