We have all heard of (and of course seen photographs of) the famous Costume Institute Gala or, as it’s more commonly known, the Met Ball. With Vogue’s legendary Anna Wintour presiding over the event, it has become one of the most successful nights of fundraising in the history of fundraising. Rumor has it that in recent years the Metropolitan Museum of Art has raised something in the neighborhood of $12,000,000 from that night alone. Not an easy thing to do. It certainly helps to have honorary Chairs like Bradley Cooper and Beyoncé; nevertheless, it’s a feat of fundraising that most nonprofits can only dream about. But there are all sorts of fundraisers with impressive levels of success that don’t involve celebrities and $25,000 ticket prices.
In a recent conversation with a friend of mine who was Chairman of a major event this year, we were marveling at the amount of preparation the average fundraiser requires. Literally hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours drive the New Orleans fundraising circuit every year; it would be hard to find someone who doesn’t give back in some way. Restaurant owners, artists, gallery owners, boutique owners, printers, party supply rental companies, sponsors, patrons, ticket taking volunteers, florists … I could go on and on. And that doesn’t even cover the nonprofit staff members. All of the people I’ve come across who work in the nonprofit world go above and beyond their prescribed duties on a regular basis. Planning a fundraiser involves a lot of nitty-gritty details, and many events necessitate a full year of planning. With that in mind, consider what it takes to produce the sheer volume of events here in New Orleans.
New Orleans fundraisers come in all shapes and sizes, and unlike many cities, New Orleans doesn’t limit itself to a gala season. Winter, spring, summer or fall – there are numerous fundraisers for us all.
Let us start with winter. January 2015 brought out the stars for Each One Save One’s “Mentor Magic Gala.” Between “Good Morning America’s” Robin Roberts and her sister, local anchor Sally-Ann Roberts, the spotlight was shining on the Hyatt Regency Hotel for this event. An organization dedicated to reaching at-risk kids, Each One Save One takes a personal approach to effecting change through individual mentors. Using a brilliantly simple model, the organization pairs each mentor with a student who needs guidance. Mentors go through a mandatory training program and commit to meeting with mentees for one hour each week throughout the entire school year.
The cold days of January were warmed up by yet another fundraiser that works to effect change through hands-on volunteering: The “Good Apple Gala” benefiting Louisiana Appleseed. With a focus on reversing social injustice, Appleseed recruits professionals, primarily lawyers, to donate their time in ways that will advance the public interest by addressing societal issues at a systemic level. Held at the National World War II Museum, the “Good Apple Gala” is a festive and fun evening that also honors the “good apples” who have gone above and beyond in their volunteer efforts to advance the mission of Appleseed.
February and the American Heart Association's “Go Red for Women” are a natural fit; with everyone thinking about hearts for Valentine’s Day, it’s the perfect time to heighten awareness of the important work of the AHA. A national movement that has been steadily gaining momentum over the past decade, “Go Red” reminds us of the sobering fact that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women. On February 6, hundreds of women gathered at the Hyatt Regency to celebrate, advocate and learn more about how to stay healthy and save lives.
Because drinking moderate amounts of red wine is thought to benefit a woman’s heart, the Heart Association would likely approve of the “Amazing Grapes Wine Auction” benefiting the Hermann-Grima + Gallier Historic Houses. This magical event combined wine tastings, an auction and a gourmet buffet at Broussard’s restaurant all in the name of raising funds for the educational programming at HGGH. The courtyard of the Hermann-Grima House is a cultural treasure, a jewel in the crown of the French Quarter. By opening the gate that separates Broussard’s from the Grima courtyard (which, by the way, is a recipe for a gorgeous party), the event took on a poignancy that added to its success. Standing in the courtyard of the Hermann-Grima House, it’s easy to envision the benefits that come from using historic houses as educational tools for all who walk through their doors.
