“I attend 500 charity events a year … 150 are galas … I probably get over 1,000 invitations,” said Slavin, who runs his family’s foundation. “I don’t think I’m unusual in the number of invitations I get.”
Springtime in Washington is ushering in a myriad of charity events from glamorous, high-society galas to fundraising walks and endurance races. The local news personalities at WJLA-Channel 8, who often emcee such events, alone book 400 appearances each year, 175 of which are usually during the spring.
Here’s a snapshot of how Washington area nonprofits, philanthropists and venues approach the spring charity season.
When Claire Wyrsch and the staff at Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School decided to organize a charity event for the Takoma Park private school, they first scanned the spring fundraising scene and decided to plan something that wouldn’t try to compete with the region’s 10,000 nonprofits and some big-name galas.
“We deliberately chose not to do a weekend or evening gala because so many people are going to those,” said Wyrsch, the school’s director of development. They decided instead to plan a fundraiser luncheon on a Thursday where Washington notables wait the tables and donate the tips they earn. Last year a similar event raised $100,000, up from $6,700 in 2007.
“We see [nonprofits] innovating on everything they do to get the attention of stakeholders,” said Chuck Bean, president of the Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington.
Groups big and small try to stand out. Leadership Greater Washington recently held a Cherry Blossom-themed gala where guests had to wear pink. The Capital Area Food Bank hosts a gala where guests are charged to wear blue jeans and denim. The Heart of America Foundation’s annual fundraiser is a fashion show with outfits made of chocolate, while the Washington Humane Society features dogs on the catwalk.
Some nonprofits said that they believe that spring is more suitable for a fundraiser than fall because of the election cycles where political fundraisers might compete for attention — and wallets. Others want to hedge their bets.
Mary’s Center, which holds its annual gala in the fall, will host a golf tournament fundraiser this spring for the first time to appeal to donors.
“We’re having more events so we can hit the right hot buttons,” said Rebecca Diamond, chief development officer of Mary’s Center.
Mark and Margot Bisnow have a handful of galas scheduled this spring — scaling back significantly from the days when they were just establishing their eponymous digital media company and he would chair 10 events in one year.