Charities with close ties to the music business are moving their big events online -- and thriving.
As the pandemic worsened in the spring, executives at the cancer and diabetes research and treatment center City of Hope began to contemplate a fall without its annual Spirit of Life music industry gala dinner, which in 2019 raised $4.4 million. So the organization’s chief philanthropy officer, Kristin Bertell, acted accordingly to the saying, "Never let a good crisis go to waste."
Once the organization canceled Spirit of Life in the spring, it focused on instilling a sense of urgency among donors. ("We kept messaging, 'Cancer doesn’t stop [in the pandemic],'" says Bertell.) She and her staff also utilized virtual events, like its first-ever Holiday Benefit fundraiser on Dec. 1, which served as its marquee event of the year and featured performances from Aloe Blacc, Sammy Hagar and Pentatonix. Organizations like City of Hope with close ties to the music industry have been well positioned during the pandemic, able to pivot to livestreams with the sort of star power that gets donors to show up. And Bertell says it has tapped into a new pool of donors across the country who wouldn’t ordinarily attend Spirit of Life in Los Angeles, helping City of Hope raise a record $188 million in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, up 32% from the year before.