2015 "Go Red for Women"
Madalyn Schenk, Diane Lyons, Jack Pruitt, Purseanalities Chair Betsie Gambel and Stephanie Miller Murphy
Photo by Jeff Strout
THE MOST LIST
Most Glamorous: “Mayor’s Masked Ball,” benefiting the United Negro College Fund Most Exciting: “Make It Right Gala,” benefiting the Make It Right Foundation Most Fanciful: “The Opera Ball: Flights of Fancy,” benefiting the Women’s Guild of New Orleans Opera Most Dazzling: “Denim & Diamonds,” benefiting the Louise S. McGehee School Most Aquatic: “Scales and Ales,” benefiting the Audubon Nature Institute Most Retro: “The Classics: Sugarplum Ball 60th Anniversary Gala,” benefiting Children’s Hospital
The month of March is one of the prettiest times of year in New Orleans, and every March “Art In Bloom” seems to usher in springtime on a bed of flowers. Benefiting the New Orleans Museum of Art and the projects of the Garden Study Club, this event is like no other. On a beautiful spring evening, more than 1,000 people gathered at NOMA to marvel at the jaw-dropping arrangements offered up by local flower lovers. If you’ve never been to “Art In Bloom” (and trust me, if you haven’t been you should go!), it’s difficult to imagine the magnificent level of creativity and talent on display. A multi-day event that starts on a Wednesday and displays its flower arrangements through the weekend, “Art In Bloom” isn’t to be missed. In addition to a tremendous silent auction and a fun party (at which, and I’m not exaggerating, you see flowers everywhere you look), there’s the Saks Fifth Avenue fashion show, the luncheon in the Pavilion of Two Sisters and lectures that are guaranteed crowd pleasers. (This year, party-planner Bronson van Wyck had everyone completely engrossed with tales of his star-studded spectacles.)
Spring wouldn’t be spring without outdoor events. “The Secret Gardens Tour” benefiting the Brain Injury Association of Louisiana is the perfect way to sneak a peek into some of the most glorious private gardens in town. One of the highlights this year was the garden at Katherine and Tony Gelderman’s house. With a side parterre garden that literally stops tourists in their tracks when they’re touring the neighborhood, the Geldermans' garden is a joy to behold.
“Lark in the Park” benefiting New Orleans City Park is yet another outdoor spring event. Held in the Pavilion of the Two Sisters and the adjacent New Orleans Botanical Garden (where, incidentally, the dazzling and always sold-out “Magic in the Moonlight” seated dinner is held in the fall), “Lark in the Park” is always a blockbuster event. As anyone who has set foot in City Park in the last five years will tell you, it has undergone an exciting transformation; proceeds from “Lark in the Park” benefit the continued maintenance of City Park.
One of the most heartrending fundraisers of the year was the “Light of Hope Gala” benefiting CASA Jefferson, Inc. The mission of CASA (which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates) is to “break the cycle of child abuse and neglect through volunteers advocating for safe, nurturing, and permanent homes for foster children in our community.” CASA is an organization that impacts lives on a daily basis, and the “Light of Hope Gala” is an important and meaningful event; to support CASA is to change the life of a child in need.
2015 "Art in Bloom"
Auction Co-Chair Mathilde Currence, Douglass Meffert and Auction Co-Chair Anne Villere
Photo by Kenny Martinez
THE MOST LIST
Most Inspiring: “Mentor Magic,” benefiting Each One Save One Most Tasty: “Come Grow With Us,” benefiting Liberty’s Kitchen Most Fragrant: “Art In Bloom,” benefiting the New Orleans Museum of Art and the projects of The Garden Study Club Most Optimistic: “Light of Hope Gala,” benefiting Court Appointed Special Advocate Jefferson Parish Most Sparkly: “Puttin’ On The Glitz,” benefiting the National Council of Jewish Women in Greater New Orleans Most Clandestine: “Secret Gardens Tour,” benefiting the Brain Injury Association of Louisiana
First winter, then spring and now summer. Even the infamous heat and humidity cannot stop the people of New Orleans from planning and attending fundraising events. Every year the wildest party in town, Audubon Zoo's “Whitney Zoo-To-Do,” kicks off summer in style. What is there to say about this party? To see our beautiful zoo lit up for the annual black-tie (or white linen suit) gala is breathtaking. With the wonderful Sally and Ron Forman setting the festive tone for the evening, this event is a fundraising showstopper. For those of you who have children, don’t miss the “Kids Zoo-To-Do;” be prepared to stay until the bitter end, however, because your children won’t want to leave. Proceeds from both of the “Zoo-To-Do” events benefit a different project within the Audubon Zoo each year and help the Audubon Nature Institute continue to enhance our world famous zoo.
From one great New Orleans attraction to another, the National World War II Museum’s “Whitney Bank Victory Ball” heated things up last summer. A truly glamorous black-tie event, the party flowed between the US Freedom Pavilion, the Stage Door Canteen and the American Sector Restaurant. Whether you’re a World War II aficionado or just a lover of all things New Orleans, this party hit the mark.
