By Irene Lacher Posted November 13, 2009, 4:52 PM EST
In the face of the grim economy, Chrysalis didn’t want to have to choose between celebrating its successes with longtime supporters and bankrolling its work with proceeds from big-ticket benefits. So this year the nonprofit, which helps the homeless find employment, adopted a new recession-friendly strategy for its autumn fund-raiser—downsizing from a sit-down dinner to a cocktail party with a ticket price of $175 a head, half the tariff of the lavish 2008 affair at Vibiana, a former cathedral downtown.
The result was a crowd of 350 at Tuesday evening’s 25th anniversary celebration—as many who attended the dinner the year before. “We didn’t lose anybody,” said Chrysalis special event manager Katherine Atkins. “It was good because people were more encouraged to bid on auction items and they could come and go as they please.”
Of course, keeping revenue up also involved keeping costs down. Chrysalis accomplished that by holding the outdoor event around the Wilshire Avenue driveway of Santa Monica’s Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows, where a large fig tree and other lush landscaping stood in for elaborate decor. The hotel provided simple, budget-friendly rentals, including comfortable clusters of walnut-colored rattan sofas and chairs, 16 small round tables for seating and rectangular tables for the abundant silent auction items assembled by Murphy O’Brien PR chairman/C.E.O. Karen Murphy O’Brien. Tables were topped with small glass vases of varying heights, filled with pebbles, succulents, and candles and placed on round mirror bases. As hotel staff passed hors d’oeuvres (risotto bites, mozzarella, salmon, and beef Wellington), guests cruised four bars sponsored by Grey Goose vodka and Barefoot Wines as well as a buffet of Sprinkles cupcakes.
Unlike the organization’s celebrity-driven summer event, the fall fund-raiser honors board members, benefactors, and successful clients. After an hour of speeches and awards presentations by Chrysalis founder John Dillon, client Roy Williams (a former skid row felon who’s now a property manager and certified pastor), and others, Chrysalis supporters had made $250,000 in donations. When valets arrived with their cars, guests discovered bags of cookies from the Fairmont’s Fig Restaurant in Santa Monica on their dashboards.