This fall, Baltimore nonprofits are offering some feel-good fun in an effort to snag your well-earned dollars for their worthy causes.
This year, you'll find fundraisers that feature cool concerts, culinary feasts and chances to mingle with sports celebrities, just to name a few. You can dress up for the a black-tie soiree, dress down for a more casual affair, or go in costume for a theme party from a bygone era, the realm of rock 'n' roll or a trip to outer space. And in some cases, you can choose from a main event and after party based on how much you want to spend and how late you want to celebrate.
So, what makes one nonprofit go for the fancy-shmancy and another the funky?
For many event organizers, the party is an opportunity to reflect the character of the nonprofit and create interest in its cause.
At Second Chance, which salvages and resells usable materials from buildings and homes being demolished, that reflection is literal. After a big location move and multiyear resettlement in its new digs, Second Chance is hosting its construction-themed Wreckers Ball in its new home — a huge warehouse and grounds that cover more than 200,000 square feet.
"We hope that folks are exposed to the mission of the organization," says Mark Foster, Second Chance president and CEO. "We'll be very low-key about that. It's important for us to have that as part of the party, but not for us to beat you over the head with it."
The same goes for Chesapeake Therapeutic Riding. After hosting garden party-themed soirees the last couple of years, the equine-based therapy and learning nonprofit is switching gears, relaying its mission via its merrymaking by throwing its Stirrup the Dust party at Pond View Farm, complete with requested "country casual" attire and a barbecue buffet.
"We do business in a barn. Having a party in a barn draws people back to the type of facility we operate out of," says Cathy Schmidt, Chesapeake Therapeutic Riding's founder and executive director.
Most fundraisers these days embrace casual or cocktail attire, unlike a couple of decades ago; it's now the black-tie affair that's a bit uncommon, and therein lies its appeal, organizers say.
"Everyone wears athleisure wear all the time. The notion that there's something you can dress up for is special," says Walters Art Museum director Julia Marciari-Alexander. "Going beyond cocktail attire is fun once in a while."
The Walters and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra have had great success with their formal galas. But both have been mindful to keep those parties fun and un-stuffy with fresh angles. The BSO is bringing in jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and "The Wire" actor Wendell Pierce as guest emcee for the concert portion of its gala. After a seated dinner in museum galleries, guests at The Walters get to break out on the dance floor with a DJ in the sculpture court.
Fundraiser planning comes down to catching the attention of prospective ticket buyers — and keeping it. A former BSO vice president who now serves on the boards of several nonprofits, Greg Tucker has been on both sides — as party organizer and inveterate partygoer.
"You try to create a distinctive evening that people talk about and want to repeat. Hopefully it creates some engagement with the organization and what they do. That's the aim," he says of producing the events.
As for the ticket buyers: "I think everybody loves a great party and wants to be where whoever throws the best [one]," he says.
BSO Gala Celebration
Benefits: Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Details: 6 p.m. Sept. 9, Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, 1212 Cathedral St.
Attire: Black tie
Celebration style: Concert with guest artist Wynton Marsalis and guest emcee Wendell Pierce, open bar, food stations, passed hors d'oeuvres, dessert reception
Tickets: $500, bsomusic.org
Gala for Catholic Schools
Benefits: Archdiocese of Baltimore Catholic education tuition assistance
Details: 6 p.m. Sept. 30, Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel, 700 Aliceanna St.
Attire: Black tie
Celebration style: Open bar, hors d'oeuvres, seated dinner, appearances by distinguished alumni, student performances
Tickets: $500, archbalt.org/giving/annual-gala-for-catholic-schools
The Walters Gala & Party: Jewels of the Nile
Benefits: Walters Art Museum
Details: 6 p.m. main event, 9 p.m. after party, Oct. 14, Walters Art Museum, 600 N. Charles St.
Attire: Black tie/Egyptian-themed attire
Celebration style: Gala – Open bar, hors d'oeuvres, seated dinner in museum galleries; After Party – Open bar, light fare, desserts, DJ and dancing in sculpture court
Tickets: $500 gala, $100 after party; thewalters.org
Flip Flop Festivus Casino Royale
Benefits: Life and Breath Foundation
Details: 7 p.m. Sept. 15, Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore, 200 International Drive
Attire: Resort casual attire
Celebration style: Mingling with sports and media personalities, open bar, heavy hors d'oeuvres, food stations, dessert, casino games, live music, dancing
Tickets: $125, lifeandbreath.org
Picnic in the Park
Benefits: Parks & People Foundation
Details: 6 p.m. Sept. 15, 2100 Liberty Heights Ave.
Attire: Business casual attire
Celebration style: Celebrity meet-and-greets, casino-style games, live bluegrass music by Eastman String Band, open bar, passed hors d'oeuvres, seated dinner
Soiree with O.J.
