Ask the Philanthropist: Q&A

Got a question for a successful philanthropist, someone who knows how to get good things done? Just ask! In Ask the Philanthropist, we pose your questions to people whose generosity, hard work and sheer will supercharges charities and their events. To ask a question or, if you’d like to share your wisdom on successful giving, contact us.

What advice can you offer someone who’d like to be an effective gala chairperson?

Laurie Silvers says…
Number one, if you’re going to say that you will do it, you have to be prepared to give the time that’s required. Otherwise, it won’t be successful. It doesn’t just happen. So there’s a lot of work and you need to go into it knowing once you say ‘yes,’ people will rely on you to be there, to be responsive, to help raise awareness and get people to come out. It’s a big job.

Laurie SilversNumber two, you’ve got to be very organized. There are a lot of things that you need to stay on top of and if you’re not organized, and just don’t pay attention to the details, things will get away from you. In many cases, once you realize that has happened, it’s too late to do anything about it.

So your time has to be committed, you have to be organized and you have to not only understand the organization that you have pledged to help do this, but you also have to be convinced that the administrators – the people that are there to help you – are people you can work with, and that they’re competent and they will do what they’re supposed to do on their end.

The volunteers work very, very hard. They give of their time, their spirit… they’re generous. But at the end of the day, you really have to rely on the people at the organization and there are some incredible people that work tirelessly for so many of these philanthropies. And I’m very careful to only commit to those organizations where I believe that the staff – the workers – are the best of the best, that I can rely on them to do what they’re supposed to do.

All those things are very important. If one of those things falls by the wayside, it’s not going to be as successful as it potentially could be. That’s what I have found.

Laurie Silvers, of Hollywood Media Corp., is a businesswoman and serves numerous charitable and civic organizations. She is profiled in Philanthropy’s Finest.

You’re probably asked to lead many charity events. How do you decide which ones to accept?

Patty Myura says…
Anyone who takes a leadership position must believe in the cause. In my case, I help organizations that do things that are near and dear to my heart, where I can make a difference and where the need is the greatest.

People have asked me to become active in many worthwhile charities, but it just might not be something I’m passionate about, and if I don’t have a passion for it, I either decline or take a limited role.

It’s also important to keep in mind that there are different types of chairmen. Some people take a more limited role. They’ll chair an event, contribute financially and attract other donors, but they’re not very involved in the day-to-day activities.

I’m an active chairman. I want to take something off the ground that never was. I have a business background and apply that to my charitable work. There are so many elements that must be coordinated when you lead a gala.

You have to love what you do, and do what you love. That’s where you get the motivation to chair an event.

Patty Myura, president of the Eleanor Patterson Reeves Foundation, has successfully spearheaded many philanthropic efforts. She volunteers for numerous organizations, including the Center for Family Services of Palm Beach County, Inc., American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, Susan G. Komen For the Cure, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Boys & Girls Clubs.