Band of Sisters: Putting Together a Gala for Women in the Congo
With support growing, it was time for a meeting. Husbands babysat while their wives gathered in Jen's living room for wine, cheese, and brainstorming. After more phone calls, e-mails, and meetings, a plan was finalized: They would hold a fundraiser at Cipriani in New York City for 300 to 500 people. The evening would include a silent auction, an art show, and a performance by an African jazz vocalist. The goal was to raise $100,000 for Avocats Sans Frontières and the City of Joy, a center for recovering rape victims being built by V-Day and UNICEF in partnership with Panzi, the hospital Jeffrey Gettleman had mentioned.
Though no one can recall Jen exuding anything but confidence at every step of the planning process, the troops admit they began to feel nervous. They had never done anything like this before. They were afraid of looking like amateurs. "I was worried we'd have a great space, great speakers, but we wouldn't be able to put bodies in the room," says Sarah LeBuhn, a mother of two who knew Jen from preschool. But Jen refused to entertain negative thoughts, and with her encouragement each woman eventually gravitated to a job she felt comfortable with. Sarah, an actress, felt she'd be terrible at asking people for money but took on the role of producing the event. Kelli O'Donnell, a mother of three who also felt she needed a behind-the-scenes job, became known as the "database queen." Stacey Breckling, a college friend of Jen's, took charge of the finances because this was a job she could do at night when her children were asleep. Catherine Kelley, executive editor of O, wrote press releases and website pages. Tanya Scholl, Jen's sister who works on Wall Street and couldn't make it to meetings, solicited donations from her friends in finance. Everyone made calls to almost everywhere she had ever shopped, eaten, vacationed, or gotten a facial to ask for silent auction donations. Some, like Jennifer Crossland, a psychologist and mother of two, found this difficult. "I am not a natural salesperson, so I had to focus my calls on a few places that I knew well," she says. Others, like Tara Taylor, who came up with the idea of asking art students to create work to sell, discovered a talent for fundraising they never knew they had. "The key is to feel great about the reason you're calling," she says. "You have to believe in your heart that if this was your money, you'd give it too. People pick that up from you."