By Jenny Berg Posted November 6, 2008, 4:29 PM EST
CHICAGO Saturday night's Celestial Ball, a fund-raiser for the Adler Planetarium, drew some 420 guests for an evening of dinner, dancing, and live and silent auctions. Due to the current financial climate, the crowd was smaller than it has been in past years—the event typically draws about 600 attendees. “But financially, we found that people were willing to give at a bigger level than before,” said Audra Young, the planetarium's manager of auxiliary support.
To help attract sponsors, Young and her team worked with event consultants at PJH and Associates Inc. “It was hard to call people and ask for money right after the stock market dropped 800 points,” Young said. “But [PJH and Associates] helped us strategize and keep on pushing—which is what you have to do in this economy. The money is there. It's just about asking the right people at the right time.”
Ultimately, Food for Thought and Charter One Bank became “Galaxy" sponsors, purchasing packages that went for $50,000 a pop. Charter One Bank also signed on as the event's first-ever corporate dinner chair, an innovation which was helped along by Scott Swanson's dual role as the bank's president and C.E.O. and vice chairman of the Adler's board of trustees.
Six companies, including Goldman Sachs, Illinois Tool Works, and United Airlines, purchased $25,000 packages this year—only three companies sponsored the ball at that level last year.
Along with corporate support, a carefully planned auction helped pull in funds. “We rethought the silent auction, and packaged items more strategically,” Young said. Young added that she and her team brought the lots from their traditional place along the walls of the main corridor to the more centrally located Rice Solarium, where increased visibility proved effective as guests placed higher bids than usual.
Although the final profit is still being tallied, the ball was expected to raise more than $520,000.