Grey Goose Character & Cocktails Sustains Innovative Society Fundraising Trend

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Now in its fourth year the Grey Goose Character & Cocktails event, in benefit of Elton John AIDS Foundation, creatively raises money amongst the well-heeled by inviting them to a Winter Ball hosted by Sir Elton John, David Furnish and Grey Goose vodka. Each year a different celebrity creates bespoke pieces such as home bars reflecting their character which is auctioned for the charity.

Over the years there has been the Elizabeth Hurley and Patrick Cox ‘Disco Bar’, Gavin Turk’s ‘GTs’ bar, Sam Taylor-Wood’s ‘Mess Bar’, Giles Deacon’s ‘Crystalz’ bar and Lily Allen’s ‘Lil Box of Tricks’ bar. 2010 will see Jean Paul Gaultier design the venue space and pieces for auction. Bespoke Grey Goose cocktails will be designed by The Savoy Hotel’s bar team and dinner curated by leading chef Marcus Wareing.

Among people who have money these days philanthropy remains big, but billionaires are not noted for their attention span and in a crowded market place their interest has to be caught, along with their wallets.

Art is one of the Trojan horses, used to get among them and beat down their defenses. At the last fund raising gala held by Pratham UK, the theme was puppets with three-foot high papier mâché mannequins of Indian characters such as a bicyclist being auctioned and helping to raise £1.3m from the evening.

This September Pratham’s ARTiculate Gala Evening featured paper as its theme with the creation of the biggest paper installation that the world has ever known. The enormous chandelier was made of thousands of fretwork panels, designed by Indian children and cut out, with exquisite care, by artisans living in India. The event raises money to beat illiteracy amongst children across India. Since it was founded in 1996, the charity has taught no fewer than 33 million people to read. The organisation is working with and paying the children and artisans who will also become some of the many beneficiaries of the fundraising drive.

It may seem counter-intuitive to mount a charity spectacular at such a time as this, when belts are being tightened. Still, there are plenty of rich individuals who can be inspired to support good causes via these creative fundraising campaigns and events. Charities have to do something special to engage the interest of potential donors.

Last Christmas the clothes chain Top Shop persuaded Kate Moss, Scarlett Johansson and other glamorous female celebrities to donate their party dresses, which they then hired out for charity and then auctioned.

Mothers 4Children, supported by likes of Lisa Bilton, Anya Hindmarch and Trinny Woodall, held a celebrity garage sale at Selfridges and created a double-decker bus equipped as a mobile spa, offering treatments on the hoof.

Mark Shand, author, conservationist and brother to the Duchess of Cornwall started the Elephant Family to conserve the Indian elephant in 2002. He was the force behind the Elephant Parade that sent 258 fibreglass elephants, each individually decorated by an artist, onto the streets of London earlier this year. Elephants were sponsored and then Goldie Hawn joined bollygarch Cyrus Vandrevala and his wife Priya, financier Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, Tanaz Dizadjl and Mark Shand to host a Mela at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea where the top 30 elephants were auctioned by Henry Wyndham, Chairman of Sotheby’s Europe, raising $1.5m. Which is not bad at a time when animal charities are struggling to enlist serious giving.

There may be some puritanical souls who question why glitter and star dust are needed to raise money. To which the reply comes: it’s human nature, we are social beings. We want to improve the world, yes, but we also want to have fun, dress up, be dazzled, tell jokes. Increasingly, the most successful charities recognise that these instincts are not incompatible. Creativity is generosity of the spirit; charitable giving is generosity of the wallet. They make a great team.

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Blaire McColl
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