What started as a relatively modest gala raising $700,000 a quarter-century ago has turned into one of the largest fundraising spectacles, raising tens of millions of dollars in a single night.
Robin Hood’s annual gala on Monday night raised $61.2 million, down from the record $101.7 million last year but comparable to the $60 million in 2014. It was among the top six benefits in Robin Hood’s 28-year history. Since the organization’s founding in 1988, its galas have raised more than $2.5 billion, including almost $700 million in the last decade.
“It’s extraordinary, but with half a million children going to bed hungry in our city, there’s still so much more work to be done,” Executive Director David Saltzman said via a statement.
Last year’s record total included two $25-million gifts – one from Pershing Square Foundation co-founders Bill and Karen Ackman and another anonymous donor. The gala has raised an average of about $69.65 million in donations annually over the last 10 years. Robin Hood’s well-heeled board underwrites all operating costs to be able to say that 100 percent of donations go directly to programs.
The focus of this year’s funding will be launching a groundbreaking early childhood learning initiative to tap in brain science. “Recent scientific breakthroughs have shown that spurring brain development can be simple, and impactful, but this information has been sitting on the shelf in scientific journals,” said Robin Hood board member Jackie Bezos, president and co-founder of the Bezos Family Foundation. “We’re going to take the science to the streets so everyone – parents, grandparents, caregivers – can be a brain builder. We’re going to make New York City the world’s first Early Learning Metropolis,” she said.
In recent years, the benefit has taken on a special focus related to Robin Hood’s efforts to fight poverty through funding schools, emergency food programs, homeless shelters, and job training services.
In 2014, the gala raised $60 million, with $35 million earmarked for the newly launched Robin Hood American Dream Fund, with challenge grants and donations from board members and anonymous donors. Nearly $12 million of the $46.8 million raised in 2011 was pledged for programs to assist veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2012, $19 million of the $57 million went to a partnership with the X Prize Foundation to launch a series of incentivized prize competitions designed to find solutions to problems of poverty.
Almost 4,000 people gathered for the gala at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in Manhattan while other events occurred at venues around New York City throughout the day, including: a Nasdaq opening bell ceremony with Children’s Aid Society; a Yankees-Royals game at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx where 10,000 people served by Robin Hood-funded organizations received free tickets thanks to PepsiCo; mobilization of Robin Hood’s Teen Council; two concerts for the next-generation made possible by BlackRock; and, donation of a vehicle to New York Common Pantry by Ford Motor Company.
The Empire State Building, Bloomberg Tower, Madison Square Garden, and the Nasdaq billboard in Times Square all turned green at night for Robin Hood.