Big Sister Association Scores Chelsea Clinton as Gala Speaker

By Jenny Berg November 16, 2011, 1:40 PM EST

Photo: Yuri Vaysgant

Big Sister Association of Greater Boston's Big in Boston Gala
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At its “Big in Boston” gala at the Museum of Fine Arts on Saturday, the Big Sister Association of Greater Boston celebrated its 60th anniversary—and checked off another achievement. “Chelsea Clinton has been on Big Sister's short list for desired special guests to share in our work and in our signature event,” said director of development Alexis Bulkley.

To book the big-name speaker, Bulkley and her team relied on old-fashioned networking. “Our board members used their personal and professional connections to request her involvement,” she said. The local nonprofit is a mentoring organization for young girls, and the evening included an award presentation to philanthropist and political activist Elaine Schuster.

Before she spoke, Clinton met privately with 30 “Little Sisters,” the name for the young girls who benefit from Big Sister's services. One of the girls presented Clinton with a sympathy card in honor of her grandmother Dorothy Rodham, who passed away earlier this month. Coincidentally, Clinton had recently changed her speech—which initially described her own experiences as a mentor—to focus on how her grandmother served as a role model for her.

The event saw several new elements this year: It took place at the museum for the first time, and staffers performed a flash mob-style dance to Katy Perry's “Firework” to usher guests out of the cocktail reception. “Once we had all our guests' attention, it was much easier to guide them to dinner,” Bulkley said.

Hosting the gala on a weekend was also new. “For the last few years, we have held Big in Boston on a weekday evening, typically a Thursday,” Bulkley said. “To properly celebrate our 60th anniversary serving greater Boston's girls, however, we decided that this year's event should take place on a Saturday night.”

With the heightened prestige came a larger guest list: 500 supporters made it out this year, while last year's gala drew around 400. Bulkley said that the increase was thanks to everything from “many, many emails, phone calls, and meetings with donors, corporate sponsors, supporters and friends” to Facebook marketing, printed save the dates, and pro bono advertisements in media outlets such as The Boston Globe.

The trickiest bit of the planning process was “trying to remain within the capacity limits for the event,”she said. ”Everyone wanted to be there. We ultimately increased the number of guests to include [more people].” The event raised $850,000.

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