Gala season has returned to Scottsdale and that is good news for both hotels that host them and the nonprofits that need them.
One year after the pandemic and social distancing brought it to a halt, The Season has returned to resorts with in-person galas that nonprofits use to raise a considerable portion of the money they need to operate for the year.
While many nonprofits are opting for hybrid approaches so that supporters can “attend” virtually if they’re still leery of donning a gown or a tux and mingling at a glitzy affair.
But the return of in-person glitz is a welcome shot in the arm for resorts’ and nonprofits’ bottom lines.
“The galas and other events that are part of the traditional social season are a big part of our business,” said Denise Seomin, a spokesperson for The Phoenician. “We’re very excited to have it back and we’re very excited to see a lot of the organizations that have been with us in the past.”
“It’s important for people to know that all of these organizations desperately still need help,” Seomin said. “A lot of our nonprofits had to take a step back during the pandemic, but their work goes on, which is why it’s important to support them.”
One of the first galas to kick off Scottsdale’s season was the Night of Hope Gala two weeks ago that benefitted the Amanda Hope Rainbow Foundation, which helps children with cancer and blood disorders.
Its gala at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort at Gainey Ranch on Sept. 18 saw 350 people pack the room with hundreds more watching from home to bid on silent auction items. It raised more than $600,000 – well over its goal.
“We had the most excitement in the room and I think people really understood and related to our kids’ fighting cancer,” said Lorraine Tallman, founder and CEO of the Amanda Hope Rainbow Foundation, which is named after her daughter.
After surviving the dark days of the pandemic, Tallman was ecstatic to finally be able to host an event that underscored the importance of her organization to the families it supports and raise the most money it ever had.
“We had families sharing real stories of what they went through, and I think everyone really related to the trials that these families went through,” she said.
In those dark months when Tallman couldn’t host galas or other in-person fundraising events, she spent weeks making phone calls to previous donors.
She also worked with big clients like Safeway to provide groceries for families battling cancer and allocate funds to help with any other unexpected bills.
The foundation provides a wide range of services to families with children battling cancer – from helping them pay bills to providing “fun buses” that travel to kids’ houses for play therapy.
“This gala is what we determine our budget on,” Tallman said. “It has to be a success and it is everything for us.”
For Tallman, this cause is personal as each of the nearly 2,000 families that are under her care each year remind her of the struggles she went through when her daughter was fighting leukemia.
“I was so humiliated when my daughter was fighting cancer and we were getting to the point where we couldn’t afford things,” she said. “I don’t ever want people to feel what I felt. It’s horrible being a parent and not being able to provide everything.”
Tallman reported that the foundation paid around $183,000 in financial aid for families last year and hopes to pay more than that this year.
“It’s a big deal that families know that they can come to us to help them pay their bills and that we’re going to pay those bills within 24 hours,” she said.
Like most galas, the foundation’s event raised most of the revenue from sponsorships and bids on silent auction items, although one live auction item garnered nearly one sixth of the money raised.
A vacation home in Nashville was the auction item of the evening. It initially sold for $51,000 when the owners decided to re-sell it. This time it drew $102,000 – and a five-minute standing ovation from the gala guests.
“We couldn’t do what we do without our community,” Tallman said. “Amanda really touched the lives of our community when she was with us, and she created quite the following before she passed away.”
In the days since that electric night, Tallman has spent countless hours on the phone thanking donors.
“I’ve been calling people and personally thanking them,” she said. “The thing I tell everyone is they have no idea the priceless gift they have given to create the ‘most best days’ for our children.”
Only the start
With the Amanda Hope Rainbow Foundations gala in the books, a busy gala season is now in full swing with events benefitting charities like the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, Check For a Lump and Elevate Phoenix.
Unicorn Philanthropy will be hosting the Gawley Gala to benefit Check For a Lump – a Phoenix nonprofit that provides free breast health education, mammograms and other assistance to breast cancer patients – and Elevate Phoenix, which delivers long-term and life-changing relationships to urban youth.
The Gawley Gala is scheduled for Oct. 8 at The Camby Hotel in Phoenix and has already opened bidding for silent auction items on Unicorn Philanthropy’s website, unicornphilanthropy.com.
“The gala is Unicorn Philanthropy’s largest annual fundraising event and is what sustains our beneficiaries throughout the year,” said Ashley Firouzi, the events manager for Unicorn Philanthropy.
Unicorn Philanthropy is expecting between 200 and 250 guests to attend the event and hopes to raise $200,000 to benefit the two charities.
“Check For a Lump lost over 80 percent of its funding and through the support of events like this that has kept the foundation going,” she said.
To aid the two charities, 35 items will be sold via a silent auction that closes on the day of the gala.
The gala will also host a live auction at the event where the big item is a Napa California wine experience that includes a stay at the Westin hotel, magnum bottles of reserve wine, a tour and tasting of the winery and a pub crawl around Napa with one of the winery owners.
The Thrive Gala Oct. 9 at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale at Gainey Ranch will benefit the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary with an in-person format.
“This gala, not only does it serve as an educational opportunity for those who may not have great insight on sexual and domestic violence, but it also serves as a safe space for those to discuss what our mission means to them,” said spokesman Joshua Burleson. “It also allows us to award those who have made a difference through advocacy and show support for those who are currently experiencing or have experienced sexual and/or domestic violence.”
Burleson is most excited to be able to host an in-person event as he feels that is the best way to promote his cause.
“With an in-person gala, it gives you that chance to truly create that human bond,” he said. “When you’re in a room while a survivor is speaking, allowing you to hear their story, it creates a more passionate and energetic atmosphere because you are able to look across the room and experience heart-felt emotions in real time. You’re not able to do that on that level virtually.”
While the gala will likely raise plenty of dollars it also will see the presentation of awards for survivors of domestic and sexual violence who are working to address the problem.
“We want to increase awareness in the community about the issues of sexual and domestic violence and enhance the safety of and educate people on the services available for help,” said Burleson. “I hope people gain a sense of community for those supporting the mission.”
“Proceeds from the Coalition’s event support our prevention, advocacy and education efforts to fulfill our mission to end sexual and domestic violence in Arizona by dismantling oppression and promoting equity among all people,” said Burleson.
When: Friday, Oct. 8, 6 p.m.
Where: The Camby Hotel 2401 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix.
Pulse of the City
When: Saturday, Oct. 9, 6 p.m.
Where: Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia, 4949 E. Lincoln Drive
Cost: Sold out
The Thrive Gala
When: Saturday, Oct. 9, 6 p.m.
Where: Hyatt Regency Scottsdale at Gainey Ranch, 7500 E. Doubletree Ranch Road
Silver & Turquoise Ball
When: Oct. 22, 6 p.m.
Where: The Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch, 7700 E. McCormick Pkwy.
Cost: $250+ for in person attendees/ $40 for livestream attendees.
Open Your Heart Gala
When: Oct. 30, 5:30 p.m.
Where: 12051 N. 96th St.
62nd Annual Heart Ball
When: Nov. 20, 6 p.m.
Where: The Phoenician, 6000 E. Camelback Road
The Honor Ball
When: Dec. 4, 6:30 p.m.
Where: JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa, 5402 E. Lincoln Drive
Cost: $1,000 +