London fundraising events' success prompts international optimism
Doubts about the fundraising potential of UK charity events in light of the credit crunch have evaporated in recent weeks following the Absolute Return for Kids (ARK) annual charity ball and a Raisa Gorbachev Foundation event, which both pulled in considerably more than predicted.
ARK raised £25.5m, over £10m more than estimated. This has overshadowed the recent drop of $15m in the amount raised at the Robin Hood Foundation’s annual event in New York, on which the ARK charity ball is based. It indicates that fears about the effect of recession on charitable giving in the UK may be overdone.
The upbeat atmosphere within the philanthropy sector stands out against the more troubled back-drop of the credit crunch. Lord Dalmeny, deputy chairman of Sotheby’s UK, asked “Recession? What recession?” at the ARK annual fundraiser, the event of choice for London’s hedge fund elite.
Kevin Gundle, co-founder and a trustee of ARK, wrote in the March 2008 issue of the Philanthropy UK Newsletter that ARK applies “clear-headed business rationale to the charitable sector” and donors are clearly not being fazed by talk of the credit crunch. As Paul Marshall, co-founder of hedge fund Marshall Wace and a trustee of ARK told The Financial Times, “we have to show that we are not fair-weather philanthropists.”
Two nights later, at the third annual Raisa Gorbachev Foundation event, £2.9m was raised, £2m more than last year, including £250,000 for a dinner for two with founder Mikhail Gorbachev.
In line with recent international expansion of its activities into South Africa, treating HIV and AIDS, and work in India, ARK have now recruited two of New York’s top managers – Philip Falcone of Harbinger Capital and William Von Mueffling of Cantillon Capitol Management – to raise money in New York. As one of the best performing managers last year, Falcone’s presence is likely to be a very strong lure for donors.
ARK’s intention in expanding to New York is about increasing options rather than competition with the Robin Hood Foundation, set up by Paul Tudor Jones. Arki Busson, ARK chairman, wants ARK to be “one of the solutions for Americans to be global philanthropists”.
Major donors in the UK have already given the message that philanthropic giving is expanding rather than receding and ARK’s plans look set to reinforce this message internationally.