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Social sense: Guide to the fall party season

The fall fundraising party season revs into high gear next weekend with a plethora of big shindigs that can cost big bucks to attend — all for a worthy cause, of course. From the Night of 100 Elvises to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Gala, tickets can go from $26 to $5,000 each.

With such a broad range, you might wonder what goes into setting the price. Why does one hoopla cost so little, and another so much?

Certainly, there are expenses to cover. A fancy gala that offers hors d'oeuvres, open bar, a gourmet sit-down dinner and live dance music is going to cost the organizers a lot more than a party that might have local restaurants and liquor distributors donating their wares at food stations, with a cash bar.

But, there are a few more factors that go into the mix.

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Maryland Chapter is one of the busiest nonprofits, with seven major parties a year, says Ann Krulevitz, the chapter's associate executive director. Each party has its own price, ranging from $100 to $650 — amounts that are determined not just by the cost of the event.

"Most of the time, when there's a strong committee steering the event, they decide the ticket price," says Krulevitz. "They look at demand — charging what the market will bear."

That means a smaller event in an unusual setting — such as the organization's coming Evening on the Severn, which is held at a private riverside mansion — can have a steeper ticket price ($375) because the location is exclusive and space is limited, Krulevitz says.

Distinctive entertainment is another factor, as in An Evening of Unexpected Delights, which raises funds for The Journey Home, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's joint effort with the United Way to fight homelessness. For $300, guests are promised a performance by a "surprise" artist. Last year, the artist turned out to be John Legend. This year, the invitation hints that it will be an "award-winning artist who is gleefully small, but wickedly powerful."

Ticket price "also depends on what you think the popularity is of your cause," says Carole Sibel, a mainstay on Baltimore's social scene and a longtime "professional volunteer" who has been on more event committees than she can remember.

Because one of her pet causes — the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore — is a popular one, Sibel and other committee members knew that even though local restaurants were donating food for this fall's Zootini, charging $150 for tickets would easily bring in a good crowd.

Sometimes the ticket price is also aimed at a particular crowd. The city's young professionals have become a highly sought-after group by area nonprofits. They may not be able to afford some of the pricier parties now, but presumably they will someday.

Ned Courtemanche, 31, has served on various young professionals' boards and committees, and attends about six or seven fundraising parties a year, most of them costing no more than $150.

"Over the past few years, we've seen a lot of philanthropic groups targeting millennials," says Courtemanche, a Baltimore County high school teacher and New York native. "So I think they're very aware of the price point, and everyone's trying to find the sweet spot."

Courtemanche says his expectations generally rise along with the ticket price.

"Under $70, I'm expecting the [event to be] midweek, maybe a souped-up happy hour that may have a nice twist to it — a visiting author or a beer, wine or bourbon tasting," he says. "North of $70, I expect a little more; definitely an evening on the weekend, with dressier expectations, they'll probably serve food and have music in some shape or form."

And what makes a seasoned socialite shell out the big bucks for a party? In addition to being smitten with a cause, popularity can play a part there, too, Sibel says. Committee members with lots of friends — particularly those with deep pockets — are highly prized commodities.

"What makes me spend $350 or more on a ticket? If I get a personal note from a friend who's working on [the committee], especially if I get two or three from different friends," she says.

Sibel knows that if she buys tickets to her friends' events, they will return the favor. But it still comes down to what's happening at an event that determines whether she buys a ticket, or just writes a check and passes on the party.

"I'm not sitting at a table and listening to someone preach to the choir. Blah, blah, blah; that's boring."

For those planning their social budget, here's a sampling of upcoming fall events. More are listed at baltimoresun.com.

Pricey parties

O Say Can You See 2014 BSO Gala

Benefits: Baltimore Symphony Gala

Details: 6:30 p.m. Sept. 20, Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, 1212 Cathedral St.

Tickets: $500-$5,000; bsomusic.org/gala

Attire: Black tie

Bang for your buck: Two-hour dinner reception with food stations, open bar, 8:30 p.m. BSO concert with conductor Marin Alsop, narrator Kwame Kwei-Armah and Morgan State University Choir, 9:30 p.m. dessert reception

Grand Opening Gala

Benefits: Chesapeake Shakespeare Company

Details: 6 p.m. Sept. 20, Chesapeake Shakespeare Company Theater, 7 S. Calvert St.

