By Great Performances

40% of nonprofit organizations reported losses in total revenue for 2020. Partly attributed to a dramatic decline in program-related revenue, it can also be attributed to a decline in donations. Overall, 37% of nonprofit organizations reported a decline in donations in 2020 compared to 10% of nonprofit organizations in the preceding 5-year period and more than 70% of organizations reported that individual donations are essential or very important to their business. (Source)

As Covid restrictions lift and people reunite at events, restaurants, theaters, and in the office, there’s opportunity for nonprofits to recover and rebuild their donation bases. Prior to the pandemic, many nonprofit organizations held galas and events for awareness, education, community, networking, and fundraising. With our return to events, nonprofit organizations can extend their current outreach programs with live events to re-engage and grow their donor base. We spoke with some leading nonprofit event planners and partners to get a better idea of what’s happening with nonprofit organizations and how they’re coming back to live events.

Across the board, we’re seeing an increase of in-person nonprofit events, which is exciting for everyone from the nonprofit host who’s able to reconnect with their donor base to the gala attendee who is delighted to get all dressed up with somewhere to go! Rob Arango, Director of Client Development at CPS Events at The Plaza, notes that there’s been more attention to the step-and-repeat as guests are dressing up, eager to meet, greet, and have their photos taken. Even those first moments arriving at an event are celebratory! For anyone who’s watched the awards shows these past months, we’ve seen more glitz, glamor, and excitement on the red carpet.

Aside from being standard operating procedure for nonprofits to host events, galas, and live fundraisers to raise money and engage donors, there’s been increasing pushback on virtual only events (we specify virtual-only for reasons we’ll elaborate on later). The cost and effort of hosting virtual events didn’t deliver the returns in engagement and donation dollars that organizations realized from live events. As Shaun Roberts, Vice President at Great Performances notes, everyone from corporations building teams to religious organizations leading their congregations is seeing the importance of community. Specifically, education institutions are hosting alumni functions, hospitals are rebuilding fundraising efforts, artistic and performance-based groups are inviting guests back into their spaces, and socially aware organizations are rebuilding their education and outreach programs. “No matter how great the technology, it’s impossible to replicate the networking that takes place at live events,” observes James Munz, Vice President of Sales at Ziegfeld Ballroom, home to many nonprofit events including fundraisers, galas, and celebrations.

“Live events not only raise money; more importantly they are used to cultivate new donors,” reports Mike Warren, Director of Catering at CPS Events at The Plaza. Often, gala attendees will sponsor a table and invite guests who might make a connection with the cause and become a supporter. But there’s been another shift in how galas are held, notes Roberts. Instead of being tied to a table and chairs, more events are starting to have more mobile events (and not the digital kind) where guests are encouraged to walk around the space and network. “It’s been a heated debate within many organizations,” he says, “and a decision that’s very personal to each nonprofit.” Speaking with caterers, planners, and venues can help determine which event style makes the most sense for each nonprofit’s goals and constituency.

Health and safety are still top of mind for many nonprofit organizations planning events but staying on top of the latest requirements and protocols can be stressful and confusing. Munz stresses that it’s important to talk to the experts: the caterers and venues who are best able to advise on best practices that support the health, safety, and comfort of event guests. This can be anything from accessibility to ventilation. “We believe in full transparency and providing as much information as necessary to put our clients and their guests at ease. We can also share what some other nonprofits are doing to help provide some context.”

For most organizations, events look like they did pre-pandemic. Groups who are already going out are going out with a relaxed (or exhausted) attitude towards Covid stipulations: tables are not entirely distanced, and check-in is swift. At GP, we are asking our staff to be vaccinated and to remain masked, but many clients are asking that masks be removed, a sign of their desire to make everything appear as it once was. There are some planners and nonprofit organizations who are still staying on the side of caution, but Warren observes that these are few and far between and it may be as simple as setting a table for ten guests for eight.

Some nonprofit organizations aren’t quite willing to let go of the virtual component and are looking for hybrid events. Munz acknowledges that hybrid events can be a great opportunity to capture a wider audience; however, they require an extra level of planning and expertise. Roberts cautions that planning two events in one may result in increased costs and effort and that nonprofit organizations considering hybrid events need to be clear about their goals and expectations for each group of attendees. Selecting the right partner is critical to help create a program that flows smoothly. Munz notes that he’s seen the virtual portion of the hybrid event pause while the in-person attendees were being served their meals. With their deep expertise in hosting events, planners can help create a run of show and make program suggestions to make the event run seamlessly from both perspectives.

