Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 50 / 14 December 2017
 

AOF looks to reboot Oscar gala

NEWS


s.hemmelgarn@ebar.com

Guests entered the Academy of Friends annual gala more than a decade ago, in 2000. This year the organization hopes to reboot the party. (Photo: Rick Gerharter)
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After two years of turmoil, the Academy of Friends is hoping to reboot its signature Oscar gala so that it can once again distribute proceeds to HIV/AIDS nonprofits.

This year's theme is "Scandalous," which might have applied to the organization's last two events. In both 2010 and 2011 the benefitting organizations (they were the same except for one that chose not to participate last year) received only a fraction of the money they were expecting.

This year, however, a new board chair is at the helm and he's getting the word out that the gala, while scaled down and leaner, is on.

In fact, Howard Edelman, the board chair, is encouraging people to say "Scandalous."

"It's so much fun to say, so I suggest everyone go around San Francisco saying, 'Scandalous,' because the publicity would be awesome," Edelman said in an email.

Tickets, which are $250 general admission, are now on sale. This year's gala and Academy Awards viewing party begins at 5 p.m., Sunday, February 26, and will be held at the San Francisco Design Center Galleria, 101 Henry Adams Street.

After a disappointing past two galas, Edelman, who stepped in as board chair last June, is looking to revitalize the party, long known for its sexy human Oscar statuettes. He told the Bay Area Reporter Tuesday, January 17 that AOF received confirmation that AT&T will be a major sponsor ($25,000 and above) for next month's event. Other confirmed corporate sponsors who will provide financial donations include Gold's Gym, gaytravelbuddy.com, American Packaging, and betterbusinesscards.com. (Edelman works at American Packaging.)

"Corporate sponsorship continues to be an important component of bringing the gala to life each year, along with underwriting support," he noted.

Those contributions will help pay for the party, while funds from ticket sales, the auction, and raffle will go to the beneficiaries.

Board chair Howard Edelman (Photo: Lydia Gonzales)

"The more people that attend, the more money we raise," Edelman said.

Edelman said the payout to beneficiaries "boils down to one thing: Come to the gala."

This year's partners are Huckleberry Youth Programs, Maitri, Shanti, Tenderloin Health, and the Women's HIV Program at UCSF.

This week, Maitri sent out an email promoting the gala and urging its supporters to purchase tickets.

AOF has contributed more than $8.5 million to Bay Area HIV and AIDS service organizations since it was founded more than 30 years ago by a group of friends at a private home. It went on to become a lavish affair but the recent recession and continuing economic slowdown have seen a drastic decrease in donations. Edelman hopes to turn that around.

The gala, through sales of raffle tickets, tickets, and other underwriting, used to require that beneficiaries raise 25 percent of their pledged grant.

But in recent years, AOF hasn't delivered what partner agencies were expecting. The 11 nonprofits that worked with the agency on the 2010 gala were asked to return for 2011 so AOF could make good on its pledges. All but one of the groups agreed.

AOF had initially said it would distribute a combined $220,000 to the 11 organizations. (The returning groups included the five 2012 partners.)

But in May 2011, AOF representatives told beneficiaries they were backing out of paying what they owed. About $150,000 had remained to be paid.

Changes

Since then, changes have been made.

AOF is asking for beneficiaries to provide as much support as they can, but specific requirements haven't been made. The nonprofit hasn't made specific dollar commitments to partners, either.

About 20 gala tickets have been sold so far, Edelman said, bringing in $5,000. Raffle ticket sales have generated about $2,500, he said. He said they'd like to raise $75,000 from the silent auction.

The Hollywood award season is in full swing, with the Golden Globes being handed out last Sunday. Oscar nominations are set to be announced Tuesday, January 24. AOF officials are hoping the growing interest in the awards will spark ticket sales.

AOF has come close to raising the money it will need to pay for the gala, which has a budget of $150,000.

Before AT&T came onboard, corporate sponsors had pledged about $70,000, and about $58,000 has been raised through underwriting, Edelman said.

"It's quite an achievement, because we came from behind" to get this close to having the gala paid for, Edelman said. "It was really difficult, but people are stepping up."

Kaushik Roy, executive director of Shanti, which offers support to people with life-threatening illnesses, including HIV/AIDS, said in response to emailed questions, "Even though the last couple of years have been very difficult, AOF has an incredible history of supporting [AIDS service organizations] and the community. They've been very generous to Shanti, historically, and we wanted to continue our support of them in these tough times."

Tenderloin Health, another beneficiary, recently announced plans to shut down. Edelman wouldn't comment on what might happen to the money the agency would have received if they do close.

AOF's overall budget, including costs associated with the gala, is $532,000. Edelman said they let go of their last employee in November, and monthly expenses are "minimal."

For more information, visit http://scandalous2012.com.






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