Tickets: $250; chesapeakeshakespeare.com or 410-244-8571, Ext. 105

Attire: Black tie

Bang for your buck: Food stations, wine, 8 p.m. performance of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," champagne toast and after-party with live jazz

An Evening On The Severn

Benefits: Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

Details: 7 p.m. Oct. 1, private waterfront residence in Severna Park

Tickets: $375; maryland.cff.org/eveningonthesevern

Attire: Business casual

Bang for your buck: Heavy hors d'oeuvres, wine tasting, open bar

Paul Reed Smith Guitars' One Cause One Concert

Benefits: Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center

Details: 6:30 p.m. Oct. 13, Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric, 140 W. Mount Royal Ave.

Tickets: $250-$1,000 for VIP; concert only starts at $84.50; ticketmaster.com

Attire: Rock 'n' roll casual

Bang for your buck: Heavy hors d'oeuvres, food stations, beer, wine, signature drinks, cash bar, live auction featuring PRS guitars signed by music and sports celebrities, concert by Santana

Gala 2014: Carnevale di Venezia Gala

Benefits: Walters Art Museum

Details: 6 p.m. Oct. 18; 9 p.m. after-party, Walters Art Museum, 600 N. Charles St.

Tickets: $500; after-party, $90 through Sept. 30, then $110; thewalters.org.

Attire: Black tie. Venetian ball attire — masks encouraged

Bang for your buck: Hors d'oeuvres, open bar, seated dinner in the galleries. After-party includes desserts, open bar, dancing to a DJ in the Sculpture Court.

An Evening of Unexpected Delights

Benefits: The Journey Home

Details: 6:30 p.m. Oct. 25, Baltimore Convention Center, 1 W. Pratt St.

Tickets: $300; journeyhomebaltimore.org or 410-895-1338

Attire: Cocktail/business

Bang for your buck: Hors d'oeuvres, open bar, "surprise" activities and entertainment during cocktail hour, seated dinner, "intimate performance" by a surprise "award-winning artist who is gleefully small, but wickedly powerful," dessert, dancing to a DJ.

An Evening Ringside

Benefits: Jonathan Ogden Foundation

Details: 6 p.m. Nov. 6, Valley Mansion, 594 Cranbook Road, Cockeysville

Tickets: $250; jonathanogdenfoundation.org

Attire: Business casual

Bang for your buck: Hors d'oeuvres, open bar, seated dinner, mingle with current and former Baltimore Orioles, Ravens and Colts, and 5-6 Maryland State Athletic Commission boxing matches.

Holly Ball

Benefits: Gilchrist Hospice Care

Details: 7 p.m. Dec. 12, Baltimore Marriott Waterfront, 700 Aliceanna St.

Tickets: $350; gilchristhospice.org

Attire: Black tie

Bang for your buck: Hors d'oeuvres, open bar, seated dinner, live music and dancing to Mood Swings, holiday music by Concert Artists of Baltimore

Going-rate galas

Maritime Magic

Benefits: Living Classrooms Foundation

Details: 7 p.m. Sept.19, Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park, 1417 Thames St.

Tickets: $110 in advance, $120 at the door; livingclassrooms.org

Attire: Festive casual

Bang for your buck: Food stations from more than 70 local restaurants and caterers, beer, wine, liquor samples, cash bar, live funk music by Bootsy Collins and the Funk Unity Band

Flip-Flop Festivus

Benefits: Life and Breath Foundation

Details: 7 p.m. Sept. 19, 6:30 VIP reception at Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore, 200 International Drive

Tickets: $100, $150 VIP; lifeandbreath.org or 410-750-8808

Attire: Resort casual

Bang for your buck: Food stations, open bar, dessert, possibility of mingling with expected sports celebrities from NBA and NFL

Fourth Annual Picnic in the Park

Benefits: The Parks and People Foundation

Details: 4:30 p.m. Oct. 5 at Herring Run Park, Hall Springs, Harford Road and Argonne Drive

Tickets: $100; parksandpeople.org/support/special-events/picnic

Attire: Casual, with a 1920s twist

Bang for your buck: Hors d'oeuvres, beer, wine, specialty cocktail, seated picnic dinner, live music by Jessy Carolina & The Hot Mess

Lifting Young Lives, 40th Anniversary Gala

Benefits: Chesapeake Center for Youth Development

Details: 6 p.m. Oct. 9, Grand Historic Venue, 225. N. Charles St.