Being mindful of guest behavior advises event timelines and runs of show. Munz advises that nonprofits organizations consider adjusting their events to a shorter programmed event followed by a post-dessert reception. This allows those guests who feel uncomfortable to leave and those who feel comfortable to stay longer and socialize – a hybrid of the seated events and the networking sessions.

Event planning is also happening at a shorter timeframe. Although many nonprofits are booking venues, caterers, and other vendors months in advance, guests are waiting until closer to the event date to RSVP, making it difficult to confirm guest counts. And then there are the nonprofits that are booking events on shorter notice. Although it is possible, the current employment landscape can present a challenge. “We always recommend that our clients book the date as soon as they can so we can confirm a venue and ensure proper staffing at their event,” Roberts advises.

At the end of the day, all of the event experts and their nonprofit clients agreed on one thing: nonprofits absolutely should be hosting live events. “There used to be gala fatigue, then we had Zoom fatigue and Covid fatigue. People are eager to get back out in person,” Arango shares. People are yearning for a face-to-face connection, and it’s obvious in the excitement demonstrated when guests are together for the first time.

Encouraging those who are reluctant to venture out to an event can be as simple as providing them with more information, Roberts notes. “Be clear with what the evening holds so people can make their own choices. If you have an amazing key speaker, people will turn out for that; and keep the event to the point—no fluff.” Once you’ve identified your event goals, create a program that will engage your guests. Gone are the days when people stay at a gala until 10:00 pm because they have to; they will stay because they want to be there.


By Great Performances

At Great Performances, we have the pleasure of working with some of the most iconic venues and cultural institutions in New York City, including Jazz at Lincoln Center. Our event team works tirelessly on every event, ensuring that the menus will tempt the guests, that the food is beautiful and delicious, and the service is impeccable. And at no venue are we more thrilled to see things come to life than at Jazz. The past few months have been especially notable for the variety of events we’ve held there.

Jazz at Lincoln Center is one of the most versatile, dynamic venue for events. This multi-faceted space includes stunning views of Columbus Circle and Central Park South, state of the art audio visual technology, and flexible rooms which allow for a variety of configurations. It’s the perfect venue for conferences, gala, film premiers, concerts, and weddings. Events become experiences at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

The elegance and beauty of Jazz at Lincoln Center, particularly the three-story windows in the Appel Room that offer spectacular views of New York City, make Jazz a stunning setting for awards ceremonies and tribute events.

Highly configurable rooms make Jazz at Lincoln Center a favorite location for some of the top corporate events and conferences. From a hybrid dinner and performances in the Appel Room, to a fall-themed annual investor conference and a corporate 25th Anniversary Gala, we’ve hosted Fortune 500 companies, C-level executives, and high-profile industry leaders at Jazz.

Film premieres find the perfect stage in The Rose Theater at Jazz at Lincoln Center which boasts the ATMOS® Cinema System. 108 speakers create a state-of-the-art surround sound cinematic experience that ensures every nuance of a film is heard. Configurable seating options help to create the perfect experience for audiences. Some notable premiers from the past year include The Last Duel starring Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Jodie Comer; National Geographic’s anthology series The Hot Zone; Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of West Side Story; Stillwater with Matt Damon; House of Gucci with Lady Gaga, Jared Leto and Adam Driver; Don’t Look Up with Jennifer Lawrence, Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep; and Being the Ricardos with Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem.

Nonprofit organizations have long held events at Jazz at Lincoln Center, including UNICEF’s 75th anniversary held on Giving Tuesday this year. The configurable tiered seating in the Appel Room lends itself well to dinners during a presentation as it gives everyone an excellent view of the speakers; while the Ertegun Atrium’s large floor plan, and floor-to-ceiling windows provide bright, natural light during the day and dramatic views of New York City during the evenings.

Jazz at Lincoln Center is an incredibly special venue for weddings. Music buffs and Jazz lovers will appreciate the space and its history. And of course, when looking for elegant spaces, incredible views, and a variety of spaces to have a reception, a seated dinner, dancing, and an after party, Jazz at Lincoln Center is perfect for weddings.

Check out some of the photos from our events in our galleries below!


