Food Nonprofits Cut Costs by Sharing Vendors for Same-Day Benefits

A scheduling coincidence inspired the Food Allergy Initiative and City Harvest to cut costs by sharing vendors and resources for their annual benefits.

By Mimi O'Connor April 23, 2009, 2:54 PM EDT

Food Allergy Initiative's luncheon

Photo: Jessica Torossian for BizBash

Food Allergy Initiative's Spring Luncheon and City Harvest's An Evening of Practical Magic Gala
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Sitting at last year's Food Allergy Initiative luncheon at Cipriani 42nd Street, Heather Mnuchin realized that every bit of decor around her would be cleared out to make way for City Harvest's annual benefit dinner—for which she serves as the co-chair—later that evening. Noting the scheduling coincidence, she remarked to her friend and tablemate Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, who is also the co-chair of the Food Allergy Inititative's event, “If this happens again, we've got to share flowers and everything else.”

It did, in fact, happen again. This year's Food Allergy Initiative's luncheon took place at Cipriani 42nd Street yesterday afternoon, and City Harvest hosted its fund-raiser (renamed “An Evening of Practical Magic” to indicate a slightly less opulent affair) in the evening. And as proposed, the nonprofits shared vendors and resources in what proved to be an effective cost-cutting partnership that ultimately resulted in more dollars to fund the work of each organization.

Event and floral designer Raul Avila—a favorite of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute gala, which Wolkoff works on as the director of special events for Vogue—created and donated the floral arrangements and the stage to be shared by both events. Enormous bouquets of cherry blossoms in urns dotted the space, and topiaries of various shapes served as centerpieces and accents on the reception and silent auction tables. Slight adjustments, such as the addition of tall candelabra to a few tables and the relocation of some cherry blossom arrangements to the venue's foyer, helped create a more formal tone for City Harvest's evening affair.

Mnuchin explained that the simplified decor also felt appropriate to the time. “I don't think anyone wants to sit at a table that's over-the-top and decadent,” she said. “And it's not just to appear not showy, it's to not be showy.”

Each event hosted 500 guests, and organizers estimated their cooperation reduced expenses by almost 50 percent.

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