Bridges from School to Work

Thanks to our work together, funds raised have steadily grown, raising over $22 million for Bridges over the course of our 22-year partnership.

Bridges from School to Work - Kohl's employee
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Bridges From School to Work (f/k/a Marriott Foundation for People with Disabilities) produces its annual Bridges Gala, held in Washington DC, each Spring. In addition to being an important fundraiser for the organization, the Gala is the annual celebration for the organization’s Bridges from School to Work program, which develops and supports employment opportunities for young people with disabilities. Each year’s event recognizes a dedicated employer who has contributed to the success of Bridges participants, and a young person whose life has been positively impacted by the program.

Orr Group has partnered with Bridges for more than 21 years to manage fundraising and production for their annual event. The success of the Gala depends on close collaboration between many dedicated Marriott employees, event volunteers, and hard-working co-chairs. Thanks to our work together, funds raised have steadily grown, allowing Bridges to transform even more lives through the power of a job.  Since the start of our partnership in 2000, the Gala has raised over $22 million for the organization, including the record-breaking $2 million plus raised in 2019.

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In response to COVID-19 and the ban on large, in person gatherings, Orr Group transitioned the 2020 gala to a 3-month Online Gala Giving Campaign. Orr Group partnered with Bridges leadership to re-imagine marketing materials, sponsorship benefits, and messaging to constituents to create and execute a successful virtual event in celebration of the organizations 30th anniversary.

In addition to our event work, Orr Group conducted a comprehensive 4-month development assessment. The assessment culminated with Orr Group recommending that Bridges embark on a high-level strategic planning process to reaffirm Bridges’ mission, identify the organization’s vision, and develop strategic goals centered around the organization’s operations, communications, programs, and revenue.

Specifically, we recommended that Bridges diversify its revenue streams and increase fundraising by 20% to sustain mission fulfillment and support organizational growth. As a result of our work, we are now partnering with Bridges to provide outsourced development support to lead Bridges’ fundraising operations, including serving as Interim Chief Development Officer and Interim Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations.

As part of this work, we have developed a pipeline of over 250 new and existing prospects through peer organization research, an analysis of Bridges’ employers with aligned CSR priorities, and utilizing foundation research tools to target private grant makers with overlapping priorities. With a heavy focus on relationship building, we have already helped raise nearly $500,000 in institutional revenue.

We have continued to partner with Bridges, including most recently developing and executing its first-ever Virtual Gala in 2021 as the pandemic continued to affect in-person gatherings. Despite the challenges posed by a virtual-only event, we exceeded its $1.5 million revenue goal. Currently, we are serving as Bridges’ event planning and fundraising partners for the 22nd year as we prepare to execute its 2022 Gala in-person once again.