Benefits: Brigance Brigade
Details: 7 p.m., Oct. 6, Valley Mansion, 594 Cranbook Road, Cockeysville
Attire: Cocktail, diamond accessories encouraged
Celebration style: Current and former NFL players and officials, WBAL sports anchor/event emcee Keith Mills broadcasting live, diamond theme, open bar, food stations
Farm to Chef
Benefits: Tastewise Kids' Days of Taste
Details: 6:30 p.m. Oct. 2, B&O Railroad Museum, 901 W. Pratt St.
Attire: Business casual
Celebration style: More than 30 food stations from local chefs featuring Maryland produce and proteins, open bar
Tickets: $90-$110, farmtochefmd.com
Benefits: Living Classrooms Foundation
Details: 7 p.m., Oct. 6, Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park, 1417 Thames St.
Attire: Casual festive
Celebration style: Food samples from more than 80 vendors, craft beers, cocktail samples, wine, cash bar, live music featuring Grammy-winning Ozomati, outdoor waterfront views
Tickets: $110 in advance, $120 at the door, livingclassrooms.org/event.php?event_id=64
#OMGFOOD – 90th Anniversary Celebration
Benefits: The League for People with Disabilities
Details: 6 p.m. Oct. 19, La Cuchara, 3600 Clipper Mill Road
Attire: Business casual
Celebration style: Live cooking demonstrations with celebrity chefs, live music by Speakers of the House, beer, wine, signature cocktails, heavy hors d'oeuvres
Tickets: $125, leagueforpeople.org/omgfood
Stars, Stripes & Chow, Chili Edition
Benefits: The Baltimore Station
Details: 1 p.m. Nov. 4, Port Covington, 2101 Race St.
Celebration style: Unlimited chili sampling from 10 teams in chili cook-off competition, Mission BBQ buffet, Beer, wine, DJ, kids' zone
Tickets: $50, free for children 10 and under; baltimorestation.org/event/stars-stripes-chow
Benefits: Best Buddies
Details: 7 p.m. Nov. 10, Grand Lodge, 304 International Circle, Cockeysville
Celebration style: Food stations from area restaurants/caterers, open bar, live music by Roses N Rust, dancing
Tickets: $100, bestbuddies.org/tastebudsmd
Signature Chefs Auction
Benefits: March of Dimes
Details: 6 p.m. Nov. 16, Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel, 700 Aliceanna St.
Celebration style: Food stations manned by chefs from area restaurants/caterers, open bar, large variety of specialty dishes/food
Tickets: $200, signaturechefs.marchofdimes.org
An Evening on the Severn
Benefits: Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
Details: 6:30 p.m. Sept. 7, private residence, Severna Park
Attire: Dressy casual
Celebration style: Steel drum music performed by Orlando Phillips, spectacular view of the Chesapeake Bay at sunset, inspiring program featuring a young adult with CF sharing her story, beer, wine, signature cocktails, heavy hors d'oeuvres, raw bar, food stations
Tickets: $250, eveningonthechesapeake.eventscff.org
Voices from the Heart Gala
Benefits: Franciscan Center
Details: 6 p.m. Sept. 21, Sheraton Baltimore North Hotel, 903 Dulaney Valley Road, Towson
Celebration style: Live jazz by Radio King Orchestra's RKO Combo Open bar during cocktail hour, hors d'oeuvres, beer and wine during buffet dinner, dancing
Tickets: $125, fcbmore.org
FACES: Glitz & Gloss
Benefits: The Children's Home
Details: 6 p.m. Oct. 27, M&T Bank Stadium Southeast Club Lounge, 1101 Russell St.
Celebration style: Live music by Soul Centered, dancing, interactive art activity, airbrush tattooing, body painting, wine, beer, a signature cocktail, hors d'oeuvres, lite fare
Tickets: $95 in advance, $125 at the door, thechildrenshome.net
Benefits: Chimes International
Details: 5:30 p.m. Nov. 18, Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel, 700 Aliceanna St.
Attire: Cocktail/black-tie optional
Celebration style: Performance by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, honoring Deborah Phelps, open bar, seated dinner
Tickets: $275, chimes.org/events/gala.htm
The Fall Fête
Benefits: Kennedy Krieger Institute
Details: 7 p.m. Sept. 15, The Courtyard at Green Spring Station, 10803 Falls Road, Lutherville
Attire: "Fashion chic"
Details: Fashion show, whiskey tasting bar, one free drink, cash bar, food stations
Tickets: $75, $100 for VIP – includes preferred seating for fashion show, two cocktails, chocolates and raffle entry; helpkids.kennedykrieger.org/events/fall-fete
Stirrup the Dust
Benefits: Chesapeake Therapeutic Riding
Details: 6 p.m. Sept. 29, Pond View Farm, 2601 Jolly Acres Road, White Hall
Attire: "Country casual"
Celebration style: Barn venue, live music by Tumble Home, dancing, open bar, signature drinks related to CTR's horses, barbecue buffet dinner
Tickets: $100, ctrchanginglives.org
The Wreckers Ball
Benefits: Second Chance
Details: 7 p.m. Oct. 14, Second Chance, 1700 Ridgely St.
