A few of the centers in the Alliance have done this and it worked out brilliantly. These adult writing workshops do three necessary things at once:

1. They raise money

2. They bring new people into your space

3. They bring in potential new volunteers

Chances are that there are aspiring writers in your area. If you’re in a big city, chances are that there are tens of thousands of aspiring writers. If they want to hone their craft or get advice about being published, there are often a few options for them. But these options are expensive. Sometimes the quality of these classes is dubious.

There’s a chance you could do better, and raise money while doing so.

Here’s how it works:

Find three or four writers who work in a certain genre, e.g, mystery. Ask them if they might donate 3 hours of their time to your youth writing center. No one will say no.

Next, find an agent and a book editor who are also well versed in mystery writing and publishing.

Now you have your panel — three writers, an agent and an editor.

Advertise this event in your local media. Call it something like “Writing and Publishing Your Mystery Novel.” When you list your three professional mystery writers, that alone will bring most people through the door. When you add the agent and editor, it will be worth the cost for any mystery writer in the making.

The cost, by the way, should be about $100 for the 3 hours. Does that seem like a lot? Well, in San Francisco they ran about 50 such programs over the course of seven years, and pretty much every one one of them sold out. People want the advice, and besides, at least part of that $100 is tax deductible. Ask your attorney, but your attendees should be able to write off about 50% of that ticket price.

Limit your attendance to a reasonable number of people — about 40. At $100 a ticket, that’s $4,000. If you hold one of these each month, that could very well cover your rent.

When the event begins, you will have a moderator, and that moderator will walk the panel through all the questions that an aspiring writer would have. Periodically, the audience will be able to ask questions of the panelists. There should be 5-minute breaks at every hour, during which the attendees can get more one-on-one time with the panelists.

At the end, there’s more time to socialize and get books signed.

All in all, it should be a very information-packed 3 hours. In San Francisco, the same attendees came back again and again, to novel-writing, memoir-writing, poetry, comics, travel-writing, every form you can imagine.

And the cost to you? Nothing. Maybe the cost of some snacks and beverages. Call your expenses $100 against $4,000 in ticket prices.

It’s a boon in so many ways. Writers you didn’t know before have an excuse to come to the space. The aspiring writers in the audience can all be recruited to become tutors. And at the end of the night, you’ve brought valuable knowledge to all these good people, while raising $4,000 for your nonprofit. Also: Your volunteers can be given a discount. Maybe your staff is allowed to sit in for free. Up to you. But it’s way to really bring something wonderful into your space and raise money, too.