Robin Hood Foundation Raises $72 Million at Scaled-Down Benefit

The Robin Hood Foundation's spring fundraising event has long set the pace for annual charity benefits in New York City, raising tens of millions of dollars from publicity-averse hedge fund types. But even after scaling back the event and its expectations, the organization still managed to raise more than $72 million at this year's gala, the New York Times reports.

In previous years, the event raised huge sums for the organization by relying on a mix of celebrity, money, and the competitive bidding instinct of wealthy donors. Things changed last spring, however, when the benefit raised only $56.6 million — a 21 percent year-over-year decline. But while there was still an impressive display of celebrity and wealth at this year's benefit, where guests included Oprah Winfrey, Michael J. Fox, and New York governor David Paterson, the tone and trappings were much more subdued.

Still, the highlight of the event was a $50 million challenge grant from Open Society Institute founder George Soros. To meet the challenge, which is designed to raise money to address the sharp increase in demand for basic services such as food and shelter throughout the city, Robin Hood and its board members will have to raise a similar amount in each of the next two years. According to fundraising experts, it is one of the largest gifts ever made in support of basic human services, and Soros said he hoped it would inspire other philanthropists and grantmaking institutions to make similar contributions.

"Just as needs have increased so tremendously, the philanthropic organizations have been also victims of the crisis, and they have [had] to cut back," Soros told the Times. "We want to reverse that with this gift....[OSI does] some cutting-edge things in advocacy on many issues, and we will continue to do that. But this is an exceptional situation, and it calls for an exceptional response."

Stephanie Strom. "Robin Hood Event Adjusts to Tough Times." New York Times 05/12/2009.