The Robin Hood Foundation defied the recession and raised a record-setting $72.7 million at its annual spring gala last year. Still, executive director David Saltzman was nervous about this Monday’s fundraiser.
So he turned to three heavy hitters, JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon, Google Inc. CEO Eric Schmidt and investment adviser Lee Ainslie III of Maverick Capital to serve as co-chairmen and help sell tickets for Wall Street’s biggest single-night fundraiser.
“We would hope Eric will attract a whole new group of donors and help inspire a similar type of thoughtful, innovative and effective poverty fighting in Silicon Valley and beyond,” Saltzman said about Schmidt, a Robin Hood novice, in an interview this week.
Saltzman, 48, said sales of the more than 3,400 tickets are “a little bit ahead of where we were” last year.
The Robin Hood Foundation was started by Paul Tudor Jones in 1988 and raises money for 200 of New York’s poverty-fighting organizations. Its board -- which includes Tudor Jones, Greenlight Capital Chairman David Einhorn, film producer Harvey Weinstein and actor Gwyneth Paltrow -- covers the gala’s cost so that all proceeds go to the beneficiaries. Before last year’s record, the gala raised $56.5 million in 2008 and about $72 million the year before.
The event, at New York’s Jacob Javits Convention Center, will be hosted by NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams. “Saturday Night Live” alumnus and late-night talk-show host Jimmy Fallon will perform.
The entertainment is led by Stevie Wonder, a major star in line with past guests such as Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones. A couple of surprise guests also will be on tap, Saltzman said. Last year, Aretha Franklin stunned the audience with a rendition of “Bridge Over Troubled Waters.”
Entertainers invited to attend and mingle with the hedge fund managers and bankers include Sting, film and television star Michael J. Fox, tennis great John McEnroe and Stephen Colbert, host of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report.”
Once the guests sit down for dinner of filet of beef, a host of entertainers and celebrities such as Uma Thurman and Catherine Zeta-Jones will circulate among donors asking for additional pledges beyond the seat prices ($2,000 and $3,000 for individuals, $30,000, to $250,000 for tables). Wireless devices at each table will allow attendees to make anonymous donations. Last year, the devices helped raise about $28 million.
“This is about good people coming together to look out for their neighborhoods,” Saltzman said. “This is the New York City equivalent of an old-fashioned, small-town barn raising.”
The Robin Hood Foundation gala is Monday at 6 p.m. at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, 11th Avenue between 35th and 36th streets, in Manhattan. Dress: Business attire. Information: firstname.lastname@example.org or +1-212-245-6570, ext. 20.