Champagne, Massage Lure Hedge Fund Women to Help Needy Students
Tami Kesselman knew Texas Hold’em wouldn’t cut it with her target donors: women hedge-fund executives, bankers, lawyers and other professionals.
So the executive director of Reach: Rewarding Achievement, a New York educational nonprofit, went with champagne and spa treatments. She called the fundraiser Bubbles and Bling.
“A lot of women don’t play poker, and women prefer to spa,” said Ji-mei Ma, the event’s chairwoman and the head of product marketing and client development at Nebula Capital Management, Stamford, Connecticut.
The Reach program, started three years ago, tutors disadvantaged high-school students preparing for Advanced Placement tests administered by the College Board.
“Demographics shouldn’t affect destiny,” Kesselman said. “The program instills confidence in the students and changes their lives.”
The event tonight for about 150 is at Spa Chakra on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, part of a chain of luxury pampering sites in the U.S. and Europe, and the target is about $50,000. For $195, attendees will sip champagne on the spa’s rooftop relaxation deck and get a quick facial or sample a massage.
Kesselman said the organization also pitched the event to single men and the husbands of women attendees, since a good portion of Spa Chakra’s clients are male. So far, men make up about 10 percent of the fundraiser’s ticket buyers.
“For single male investment bankers, there will be a good male-female ratio for them, and it’s for a good cause,” she said.
Beginning tomorrow, Spa Chakra will donate a third of the value of a 2-hour spa treatment (at $225 hour) if the client mentions Reach when booking a reservation. It costs $265 per student to fund tutoring sessions, Kesselman said.
“We have always had an affinity for charities that focus on high-risk students,” Michael Canizales, Spa Chakra’s chief executive officer, said in a phone interview. “I’m a believer that it only takes one person to give a darn, and philosophically, this is a wonderful age and focus for us.”
One of the Reach’s initial funders was Pershing Square Foundation, a nonprofit launched by hedge-fund manager Bill Ackman. The foundation has continued to support the nonprofit with a $1 million gift last year, Kesselman said.
Reach was set up about three years ago as an innovative pay-for-performance initiative by the New York-based Council of Urban Professionals, which prepares minorities for jobs in business, politics and government service.
Today, Reach tutors about 3,700 disadvantaged and poor students in 31 New York schools on Saturdays, Ma said. Students who receive an AP score of 5 (extremely well-qualified) get $500 from Reach; $400 goes to those who score a 4 (well-qualified); and $300 to those who score a 3 (qualified).
Many of the students have been admitted to educational institutions on U.S. News & World Report’s annual list of top undergraduate colleges, Kesselman said. Past Reach participants are now at Harvard College, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Williams College and Spelman College, a historically black women’s institution in Atlanta.
Ma, a Smith College graduate, said she wants to bring the Reach program to the Stamford, Connecticut, area where she lives. Kesselman said schools and potential funders are interested in taking the concept to Washington, San Francisco and Newark, New Jersey, in the next two years.
“I’m a child of working-class immigrants and benefited greatly from having a handful of mentors outside the school system,” said Ma, a Reach board member. “They helped guide me into a great school, which has and continues to open doors to great opportunities. I can never truly repay my mentors, so it is a privilege to pay it forward with my involvement in Reach.”
Bubbles and Bling is July 15 at Spa Chakra, 663 Fifth Ave. at 7 p.m. Tickets are $195 and $500. Information: http://nycup.wufoo.com/forms/bubbles-bling-spa-chakra-fundraiser or +1-646-619-5188.
To contact the writer on this story: Patrick Cole in New York at pcole3@Bloomberg.net.
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