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BOSTON The Life Is Good Festival took over Canton's Prowse Farm September 24 and 25. Dedicated to raising funds for children with “life-threatening challenges”—such as violence, poverty, and illness—the fest offered concerts from artists such as Ray LaMontagne, family sack races, and yoga classes for kids. Now in its second year, the whimsical event drew 20,000 guests and raised nearly $1 million—a ”sizable leap” from last year's take of $725,000, said James MacDonald, director of good vibes at the Life Is Good Company.
“Our main focus for 2011 was to make a shift in the way we positioned the event, and therefore the way our fans approached the event,” MacDonald said. “While benefit concerts are wonderful and raise money for a range of worthy causes, we are focused on creating a fund-raiser with active participation from our fans. It's not enough that we raise money from the event profits. We hope to involve our fans in our mission. ... We hope to create a community of fund-raisers in the same way the Avon Breast Cancer Walk or the Pan Mass Challenge do.”
Toward that end, organizers revamped the festival's ticketing site, working to fully integrate the ticketing software with a fund-raising component. “This year, every ticket buyer had a turn-key experience in becoming a fund-raiser, and we saw more people raising funds as a result,” MacDonald said. After purchasing tickets to the festival, guests could follow links to create their own-fund-raising pages.
Dubbed the “V.G.P.s” (or Very Good People), guests who signed on to raise funds were given special perks at the festival; the more they raised, the bigger the bonus prizes. “Our fund-raisers were truly rewarded with some nice perks, but the spirit that makes the V.G.P. area so special is one of doing good,” MacDonald said. “Sure, these folks are excited because they are enjoying artist meet and greets, backstage access, and hospitality, but the mood is enhanced by the understanding that the V.G.P.s all did their part to help raise money for kids in need. It's a huge part of what makes the festival different and unique. I think the artists feel more comfortable mingling with the fans, too, because they all enjoy meeting everyday people who are doing something extraordinary.” Collectively, the V.G.P.s raised $435,000.
Apart from reaching the fund-raising goal, the most satisfying part of the festival was “the success of getting over the second-year hump,” MacDonald said. “The debut in 2010 was very exciting, but there is naturally some pressure to prove that it wasn't a fluke. Our mission of mixing little kids, adults, families, and college-age music fans at one festival is possible. That tattoos and strollers can exist in the same place was no surprise to us, but I feel like we put an exclamation point on that fact this year.”