2021 Heisman Trophy Ceremony on ESPN

After touring dozens of venues across New York City, the Heisman Trust and ESPN leaders selected the stunning Appel Room for the Heisman Trophy Ceremony held Saturday, December 11, 2021. Production design was done by award-winning creative director David Korins with lighting design by David Grill and a 9-foot tall hand-carved and painted replica Heisman trophy by Rebecca Ward of Mystic Scenic Studios.

Heisman Trophy Ceremony Menu
Chicken & Waffle, maple butter and syrup, crispy kale; Lobster Roll, toasted brioche, chives; Habanero Lime Fish Taco, crispy corn tortilla; Thick Cut Smoked Bacon Bao Bun, heirloom tomato, kimchi, sriracha aioli; BBQ Short Rib, roasted poblano, stone ground grits; Boneless Lamb Chop, mint chimichurri, pretzel brochette; Roasted Cherry Tomato Tatin, savory onion jam; Truffled Mushroom and Fontina Pizzetta; Cheeseburger Slider, cheese, thin butter pickles, ketchup, mustard.


Annual Investor Conference

Bright, open spaces and easily configurable seating make Jazz at Lincoln Center an easy choice for corporate events, easily accommodating a 200-person annual investor conference. Spectacular views of New York City and Columbus Circle provided the backdrop in the Appel Room for the seated dinner that capped the event.

Annual Investor Conference Break Menu
Truffle & Herb Popcorn; GP Signature Nori Crunch Mix, plantain chips, wasabi green peas, corn nuts, roasted chickpeas, nori, smoked paprika; Root Vegetable Chips, yucca, beet, golden potato

Annual Investor Conference Dinner Menu
Roasted Winter Squash Trio & Burrata, brussels sprouts, apple, endive, pumpkin seeds, rye crisp

Duo of Filet Mignon & Branzino, roasted cauliflower, almonds, baby leeks, fingerling potatoes, romesco sauce, bordelaise sauce; Vegan Torta Panzanella, roasted, smoked and marinated vegetables, herbed polenta, balsamic glaze, basil oil

Golden Apple Dome, vanilla apple compote, caramel mousse, caramel glaze; Key Lime Tartlet; Cookies & Cream Cone; Turtle Brownie

Lemon Meringue Pie Pop; Raspberry Ganache Cup, red berries, raspberry balsamic ganache, dark chocolate cup; Warm Chocolate Chip Cookie & Vanilla Milkshake; Assorted Truffles

Crepe Station, chocolate creme crepe cake, vanilla creme crepe cake, chocolate sauce, matcha sauce, mango sauce, raspberry sauce

Corporate Anniversary Dinner and Performance

The Appel Room boasts a stage that can be configured to accommodate a seated dinner while a performance takes place on the stage below, all with dazzling views of New York City and Central Park South in the background. This provided the perfect setting for a 150-person corporate anniversary event.

Corporate Anniversary Dinner Menu
Kabocha Squash & Apple Tart, whipped goat cheese, gotham greens, cider vinaigrette; Salanova Greens & Blossoms, carrot-elderflower emulsion, lemon vinaigrette, toasted sunflower seeds

Grilled Prime Beef Entrecote, truffled potato gratin, gruyere creamed spinach, bordelaise sauce; Wild Rice Crusted King Salmon, arugula pesto, dill butter braised red beet, radish, turnip; Vegan Torta Panzanella, roasted, smoked and marinated vegetables, herbed polenta, balsamic glaze, basil oil

Chocolate Blackout, chocolate crémeux; malted milk chocolate custard, devil’s food cake, blackout chocolate glaze, chocolate pretzel crunch, sugar beet gel


Film and Movie Premieres

The Rose Theater boasts the ATMOS® Cinema System featuring 108 speakers that create a state-of-the-art surround sound cinematic experience. Adjacent to the Ertegun Atrium, the perfect space for a red carpet, and plenty of space for a cocktail reception, after party, and more, Jazz at Lincoln Center has been beloved by production companies for decades. This year, we’ve been delighted to host many premieres including Being the Ricardos, Hot Zone, House of Gucci, Last Duet, Stillwater, and West Side Story.

