At first glance, it was a fete like any other. There were sponsors to thank and a bubbly emcee to lead the charge … but not a single attendee in sight. Not in person, anyway.

“Guests” of the Thank You For NOT Coming Tech Dump Gala, the first-ever fundraiser for St. Paul-based electronics recycler Tech Dump, were encouraged to skip the formalwear and small talk. The novel concept was designed to break away from the waste associated with more traditional galas.

“A colleague and I were brainstorming a fundraiser when I joked that I love our organization, but I’d pay to not have to go,” says CEO Amanda LaGrange. “We started throwing around these wild ideas where attendees could buy a ticket to not be there and sit at home in their pajamas. It started as a joke, but the idea kept coming up.”

With the help of six core sponsors, Tech Dump produced the framework of a conventional event using donated space. “Every element was chosen to make this as zero waste as possible,” says LaGrange. “We wanted to create a somewhat traditional feel this year because this felt like such a  leap, but just in eliminating swag bags, the environmental impact was equivalent to planting 19 trees.”

The program was filmed for “attendees,” who supported the event through a variety of ticket options, to watch at their leisure. “An interesting element of this model was the lack of variable costs. The more that ‘attended’ just brought in [more] dollars.”

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