I’m wanting a good, sharp take on the state of philanthropy in Naples, and aren’t I lucky to come upon someone so much at the heart of the community. Witness: In her 18 years here, this magna cum laude graduate of Memphis State University has (1) played significant roles with the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples, the Magnolia Ball, Hats in the Garden, The Shelter for Abused Women & Children, the Naples Winter Wine Festival and more, and (2) won such honors as the Shelter’s Ken Venturi Award, Donna Karan’s “Women Who Inspire” designation and (with her husband) an Outstanding Philanthropist award from the Community Foundation of Collier County.
I’m talking about Simone Lutgert and am delighted that she agreed to offer her keen and forthright observations on the latest trends, the smart moves by several of the more successful charities, and some dos and don’ts for going forward.
“I applaud the use of social media now,” Simone says. “Things like the online auction bidding that the Community School has put into play. Auctions eat up so much time at the galas you barely have time to spend with your fellow guests and enjoy the party.”
There’s also a move, Simone says, to court younger donors. As some of the old regulars suffer a little burnout, events are being pitched to attract the new and the eager. “Naples,” Simone says, “is growing very fast and there’s a lot of wealth coming in.”
Things are getting more casual and becoming more fun. “People are tired of dressing up,” Simone says. “At some of those Wine Fest vintner dinners now, it’s more about creative themes and no coats and ties. And the Children’s Museum’s Night at the Museum invites adults in to play, to frolic.”
“I believe the Magnolia Ball—benefiting the NCH/Lutgert Cancer Center—has the right idea by scheduling the event every two years,” Simone says. “It’s fresher this way and there’s no auction, no pressure exerted. You just have to buy the ticket, and it has done very well for itself that way. The Naples Winter Wine Fest has started initiatives, targeted cash calls where you know your money will go for children’s dental care or will be earmarked for the food truck or vision care. Other charities have created smaller lots to get more people into the bidding.”
Simone is convinced that Hats in the Garden did a wise thing listening to its donors. It used to have occasional fashion shows at this event at, and for, Naples Botanical Garden. But now it always features the fashion show and is ever more popular for doing so. She celebrates the David Lawrence Center for executing its themed events so grandly and the Immokalee Foundation for doing what it does best with its fundraising golf tournament. She finds the Mending Broken Hearts luncheon for The Shelter for Abused Women & Children “uber-successful. There’s something very exciting about it,” she says. “As part of a big turnout with people from all walks of life, we’re all packed in there like sardines. There’s always a speaker who’s been through an ordeal, and we women identify with females who need to stand up better for their rights. It’s a nurturing crowd.”
Simone’s Two Cents’ Worth
The principles to keep in mind going forward? Simone says to manage the expenses (beware of spending too much on invitations and décor), be true to what you are (the Children’s Museum is getting playful with a Big Wigs theme for an upcoming event), don’t press people to attend your event (if you’re having to force it, reevaluate the event), seek out new people, and if something isn’t working, stop doing it.
“How can I ever forget a Wine Fest Meet the Kids Day at the Naples Equestrian Challenge, which had gotten a grant from us?” Simone recalls. “A little boy there picked me out of the crowd of us getting off the bus. He hugged me and kept saying ‘thank you’ and I couldn’t help tearing up.” Emotions of all kinds surface. Consider the time Simone was asked to host a patron party at her home. She said she could handle maybe 100 people. The organizer came back later and said there were 150. And that’s couples, not individuals. “So,” Simone says, “we had 300, not 100, but it all worked out fine anyway.”
We appreciate Simone’s wisdom on the state of local philanthropy. She and her husband, Scott, will be hosting the Magnolia Ball next April. Should be a blast watching them put all their savvy to work. Here’s to a great season ahead.
Double Your Pleasure
You’ll notice we have two covers, front and back, this month. We wanted to offer a little something fresh. And besides, what would you do when you have equally cool photos of Judge Judy Sheindlin and that gorgeous fashion model? Enjoy the issue, cover to cover.
In August’s “How to Do Almost Everything” piece, we inadvertently credited automotive detailer Todd Liberty of Liberty Automotive Management with suggesting car owners use dryer sheets to remove lovebugs—he suggests soapy water.