On February 19th, over 60 artists and over 500 philanthropists gathered to raise funds for one of Starfish Impact’s favorite clients, LIFT-LA. The event, LIFT:Art featured works donated by artists with the proceeds from art sales going to support the program at LIFT-LA.
As I mingled among celebrities, activists, and passionate supporters, I almost forgot I was at a charity event. Instead, this just felt like a fun party, one that just happened to raise over $240,000 for an organization that works to lift people out of poverty for good.
So let’s take a look at how this small organization (LIFT-LA has just eleven staff members) was able to create an event that impressed donors, raised awareness and funds, and left everyone feeling inspired:
- A board member with a vision. According to Jessica Vom Steeg, Senior Development Manager for LIFT-LA, the event grew out of a brainstorming session with the Board of Directors. One board member is a photographer and suggested a gallery show, “Michael Muller is so passionate. He talks about LIFT-LA like he talks about one of his kids,” said Vom Steeg. From there, the event just grew, with the host committee reaching out to corporate sponsors, artists, and their networks.
- Designed to attract a crowd. Unlike most other charity events, the LIFT:Art event was free, so it was easy for the host committee to ask their networks to attend. But the team knew that Los Angeles traffic, Oscar week, and some rain would be working against them, so the key to success was distributing a high volume of invitations. In the end, the diverse backgrounds and networks of the board and staff yielded over 900 RSVPs for the event.
- A clear revenue plan. Vom Steeg says, “The free event was a risk for us. Usually with an event people buy tickets. So you already know you’ve raised a certain amount of money. But with no tickets, we ran the risk of not raising very much.” The team knew that they would need high quality art, which thanks to Muller’s outreach was achieved. In order to increase the audience for bids, the team made it possible for people to bid on art online. Additionally, the host committee lined up corporate sponsorships to cover the cost of the event, so all of the proceeds from art sales would benefit the LIFT-LA program. Finally, the team made sure to highlight the good work of LIFT-LA in the gallery, inviting non-art buyers to support the mission.
All in all, the LIFT:Art event showed us how to harness board member passion into support for a great program. I can say for certain that the bar is high for LIFT-LA’s 2016 event. According to Vom Steeg, “We’re looking into getting a bigger space.”