It’s not every day that you get to attend a fundraiser that nets over $80 million in one night but that is the case of New York City’s leading philanthropy organization, Robin Hood. I was honored to be a guest—along with 4,000 of NYC’s most generous donors—at the May 13 event at the Jacob Javits Center, where security was tight as the wealthy and famous were in attendance. One of the hottest tickets in town, I was able to score one thanks to a very generous client of mine, who shall remain anonymous. I can honestly say that it was the most spectacular events I have ever attended; our table was adjacent to Justin Timberlake, Eli Manning, Bono—the star-studded list of attendees goes on.
The night began early on Monday, May 13 with a massive check-in, followed by a walk in to a dramatic entrance. It was draped in black and projected statistics about the poverty levels in New York were bullet pointed down the walls as you made your entrance into the “cocktail” party. The individuals in charge of branding for Robin Hood get an A+, in my book. The room was filled with neon green and black and kept consistency in the mission as the main theme. The messages displayed on more than thirty big screens are clear: FIGHT POVERTY LIKE A NEW YORKER—a trademarked slogan. Guests mingled with ESPN’s commentators, tall and beautiful actresses, singers and more celebrities and the bars were stocked with everything you could think of (I saw at least three and each measured the size of ten Suburban SUVs put together). This was definitely a high-class event.
A glance to the right and hey, that’s Katie Couric! Justin Timberlake was among the guests, accompanied by his beautiful wife, Jessica Biel, and some of his team who sat at our table—a delightful group of nice folks.
Just a quickly as the bars opened, they closed. After exactly one hour, at seven o’clock sharp, guests were directed into yet another area—dinner tables dressed for the crowd of 4,000 in a black caped room, lit with small white lights on the ceiling, as if you were under the stars. The decor was simple, elegant and utterly magical. There was a single stage (occupied by many famous singers, comedians and actors) and all around the room were the giant screens, again, displaying key messages—all moving and inspiring—about fighting poverty.
Next came a welcome, then the entertainment—a performance Elton John and a few comedians to warm up the crowd. We were shown a short but emotional video produced by Robin Hood about the impact the organization has on so many children on a daily basis.
In a nutshell, Robin Hood “is able to fund over 200 poverty-fighting programs that teach, train, feed, shelter, heal and nurture New Yorkers in need.” Amazing success story this Robin Hood organization and more at www.robinhood.org.
After performances by Mary J. Blige, Bono and Elton John, the grand finale was the display of an email address on all of the screens in the room. Hosts instructed everyone, “Now get your phones out and email your pledges and give like a New Yorker.” Some of the graduating school children paraded in, while the wonderful things Robin Hood is doing were highlighted.
The email address stayed up on the screen and after an hour or so, they said, “Ladies and Gentlemen and generous New Yorkers, we are happy to announce this…” $79,000,000 flashed on all the screens. By ten o’clock the next morning, the figure had leapt to over $80,700,000. INCREDIBLE. This wasn’t even an auction. All the guests did was email their pledges from their dinner seats. That’s amazing fundraising.
Although in New York, this success story has a Memphis connection. Robin Hood was founded by Paul Tudor Jones, who is a native Memphian. He was featured on 60 Minutes just a few weeks ago in advance of the big event. Paul’s success is in itself a great story and one we can all take pride in. A boy from Memphis grew up to become a huge success on Wall Street and now gives back in HUGE ways—not just to Robin Hood, but to many worthy causes. His entire family is one of the most generous of any and it was one of my greatest honors to be invited and included at this event!
And the end of the night, I arrived back at my hotel just in time to see the Grizzlies return from at 17-point deficit in overtime to #BeatOKC! Although I was in New York, I was in a “Memphis State of Mind.”
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