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Community Spotlight: Friendly City Fortune in Downtown Harrisonburg

August 4, 2022 | Community Spotlight: Friendly City Fortune in Downtown Harrisonburg | By: Marta Olmos, Communications Coordinator at Main Street America | 
Raffle staff at Friendly City Fortune in Downtown Harrisonburg. Photo courtesy of Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance.

Named Best Fundraiser by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, the Friendly City Fortune is Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance’s (HDR) biggest fundraising event. Each summer, HDR raffles off $250,000 in cash and prizes to 54 lucky winners from the local community. The funds support HDR’s work to make Harrisonburg a destination for locals and visitors.
HDR developed the event to raise increased funds from a wider donor pool while also giving back to the community. They describe it as a win-win-win program. “Prize winners win, HDR wins because it can fund an ambitious work plan, and the downtown wins, too, when HDR can do more to improve downtown and strengthen the district so visitors and locals can have more memorable experiences and the business community can thrive,” said Emily Winter, Director of Marketing.

Prizes are given away every five minutes for four hours, building excitement and momentum over the course of the event. This year’s event featured phenomenal prizes including a 2022 Kia Telluride, an all-inclusive trip to St. Martin, a speakeasy part for twenty at a downtown venue, a Coleman Outfitter 400 UTV, a Fuse Sport Mountain Bike, a MacBook Pro, and a $20,000 check! HDR works with local venders to supply these prizes.

Proceeds are based on the number of tickets sold, how many winners select the prize or the 50% cash payout, and how much raffle marketing and other expenses cost. Tickets cost $100 and offer two chances for the ticketholder to win.

The funds raised through Friendly City Fortune have had a huge impact on HDR’s work. Projects funded through the program include:

  • Façade enhancement grants
  • A sculpture instillation
  • Alley beautification project
  • LED holiday lights
  • A multimedia shop small campaign
  • Customized technical assistance for small businesses
  • Free community festivals and events
The program also provides an opportunity for rich community engagement and stakeholder networking. For example, in January, HDR ran a “this or that” promotion on Facebook and Instagram where people voted for which prizes they’d like to see offered at the raffle. HDR also gives tickets to important community members, like healthcare workers, the fire department, and the police department. The tickets are sold in local businesses in the downtown, encouraging people to visit these shops and hopefully buy other items along with the tickets.

“This fund raiser has allowed us to level up and start making some things happen that would have taken years of fund raising to accomplish,” said Executive Director Andrea L Dono. “From realizing small business’ dreams through our Bricks & Clicks assistance program to giving kids a new place to play on our latest public art sculpture - we are thrilled that the community (and beyond) is supporting our raffle and helping us meet important community goals.”