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Issue Date: January 2008


A Whole New Ball Game

Throwing a benefit isn’t what it used to be. Sure, there’s still great food, cool entertainment and lots of glitz. But there’s a new generation of fundraisers in town.
Lynne Thompson
Part of being a good fundraiser means picking up the phone, getting others involved and convincing them to part with their money for a worthy cause.

You have to be organized, pay attention to details, know how to negotiate, find ways to motivate others and roll up the sleeves on your power suit to make sure everything’s just so.

Sounds like the traits of an executive. Or an entrepreneur. Or a mother of two kids.

Well, welcome to the new generation of gala-throwing, do-gooding fundraisers.

In the past, the names have been as recognizable as a 5-carat diamond — social denizens such as Lindsay Morgenthaler, Diann Scaravilli, Maria Miller and K.K. Sullivan. Yet, we began to wonder: Just exactly who would replace the seemingly irreplaceable?

We quickly discovered that the next wave of benefit planners and philanthropists is very different from those who preceded them.

“In our day, our commitment to volunteerism often served as our careers,” says Diann Scaravilli. “We had more flexibility in our schedules. The women today have to be very structured if they want to give back to the community.”

As a result, they are limiting their involvement to organizations that mean the most to them, according to Playhouse Square director of development Michelle Ryan-Stewart. And their spouses and significant others are no longer simply pieces of tuxedoed arm candy who materialize on the night of the big benefit. Happily, causes have become couples affairs.

“It is not unusual to see a man chair a black-tie gala,” Scaravilli notes.

Following are the next generation of Cleveland’s top fundraisers and philanthropists. Money, clout and social position figured prominently in our selections. But so did passion, ambition and, as one source so aptly put it, the ability “to create something from nothing.”

Ball Players
Here’s just a sampling of recent fundraising and philanthropic efforts by:

Victoria Colligan:
EverGreen EverBlue, Western Reserve Land Conservancy, September 2007, $400,000
Ladies Who Launch LIVE, 2006 and 2007, $20,000 (approx.)
Hoby and Stacey Hanna
Home Sweet Homes: An Evening at Beau Ravine, North Coast Community Homes (cochairs), September 2007, $175,000
Ride the Rainbow, Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, November 2006, $500,000 (Hoby)
Heartthrob Ball, Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital, February 2006, more than $250,000 (Hoby)

Gretchen Nock
OROC Silent Auction August 2004, $70,000
OROC Race/Walk September 2004, $27,000, August 2005, $60,000, August 2006, $64,000, August 2007, $80,000 (estimate)

Heather Sherwin
Annual Great Lakes Theater Festival benefit  $125,000 a year during Sherwin’s four-year tenure as development director
The Sherwick Fund $14 million (approx.) in grants since 1993
Most recent gift by the Sherwick Fund: $500,000 to University Circle Inc.’s Euclid Gateway Vision Project

Lauren Spilman
Wired!: ignite + invent + imagine, Idea Center at Playhouse Square (vice-chair) September 2005, more than $1 million
Rib Affair Multiple Sclerosis Women’s Committee (cochair) 1999, $300,000; 2001, $368,000
Today’s Innovations, Tomorrow’s Healthcare Cleveland Clinic($1.25 billion campaign) $931.3 million (vice-chair, with husband Steve)

Sally Stewart
25th Anniversary Celebration of Cleveland School of the Arts with Mr. Ramsey Lewis February 2007, $400,000
Cool Nights, Hot Jazz Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital September 2005, more than $75,000 October 2006, more than $125,000 December 2007, $175,000 (estimate)
Rock Style Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum September 2004, $97,000 September 2006, $150,000

Victoria colliganVictoria Colligan
As a child, Victoria Colligan would often accompany her mother, Diann Scaravilli, to the venues where she staged her glittering events.

But Playhouse Square was far from sparkling in the early 1970s, when Scaravilli and other community activists were working to save the theaters from the wrecking ball.

“I just remember thinking how beautiful they were,” says the 38-year-old mother of two and founder of Ladies Who Launch, a women’s networking organization. “I was so shocked when she told me they were going to tear them down and turn them into garages.”

Last year, Victoria followed in her mom’s party shoes, when she and husband, Owen, hosted the Western Reserve Land Conservancy’s fourth annual EverGreen EverBlue benefit at their Hunting Valley home.

“My husband is a very outdoorsy, nature-oriented person,” Victoria says of Owen, cofounder of RockWood Equity and a conservancyboard member. “He is really passionate about land preservation and stopping urban sprawl.”

Victoria began her volunteer endeavors by convincing 200 friends and acquaintances to buy tickets for a Literacy Partners benefit while working as an attorney in New York more than a decade ago.

“I went to some of their meetings, where they were teaching people to read,” she says. “To see them actually learning, it was very touching.”

