Special Events Campaign of the Year: American Jewish World Service
25th Anniversary Campaign
Submitted by American Jewish World Service
✔ The Numbers
Response rate: 5 percent
Total cost: $514.205
Income generated: $1,427,885
Average gift: $1,977
There's no denying the benefit of having a super celeb smiling from the front of the invitation to your organization's gala. But it's not always about the star power. Sometimes focusing on the mission — even at an event where tickets go for $1,000 a pop — is what brings in the donors and other supporters.
That certainly was the case with this event hosted by American Jewish World Service. Rather than bring in a big-name headliner (like it had done with Bill Clinton a few years prior) to celebrate its 25th anniversary, the organization presented an elegant affair built around live performances, multi- media presentations and speeches that focused on the organization's mission to support human rights in the Global South. The event, hosted by ABC News' Christiane Amanpour, included a tribute to 14 grantees, musical performances, remarks by journalists and activists, and a 70th-birthday video tribute to AJWS President Ruth Messinger. But perhaps the biggest splash of the evening was the premiere of a star-studded comedy video produced by Judd Apatow. According to AJWS's Suzanne Offen, the video eventually generated more than a million hits on YouTube and raised more than $60,000 in subsequent online donations.
Finally, another really innovative and forward-thinking element to the gala was an after-party aimed at attracting younger donors who couldn't necessarily afford to shell out $1,000 for the main event — with the goal of developing a base for future leadership. This was a huge hit with our judges, who liked that in addition to the extra ticket sales, it went a long way toward engaging the organization's future leaders (and donors).
Related story: Going for the Gold