One of the highlights of summer in New Orleans is “White Linen Night,” benefiting the Contemporary Arts Center. Every year thousands of people brave the sultry August heat and flock to the New Orleans Arts District for White Linen Night. With its food trucks, cocktails, music and galleries, Julia Street is the place to be for this event – the people-watching alone is worth the trip. DJs and dancing at the CAC are the perfect way to round out the evening.
2015 "Whitney Zoo-to-Do"
Photo by Jeff Strout
THE MOST LIST
Most Organic: “Country Day’s City Nights: Farm to Table Feast,” benefiting Metairie Park Country Day School Most Anglophilic: “An Afternoon Tea with ‘Downton Abbey’,” benefiting WYES Most Heartfelt: “Go Red for Women Luncheon,” benefiting American Heart Association Most Important: “Blues Night,” benefiting Crimestoppers Greater New Orleans Most Lively: “Art & Soul: Raise the Roof,” benefiting NOCCA Most Perfect: “St. Jude in the Big Easy,” benefiting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Most Powerful: “10th Anniversary Gala,” benefiting the Youth Empowerment Project Most Illuminating: “Entrepreneur Season,” benefiting The Idea Village
As the heat of the summer gives way to fall, art once again takes center stage. “LOVE in the Garden” benefiting the New Orleans Museum of Art always draws a great crowd, and last year’s party was no exception – particularly because of 2014’s “LOVE for NOCCA!” In honor of the 40th anniversary of the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, the New Orleans Museum of Art honored a handful of artists who are affiliated with the school either as faculty members or alumni. A fun party every year, this one raised the bar when it instituted a cocktail challenge that definitely got people talking (and drinking!).
Fall also finds “Come Grow With Us,” benefiting Liberty’s Kitchen. This party, having garnered support from a particularly impressive group of restaurants ranging from Commander’s Palace to Whole Foods, happened to have fabulous food. The Liberty’s Kitchen goals are to teach, nourish and empower by instilling important life skills in at risk young people. A seriously impressive organization, it physically and emotionally nourishes its participants, and it empowers them to lead healthy and productive lives. Liberty’s Kitchen works with young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are out of school and out of work. The program opens their worlds and gives them the skills they need to thrive. “Come Grow With Us” is a marvelous event benefiting a marvelous cause.
October in New Orleans is jam-packed with events, but one that stands out is the “Key to the Cure.” This is an easy event to support – just go shopping at Saks! For four days in October, Saks Fifth Avenue New Orleans donates 2 percent of sales to the Louisiana Cancer Research Consortium. The gala that kicks off the event is always a phenomenal success, attracting a fantastic crowd of supporters. Over the past 13 years, Saks has raised over $34,000,000 on a national level for cancer charities through Key to the Cure. Of that number, New Orleans has contributed more than $1,550,000. If you want to support cancer research, the Key to the Cure is an excellent way to do so.
The St. Charles Avenue Magazine Registry of Charitable Events lists well over 1,200 fundraisers. We may not have Bradley Cooper and Anna Wintour at the Met Ball, and we may not stage an event that raises $12,000,000 in one night. But we have a year-round supply of events that support every kind of charitable cause that any of us could possibly imagine. We also have a city full of tremendously generous people who contribute, in one way or another, to nonprofit organizations that better the lives of everyone in our city. In winter, spring, summer and fall the city is full of options for giving. Next year’s Chairs are already gathering committee members, booking bands and choosing dates. Stay tuned for what’s sure to be another year of unparalleled fun, food, cocktails and entertainment – all in the name of fundraising in New Orleans!
2014 "Key to the Cure"
Dr. Prescott Deininger, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Dr. Augusto Ochoa
Photo by Jeff Strout
THE MOST LIST
Most Charming: “Sippin’ in Seersucker,” benefiting the Ogden Museum of Southern Art Most Fun: “Laissez Le Bons Temps Rouler,” benefiting Boys Hope Girls Hope Most Delightful: “Recycled Fashion Show,” benefiting Bridge House/Grace House Most Enchanting: “Martini Madness,” benefiting the new Ladybug Rollercoaster at City Park’s Carousel Gardens Most Bookish: “Happy Birthday, Mr. Faulker,” benefiting the Pirates Alley Faulkner Society Most Creative: “Just Say YAYA,” benefiting Young Aspirations Young Artists