Two years ago, Ladies Who Launch began donating silent-auction proceeds and a percentage of vendor profits from annual LIVE networking events in 10 markets to local charities.

Each event also delivers added marketing punch to each of the charities. Ticket packages for the Cleveland Play House, for example, where the last local LIVE event was held in June, were marketed to the approximately 300 attendees and in the pre-event promotions.

Victoria also talks of extending an entrepreneurship class, which Ladies Who Launch is developing for Hathaway Brown, to girls in underprivileged communities.

She also harbors an intense interest in preventive and holistic medicine, which is why she joined the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute board of directors even as she’s limiting her commitments.

“Education and wellness are the two components to fulfilling any dream,” she notes. “If you don’t have those, it’s pretty hard to succeed in the world.”

Hoby and Stacey HannaHoby and stacey hanna
Stacey Hanna fears she may be a marked woman.

“I think people are going to start to hide from me at Heinen’s,” says Stacey, 39, with a laugh. “All I do is ask people to help me with things!”

A former pharmaceutical sales rep, she began her career in volunteerism when she and her husband, Howard William “Hoby” Hanna IV, moved from Pittsburgh to Solon in 2003 (the same year Hoby’s company, Howard Hanna Real Estate Services, bought the Smythe Cramer Co.).

Since then, Stacey’s been making up for lost time while staying at home to raise her three children. She entered the fundraising fray by helping out with decorations for the September 2005 Wired! gala to benefit the Idea Center at Playhouse Square. She also joined the marketing committee of the November 2006 Ride the Rainbow fundraiser for Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital — an event that her husband served as corporate cochair.

Hoby’s been volunteering since age 10, when he served meals and cleared tables at Family House, a home-away-from-home for families of patients in Pittsburgh-area hospitals that his parents helped establish.

“My parents made sure all of us five kids gave back, whether it was parking cars or stuffing envelopes for something that they were involved in,” recalls Hoby, 35. “It was part of what shaped me.”

The couple’s current efforts focus on organizations that aid children.

Hoby serves on the boards of North Coast Community Homes and Boys Hope Girls Hope. He agreed to be corporate cochair of the February 2006 Heartthrob Ball to benefit the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital.

And the Hannas teamed up to cochair an inaugural benefit for North Coast Community Homes called Home Sweet Homes: An Evening at Beau Ravine last year.

“Having three kids of our own, we owe that, to give back as much as we can,” Hoby says. “We live here, and we do business here. We want to make this the best place to live that it can be.”

Gretchen nockGretchen Nock
When Gretchen Nock learned that her mother had ovarian cancer in 1993, she thought it was just a random case in her family health history.

“What was random quickly became genetic,” she says. Her aunt was diagnosed with the same thing four years later. As Nock’s four daughters got older, she became increasingly concerned about their risk of suffering the same deadly fate.

“I soon realized maybe there wasn’t going to be a diagnostic tool on the horizon,” the 42-year-old stay-at-home mom says, referring to a standard test that catches the silent killer before it’s too advanced for doctors to treat successfully. “I started to say, ‘Well, we need to change that.’ I wanted to at least make women aware of their bodies, the signs and the symptoms, if they have a family history of cancer.”

As the founder and president of OutRun Ovarian Cancer, Nock has achieved all that and more. In its four years, the nonprofit organization has raised more than $200,000 for OROC research projects at the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals, and spawned a Chicago chapter headed by Nock’s sister.

Its annual 5K race/walk and mile-long Family Fun Run attracts approximately 2,000 runners a year, a number that prompted one local development director to refer to the event as “the Susan B. Komen Foundation Race for the Cure of the future.”

As a kid, Nock joined her parents and two sisters in March of Dimes walks and helping out in the occasional soup kitchen. She then graduated to sitting on the boards of the Bay Village Junior Women’s Club and Catholic Charities’ Junior Board and helping out with decorations for the Urban Community School’s annual silent auction.

But she had never spearheaded a fundraising effort. During the first year, she organized a trio of OROC awareness events, a silent auction at the State Theatre, and an inaugural run.

“We did the silent auction and run within a month of each other — I would not recommend that!” she says with a laugh. She’s now limiting OROC’s silent auctions to one every five years. “I like the silent auction, because it’s always fun to plan a party,” she says. “But I like the run because it’s inspirational.”

Heather SherwinHeather sherwin
Heather Sherwin taps her desk for emphasis and enunciates each word more clearly than the last as she describes the causes supported by the Sherwick Fund, a $29 million foundation established by her great-grandparents, Cleveland banker John Sherwin and Frances Wick Sherwin. Among the projects the 44-year-old board vice president is studying: How to best spend $1 million a year in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.

“It’s morally offensive that our community as a whole lets go of these children and doesn’t take responsibility for educating them,” she charges. “It’s appalling to me!”

