Capital Pride's ''Friends of Pride,'' a special recognition for those individual donors who help keep the annual LGBT festival free for attendees, isn't new. But it's been steadily increasing in scope. And this year, thanks to a ''Russ & Stan Challenge Grant,'' it's on track for its most ambitious year yet.
''Stan and Russ did a challenge with us last year, but it was less,'' explains Missy Toms, Capital Pride's director of external affairs. ''This year, they really want us to go out into the community.''
To that end, the challenge grant kicks in as benchmarks are met. The bottom line is that if Capital Pride can get individuals to donate $6,500, the challenge grant will kick in $3,500. And the first benchmark to meet is $3,000 in donations by Sunday, May 13.
''A lot of our friends have invited their friends,'' says Toms, confident about the effort. ''I'm very pleased with the response so far.''
So is Russ.
''If Missy and her team can pull this off, it's going to be very inspiring,'' he says. ''I'm really encouraged by it. I'm encouraged by the fact they've met two of the last challenges.''
But who the heck are Russ and Stan, these Capital Pride benefactors? As Russ explains it, the two prefer a measure of anonymity due to work concerns, while still wanting to be involved. That's without even having been to the Capital Pride Festival or other events. Rather, Russ learned of the event a few years ago at his bank.
''A friend worked for a company, Suntrust Bank, one of the places where I bank,'' Russ recalls. ''He was saying how delighted he was that Suntrust Bank was a sponsor [of Capital Pride]. I called up my friend, Stan, and said there's something here that might be interesting to you.''
With that, more or less, the challenge grant was born, with Russ and Stan using the model for other worthy causes in the past three years as well.
''I wanted something that would leverage other people's efforts,'' says Russ. ''What really is going to make a difference in the world is, how is the donation going to leverage other people to get off their butts? Let's focus on the donation side of it and help individuals recognize the power they have.''
That power also comes with rewards for individual donors, aside from the gratification of helping the community. At the high end, for example, a $1,000 donation includes two VIP seats for the Parade and the Festival main stage, party passes, drink tickets and quite a bit more. But perks kick in at the $25 level with acknowledgement in the Capital Pride guide and a Friends of Pride commemorative pin.
Not that Russ has had the opportunity to make use of the top-tier perks.
''I travel extensively, so I've never been to [Capital Pride],'' Russ says of his scheduling conflicts. ''I spend an enormous amount of time on airplanes, in foreign countries. But this is a good cause.''
Toms is glad Russ sees it that way, saying the Russ & Stan Challenge Grant is more welcome than ever.
''All the fees have gone up this year,'' says Toms, ''everything that goes along with a festival and parade. And we're one of the only pride festivals in the country that's free. We need some help from the community.''
For a list of Friend of Pride tier levels or to make a donation, visit Capital Pride online at capitalpride.org.