Tickets: $100; ccyd.org or 410-355-4698

Attire: Business

Bang for your buck: Hors d'oeuvres, open bar, seated dinner. Tim McFadden art glass sale. Guest speaker is former Baltimore mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

Zootini 2014

Benefits: The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore

Details: 7 p.m. Oct. 10, The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, Penguin Coast, 1876 Mansion House Drive

Tickets: $125; missiontix.com/zootini

Attire: Penguin-inspired black and white/black tie optional

Bang for your buck: Party at the new penguin exhibit, food stations from local restaurants, open bar, dancing

Home is Where the HeART Is

Benefits: Art with a Heart

Details: 7 p.m. Oct. 11, Castle at Keswick, 3355 Keswick Road

Tickets: $100 advance, $125 at door; artwithaheart.net or 410-366-8886

Attire: Creative casual

Bang for your buck: Fall-themed food stations, open bar, signature spiked cider cocktail, auction including ducks decorated in a variety of mediums by local artists and supporters, shop gifts, housewares, jewelry created by Art with a Heart students and volunteers, participate in community art project.

The Saratoga Toga Party

Benefits: Maryland Art Place

Details: 7 p.m. Oct. 25, Maryland Art Place, 218 W. Saratoga St.

Tickets: $150; $200 VIP; $40 after-party; mdartplace.org

Attire: Toga or Greek/Roman-inspired or nice casual

Bang for your buck: Greek/Roman-inspired theme, hors d'oeuvres, beer, wine, cash bar, theme-inspired cocktail, silent auction of artwork by Maryland artists. Guests can mingle with artists. VIP includes early entrance and first-bid opportunity, performances by Baltimore's emerging bands and performers at after-party.

Goodwill Gridiron Halloween Party

Benefits: Goodwill Industries of the Chesapeake

Details: 7 p.m. Oct. 27, Dave & Buster's, 7000 Arundel Mills Circle, Hanover

Tickets: $150, $250 per couple; goodwillgridiron.com

Attire: Costume optional

Bang for your buck: Mingle with several Halloween-costumed Ravens players (usually 10 to 15 come), Dave & Buster's game card, food stations, buffet, open bar

Signature Chefs Auction

Benefits: March of Dimes Foundation, Central Maryland Division

Details: Monday, Nov. 3, 6 p.m., Baltimore Marriott Waterfront, 700 Aliceanna St.

Tickets: $150

Attire: Business/Cocktail; marchofdimes.org/marylandmetrodc

Bang for your buck: Hors d'oeuvres, food sampling from 30 area chefs, wine and beer

Pride After Dark

Benefits: Pride of Baltimore

Details: 6 p.m. Nov. 7, Baltimore Museum of Industry, 1415 Key Highway

Tickets: $100; pride2.org

Attire: Cocktail

Bang for your buck: Heavy hors d'oeuvres, food stations, open bar, desserts and live music

Lotta Art

Benefits: School 33 Art Center

Details: 6 p.m. Nov. 8, School 33 Art Center, 1427 Light St.

Tickets: $175 art ticket; $150 art ticket for School 33 members and nonmembers who purchase by Oct. 1; $50 guest ticket; school33.org

Attire: Casual

Bang for your buck: Hors d'oeuvres, wine, live music, live lottery-style auction for artwork created by more than 100 local artists. Every art ticket holder is guaranteed a work of art.

Dancing for the Arts Gala

Benefits: Center for the Arts Harford County

Details: 6:30 p.m. Nov. 15, Maryland Golf and Country Clubs, 1335 E. MacPhail Road, Bel Air

Tickets: $185; centerfortheartsharford.com

Attire: Black tie optional

Bang for your buck: Hors d'oeuvres, open bar, seated dinner, dancing competition, performance by Harford Ballet Company, desserts, dancing for all to live music.

Catsino Night

Benefits: Baltimore Humane Society

Details: 7 p.m. Nov. 15, Grey Rock Mansion, 400 Grey Rock Road, Pikesville

Tickets: $100, $150 VIP; bmorehumane.org

Attire: Business casual

Bang for your buck: Heavy hors d'oeuvres, open bar, gambling (not for money), DJ, magician. VIP includes increased gaming chips and access to VIP bar.

Sante

Benefits: National Kidney Foundation of Maryland

Details: 6 p.m. Nov. 20, M&T Bank Stadium, North Club Level Lounge

Tickets: $125; $250 for reserved seating; santebaltimore.com

Attire: Business casual

Bang for your buck: Food stations with samples from more than 45 local chefs, interactive food demonstrations, live music

Spotlight Gala

Benefits: The Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America

Details: 7 p.m. Nov. 21, 6 p.m. VIP reception, Hippodrome Theatre, 12 N. Eutaw St.