Sherwin has been exhibiting that sort of social consciousness since she returned from New York City in 1993. Her career path has wound through development departments at Hawken School, the American Red Cross and the Cleveland Museum of Art to her position as development director for the Great Lakes Theater Festival.

One of the first local causes she championed was Preterm, a nonprofit abortion clinic that invited her to sit on its board after the Sherwick Fund loaned the money needed for its Shaker Square location.

“Abortion rights have always been something of interest to me,” she explains. “And it made a lot of sense. It was a grassroots organization that didn’t have a lot of access to people with money, and I definitely knew who those people were.”

Although Sherwin has pared down her nonprofit involvements in recent years —“I’m totally wired to say yes,” she admits — she maintains a commitment to getting young people involved in philanthropy and fundraising through efforts such as Cleveland Social Venture Partners. The group pools its money and invests in selected Cuyahoga County nonprofit organizations for three years.

Sherwin, a founding member, says the approximately 50 partners also use their talents to foster the nonprofits’ growth.

“New philanthropists want that substantive engagement, a feeling that they gave something of themselves in addition to their money and saw the impact on that organization,” she asserts. “You don’t get that feeling from purchasing a ticket to a benefit.”

Lauren SpilmanLaruen spilman
Lauren Spilman doesn’t like to talk to the press, especially about the charitable donations she and her relatives have made.

“Some people can give money, some people can give time, and some people can give resources,” declares the 44-year-old daughter of Matrix Essentials founders Arnold and Sydell Miller, now a mother of two and founding partner of Chagrin Falls-based Findaway Ventures venture-capital firm. “They’re equally important because organizations need all of them.”

But the size of the family’s contributions — including a $70 million pledge to the Cleveland Clinic for a new cardiac center — makes them impossible to overlook. The donation landed Sydell Miller (Arnold died in 1992), Spilman and younger sister, Stacie Halpern, on
The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s list of America’s Most Generous Donors for 2005.

“[The Clinic] saved my mother’s life,” says Spilman, referring to her mom’s triple-bypass surgery during the 1990s. “We believe in the Clinic as a catalyst for our city. It is really a very bright spot in our region.”

Spilman developed her considerable event-planning skills as Matrix’s director of corporate travel, where she oversaw 300-plus events a year for up to 5,000 people at a time and hired entertainers such as Liza Minelli, Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno. “After that,” she says, “planning a party isn’t that scary.”

Next up is Oh, What a Night, a Playhouse Square Foundation fundraiser on June 21 to celebrate the opening of the hit musical “Jersey Boys.”

Like many of Spilman’s projects, the gala and her presence on the Playhouse Square Foundation board reflect a love for the cause they further. Her fondness for animals led her to an executive subcommittee at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo — part of a larger committee raising $12.5 million for a new elephant exhibit.

And an affection for children motivated her and Halpern to sponsor a day camp for kids with a cancer-stricken parent or sibling at The Gathering Place. “You can take any activity or interest that you have in your life and give back,” she observes. “Being willing to give something a try is sometimes all that is really required.”

Sally StewartSally stewart
As a novice serving on her first fundraising committees, Sally Stewart was surprised at how easy it was to separate Clevelanders from their money to support a good cause. Or maybe she’s just a quick learner.

The wife of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum president and CEO Terry Stewart estimates the events she’s chaired have raised more than $1 million to date. Not bad for a woman whose only experience was a one-time stint heading up the annual United Way drive for the Hartford, Conn., insurance agency where she worked until moving here in 1999.

“Cleveland being one of the most generous and charitable cities there is, it’s hard not to get involved,” says Stewart, 45. “And I had the time since I wasn’t working.”

Stewart is reluctant to single out a favorite cause or fundraiser. “Every event touches you differently,” she demurs diplomatically. “That’s why you keep going.”

But she doesn’t argue when we mention the Rock Style benefit she chaired for the Rock Hall in 2006, featuring an authentic runway show of Chanel’s fall/winter collection at the Renaissance Hotel.

“It was larger than Chanel’s Paris show,” she says of the second biennial affair. “It was an amazing, spectacular event for Cleveland.”

Stewart’s closest ties are to organizations that involve those dearest to her. She’s an officer on the board of the Friends of the Cleveland School of the Arts. Her 18-year-old son once attended the school, an institution in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.

“We have 600 kids who want to be in school and want to learn,” she says proudly. “And through relationships —some of mine, some of the board’s —we’re getting a new school, right on the same site.”

Stewart is also an avid supporter of Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, an association fostered by onetime neighbor Sharon Klonowski, director of the hospital’s Circle of Friends community outreach program. One tour of the facility was all it took to secure her backing.

“What really cinched the deal for me is that the hospital turns no one away, regardless of their ability to pay, the color of their skin, where they live, what their illness is,” she says. “It’s the model for how I’d like to live my life.”

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