Whose idea of a fun party involves being asked for money?
Well, luckily for charity organizers, lots of people enjoy raising a bid paddle or answering a cash call at the festive fundraisers that fill this year’s society calendar.
Luckily for me, the Tampa Bay Times appreciates the importance of philanthropy and sees the gala beat as much more than an excuse to dress up and network with community influencers.
I certainly do.
My husband says I love covering Tampa’s most posh events because my closet runneth over. But that’s not true. Every Friday, I like to take our readers to the soirees they didn’t make in my weekly "Diary," and shine the spotlight on those who work so hard to make them successful.
If I get to rub shoulders with Paul Anka or dance to Earth, Wind & Fire, that’s just a bonus.
I’m sure that many use a black-tie gala as an excuse to socialize, but I’ll bet just as many come invested in the cause, prepared to participate in an auction or text a donation linked to their credit card.
Just add up the number of long-branded formal affairs — Pavilion, Karamu, Magnolia Ball, quickly come to mind — and I see many examples of organizations that have achieved the crucial goal of creating a loyal following for their mission.
Other organizations will draw attention to their event with headlining speakers. Former White House intern and anti-bullying ambassador Monica Lewinsky will address the Schaarai Zedek sisterhood Oct. 15. A few days later, on Oct. 19, Jeannette Walls, former MSNBC.com gossip columnist and author of the Glass Castle, is slated to speak to the University of South Florida’s Women in Leadership & Philanthropy fall symposium.
Australian photographer Anne Geddes keynotes the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce’s annual Women of Influence luncheon April 18. And the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida are bringing Bank of America powerhouse Cathy Bessant, chief technology officer, to their Women of Distinction luncheon March 7.
Fashionista philanthropy continues to be a successful category. Tampa Museum of Art patrons are excited to see what designer Marc Bouwer will show off at CITY: Art+Fashion+Culture on Sept. 22. Tampa Bay Dress for Success celebrates its 20th year of helping women achieve economic independence Oct. 10, and Georgette’s Boutique presents its annual celebrity model holiday runway show Dec. 7 for St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital.
Two lively events are tuning up to crowdsource. It’s always a nailbiter as boisterous fans raise thousands of dollars with $1 votes and generous auction bids to make sure their favorite pair win Hands Across the Bay’s competitive Dancing with the Stars. More contestants will be singing their support for the American Lung Association Tampa Bay when aspiring Arethas, Adeles and Arianas vie for $10 votes at Lip Sync for Lungs on Nov. 15.
We’ll expect some big-name entertainment this season. Florida Hospital West Florida Division Foundation booked ’80s rockers Styx for the Starlight Gala on Oct. 28, the day after Hamilton cast members take the Broadway Ball by storm. Likewise, count on the Debartolo Family Foundation to book stellar entertainment when their All Star Charity Gala moves outdoors to the Fort Brooke garage rooftop. Let’s see how they top John Legend and Tony Bennett, shall we?
Armature Works enticed event planners to its vintage brick ballroom with high-tech amenities and ample free parking when it opened in February. Look for Dishes & Wishes, Cattle Barons’ Ball and Wine, Women & Shoes, among others, to roost there. The Bryan Glazer Family Jewish Community Center is just as popular, as you’ll note on the calendar.
Keep your eyes on Tampa’s newest venue - Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park. I’ll be checking out Rock the Dock on Oct. 7 hosted by the Chapters Health Foundation. Previously known as Island Night, the benefit has always been held on Harbour Island.
In the end, Tampa’s top social mavens will wonder what made one benefit profitable while another barely covered its expenses? Why did some testimonials bring tears and others draw yawns? Tampa’s charity social scene never fails to reveal highs and lows, memorable moments and forgettable faux pas, all while strengthening Tampa and its many worthy causes.
I can’t wait.
Contact Amy Scherzer at [email protected]