Maybe things aren't that bad after all.
The UJA-Federation of New York kicked off its fundraising campaign on Sept. 25 with its annual reception at the Manhattan home of former Bear Stearns Cos. chief Alan "Ace" Greenberg and his wife, Kathryn. The event, which attracted 110 of New York's wealthiest -- members of the Milstein and Tisch families were there -- raised $43 million, $2 million more than last year. A minimum $125,000 pledge was required for entry and partygoers were treated to a speech by New York Gov. David Paterson.
The event's success bodes well for the nonprofit's next big fundraiser -- the annual Wall Street dinner, scheduled for Dec. 16 at the Hilton New York. Last year, the dinner raised $21.6 million, with more than 1,100 attending. This year's goal is $21.8 million.
We recently caught up with UJA-Federation president John Shapiro and Richard Spitz, director of its Wall Street division, to talk about the organization's fundraising plans.
Movers: How important is Wall Street to the UJA-Federation?
Shapiro: Wall Street has traditionally been the biggest single source of giving as a group. When asked why he robs banks, Willy Sutton answered, "That's where the money is." Wall Street has been where the money is.
What was the pitch to potential donors at the Greenberg reception this year?
Shapiro: The prevailing attitude is that this was going to be a very difficult year -- everyone has lost money since last year, but we had to be the group that stepped forward.
What's your outlook for Wall Street giving this year?
Shapiro: I'm not certain whether Wall Street will be able to produce what it did last year. There are a fair number of tables that were purchased by Wall Street firms, and the reality is you don't know if these firms will be around.
What about the Wall Street dinner?
Spitz: We've historically found that Wall Streeters associated with the UJA-Federation come together in times of crisis. Overall, we believe that more people will come out and the gifts will go up as they did for the Greenberg event.
Are you changing your fundraising strategy?
Spitz: We launched a challenge fund where any gift increased by 10% or more will be matched from the fund at a rate of $1 for every $2 of increase. For the Wall Street dinner, we are moving the Texas hold 'em after party to a larger hall, where Trump Entertainment Resorts is a corporate sponsor. We will have a silent auction for two prizes, a weekend stay at Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach and a weekend stay at Trump Taj Mahal, including a helicopter ride from New York.
What prizes do you have for the Texas hold 'em after party?
Spitz: Last year it included lunch with Ace Greenberg in his office and golf with Tom Lee [of Lee Equity Partners LLC]. We haven't decided on the prizes yet for this year.
Spitz: Bear Stearns, as an example, was one of the most philanthropic companies in the U.S. At Bear, those guys are either now at J.P. Morgan or what I like to call the Bear seedlings -- meaning people who have been mentored in philanthropy have now been spread throughout Wall Street like a dandelion. They're at Goldman, Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays; they're at Merrill. They're everywhere. We view that as a tremendous opportunity.