Tickets: $150; online.ccfa.org/spotlightgala

Attire: Cocktail

Bang for your buck: Food stations with samples from more than 30 local restaurants, open bar, glass harpist during VIP Reception, acoustic performance by 3 P.M. band, magician, caricature artist, Raven's player appearance.

Budget bashes

Inaugural Women On The Move

Benefits: National MS Society, Maryland Chapter

Details: 6 p.m. Sept.18 at the American Visionary Art Museum, 800 Key Highway

Tickets: $55; mswomenmd.org

Attire: Business casual

Bang for your buck: Small plates at food stations, wine, vendors featuring women-owned or -inspired businesses.

12th Annual Rock 'N' Roll Bash Live!

Benefits: Casey Cares Foundation

Details: 6:30 p.m.Sept. 20, Ram's Head Center Stage at Maryland Live, 7002 Arundel Mills Circle.

Tickets: $60; marylandlivecasino.com or caseycares.org

Attire: Rocker chic

Bang for your buck: Buffet dinner, cash bar, dancing to classic rock music by Satisfaction, a Rolling Stones tribute band, and High Voltage, an AC/DC tribute band

Annual Hope Lives Here Gala

Benefits: At Jacob's Well Community

Details: 6 p.m. Sept. 26, Cylburn Arboretum, 4915 Greenspring Ave.

Tickets: $50; atjacobswell.eventbrite.com

Attire: Business, preferably in At Jacob's Well colors of teal and white

Bang for your buck: Heavy hors d'oeuvres, food stations, beer, wine, cash bar

Third Annual Fundraiser

Benefits: Wanawake, a local nonprofit that works with Tusaidiane, a grass-roots women's organization in Tanzania

Details: 6:30 p.m. Oct. 2, Church & Company, 3647 Falls Road

Tickets: $50 individual, $90 per couple, $25 student; wanawakewomen.org/event

Attire: Casual

Bang for your buck: Heavy hors d'oeuvres featuring African cuisine, wine, beer, Tanzanian handicrafts, live music by Roses n Rust

FACES 2014

Benefits: The Children's Home

Details: 6 p.m. Oct. 23, Murphy Fine Arts Center at Morgan State University, 2201 Argonne Drive

Tickets: $75 through Oct. 10, $100 thereafter and at the door; http://thechildrenshome2014.brownpapertickets.com or 410-744-7310

Attire: Business

Bang for your buck: Food stations, wine, desserts, interactive art tables, photo booth, performance by Morgan State University student five-piece band and auction including artwork created by at-risk children and youth living at The Children's Home.

A Night of Doing Good, Better

Benefits: Business Volunteers Maryland

Details: 5 p.m. Oct. 25, 910 Ridgefield Road, Sparks

Tickets: $50; businessvolunteersmd.org or 410-366-6030

Attire: Casual

Bang for your buck: Outdoors with lawn games, food trucks, beer, wine and live blues music from Dennis Jones Band.

Taste of Howard County

Benefits: Gilchrist Hospice Care

Details: 5 p.m. Oct. 26, Turf Valley, 2700 Turf Valley Road, Ellicott City

Tickets: $85 in advance; $100 at the door; gilchristhospice.org/taste

Attire: Business casual

Bang for your buck: Food stations from 25 Howard County restaurants and caterers, beer, wine, signature cocktail.

Rock and Bowl

Benefits: Nikki Perlow Foundation

Details: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 15, Timonium Fairlanes, 2165 York Road, Timonium

Tickets: $85; nikkiperlowfoundation.org

Attire: Come as you like

Bang for your buck: Dinner buffet, live music, bowling

100th Anniversary Party of the Century

Benefits: Baltimore Museum of Art

Details: 8:30 p.m. Nov. 15, Baltimore Museum of Art, 10 Art Museum Drive

Tickets: $75 advance; $100 for nonmembers after Oct.15; artbma.org/100

Attire: Cocktail/black-tie optional

Bang for your buck: Hors d'oeuvres, desserts, open bar, dancing to live music and DJ.

Night of 100 Elvises

Benefits: Johns Hopkins Children's Center and the Guardian Angels

Details: 2 p.m., 7 p.m. Dec. 6 and 11 a.m. Dec. 7, Hunt Valley Inn, 245 Shawan Road, Hunt Valley

Tickets: $26-$46.50; nightof100elvises.com

Attire: Casual/Elvis-inspired

Bang for your buck: Performances by more than two dozen Elvis tribute artists and bands, Elvis-inspired food for sale, cash bar, dancing, Elvis and vintage memorabilia vendors

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