Attire: "Construction chic" casual
Celebration style: Raffle featuring "House of Cards" set pieces; "upcycle" exhibition of reworked furniture, art and collectibles; tours of warehouse space; live music by the Bachelor Boys Band; beer, wine and three specialty cocktails; heavy hors d'oeuvres and buffet dinner
Tickets: $95, $75 for past volunteers; secondchanceinc.org/wreckers-ball
Footloose: "Because She Just Wanted to Dance" Gala
Benefits: Kendall Burrows Foundation
Details: 7 p.m. Oct. 20, Padonia Park Club, 12006 Jenifer Road, Cockeysville
Attire: Cocktail, jackets preferred for men
Celebration style: Open bar, heavy hors d'oeuvres, DJ, dancing
Tickets: $77, kendallburrowsfoundation.org
Rock 'N' Roll Monster Mash Bash Live!
Benefits: Casey Cares Foundation
Details: 6:30 p.m. Oct. 28, Maryland Live! Casino, 7002 Arundel Mills Boulevard, Hanover
Attire: Rock 'n' roll attire or Halloween
Celebration style: Live performance by AC/DC tribute band High Voltage, dancing, open bar, heavy hors d'oeuvres
A Very Mod Affair to Celebrate a Mid-Century Milestone
Benefits: Hearing and Speech Agency
Details: 7 p.m. Nov. 2, Scottish Rite of Free Masonry, 3800 N. Charles St.
Attire: Business casual with "Mad Men" theme
Celebration style: 1960s theme to honor HASA's 50th year, open bar, heavy hors d'oeuvres
Tickets: $85, hasa.networkforgood.com
Soiree for Play
Benefits: Playworks Maryland
Details: Nov. 2, 6:30 p.m., American Visionary Art Museum, 800 Key Highway
Attire: "Playful" cocktail attire, sneakers encouraged
Celebration style: Games including Four Square, Ro-Sham-Bo and Switch; open bar; light fare
AVAM's Celestial Gala
Benefits: American Visionary Art Museum
Details: 5 p.m., Nov. 18, American Visionary Art Museum, 800 Key Highway
Attire: "Out-of-this-world, celestial-inspired"
Celebration style: Honoring astronaut/video game designer Richard Garriott, the first person to organize an art exhibition in space, and Diane Ackerman, author of "The Zookeeper's Wife;" "secret mystery experience" to follow dinner; open bar, hors d'oeuvres, seated dinner
Tickets: $300, $250 for members; avam.org/news-and-events/events/Gala-2017.shtml
Benefits: Chase Brexton Health Care
Details: 6 p.m. main event, 9 p.m. after party, Sept. 23, B&O Railroad Museum, 901 W. Pratt St.
Celebration style: Casino-style games, open bar, seated dinner, after Party
Tickets: $250, $50 for after party only; charmball.com
Harvest Ball and Fall Frolick After Party
Benefits: Homewood Museum
Details: 6 p.m. Harvest Ball, 9 p.m. Fall Frolick, Oct. 7, Homewood Museum, Johns Hopkins University campus, 3400 N. Charles St.
Attire: Black-tie optional or fancy dress a la Jane Austen (early 1800s period costume)
Celebration style: Costumed actors from Baltimore Shakespeare Factory, hand cut silhouette portraits, live music by the Romanos, dancing, open bar, seated dinner at the ball, snacks and desserts at the after party
Tickets: $250 for the ball; $45 for the after party until Oct. 1, $55 after; eventbrite.com/e/harvest-ball-tickets-36009197479
Night at the Museum Annual Gala
Benefits: Reginald F. Lewis Museum
Details: 6:30 p.m. VIP dinner, 8:30 after party, Nov. 11, Reginald F. Lewis Museum, 830 E. Pratt St.
Celebration style: Purple Honey, featuring live music, comedy and spoken word; VIP dinner with open bar, hors d'oeuvres and seated dinner; after party with open bar and heavy hors d'oeuvres
Tickets: $250 VIP dinner and after party, $150 after party only, lewismuseum.org/a-night-at-the-museum-annual-museum-gala-2017
Art in the Round
Benefits: The Arc Baltimore
Details: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 29, Grand Lodge, 304 International Circle, Hunt Valley
Celebration style: Mobile bidding on artworks by individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, beer, wine, a specialty cocktail, heavy hors d'oeuvres
Tickets: $75, thearcbaltimore.org
Staying on the Scene
Benefits: The Howard E. Rollins Foundation
Details: 8 p.m. Oct. 7, Temple Oheb Shalom, 7310 Park Heights Avenue
Celebration style: Fashion vendors, raffles, BYOB, buffet dinner
Tickets: $40, howarderollinsfoundation.org
Believe in Tomorrow Benefit and Auction
Benefits: Believe in Tomorrow Children's Foundation
Details: 6 p.m. Nov. 4, The Hilton at BWI, 1739 W. Nursery Road, Linthicum Heights
Attire: Business casual
Celebration style: Large silent auction including sports and Hollywood memorabilia, open bar, heavy hors d'oeuvres
Tickets: $75, believeintomorrow.org/B&A