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A Whole New Ball Game

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.
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.”

Check back Jan. 1 for the entire story.

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