Sample Cocktail Reception Menus – 1
Classic Arancini; Truffled Mushroom Pizzetta, frisee, fontina, lemon; Spicy Thai Chicken, baby gem lettuce cup; Pink Snapper Ceviche Taco, charred celeriac taco shell, jalapeño, green olive, micro radish; Lobster Roll, toasted brioche, chives; Food Hall Beef Burger, onion jam, fontina; Cuban Sandwich, roasted pork, swiss cheese; Pulled Chicken, green chili, polenta cake

Mocha Brownie Bites, coffee whipped ganache; Blackberry Cheesecake

Sample Cocktail Reception Menus – 2
Hot & Spicy Chicken Meatball, thunder pickle remoulade; Spaghetti & Meatball, fra diavolo sauce; Smoked Salmon Napoleon, horseradish cream, dill; Rare Seared Tuna, hawaiian black sea salt, apple celery root remoulade, gaufrette; Coconut Shrimp, apricot mustard; Thick Cut Smoked Bacon Bao Bun, heirloom tomato, kimchi, sriracha aioli; Habanero Smoked Tofu Taco, watermelon radish wrap; Hudson Valley Succotash Tart, sunchoke puree, crispy kale

Sample Cocktail Reception Menus – 3
Hot & Spicy Chicken Meatball, thunder pickle remoulade; Burger Slider, onion jam, fontina; BBQ Short Rib, roasted poblano, stone ground grits; Smoked Salmon Napoleon, horseradish cream, dill; Rare Seared Tuna, hawaiian black sea salt, apple celery root remoulade, gaufrette; Coconut Shrimp, apricot mustard; Habanero Smoked Tofu Taco, watermelon radish wrap; Truffled Mushroom & Fontina Pizzetta; Crispy Mac & Cheese Bite


Unicef 75th Anniversary Gala Dinner

Jazz at Lincoln Center has hosted dozens of nonprofit events over the years. Unicef’s 75th Anniversary Gala Dinner included speakers, performances, and videos, all of which were integrated seamless into the event. Dozens of opportunities for custom branding include light projections, custom seatback covers, and chocolate disks bearing the Unicef logo.

Spaghetti & Meatball, fra diavolo sauce; Boneless Lamb Chop, mint chimichurri, pretzel brochette; Lobster Roll, toasted brioche, chives; Rare Seared Tuna, hawaiian black sea salt, apple celery root remoulade, gaufrette; Butternut Squash & Fig Tartlet, goat cheese, toasted pistachio; Habanero Smoked Tofu Taco, watermelon radish wrap;

Nonprofit Gala Menu
Roasted Winter Squash Trio & Burrata, brussels sprouts, apple, endive, pumpkin seeds, rye crisp

Filet Mignon Bordelaise, spinach rosti, red beet soubise

Chocolate Dipped Cheesecake Lollipops, blue sprinkles; Fruit Tartlet; Lemon Meringue Pie Pop; Mocha Brownie Bites, coffee whipped ganache; Raspberry Ganache Cup, red berries, raspberry balsamic ganache, dark chocolate cup; UNICEF Logo Chocolate Disk


Romantic Weddings

We don’t often host weddings at Jazz at Lincoln Center, but when we do, you know it’ll be spectacular. From the dazzling backdrop of New York City and Central Park South visible through the floor-to-ceiling windows in both the Ertegun Atrium and the Appel Room, to dramatic lighting and stunning florals, the 200-plus guests were captivated by the views. Add in delectable food from cocktial reception through after party, and you’ve got an event that people will remember for years to come.

Wedding Menu
Mini Peking Duck Rolls, crepe, scallion, celery, hoisin sauce; Seared Foie Gras, lingonberry jam, brioche toast; Lobster Roll, buttered brioche, chives, gold foil; Bloody Mary Shrimp Cocktail; Wild Mushroom Beggar’s Purse; Beef Filet, balsamic onion jam, horseradish cream, ficelle crostini, chive; Spaghetti & Meatball, fra diavolo sauce; Potato Latkes, smoked salmon rosette, crème fraiche, dill; Maryland Crab Cake, shaved fennel, orange and radish slaw; Edamame Truffle Dumplings, miso broth

Oyster Station; Sushi Station

Poached Lobster, cauliflower sprouts, carrots, caviar, watercress, blood orange vinaigrette; Burrata, butternut squash puree, spice pickled grapes, chervil, pink peppercorn

Herbed Double Lamb Chop, haricot verts, truffled mashed potatoes, red wine sauce, mint sauce; Sea Bass, tomato confit, spinach, turnips, carrots, coconut green onion jasmine rice, saffron beurre blanc sauce; Eggplant Chermoula, roasted cherry tomato, harissa, tahini, herbed cauliflower couscous, crispy chickpeas

Individual Wedding Cakes
Cinnamon Churros, dulce de leche sauce; Garnished Hot Apple Cider; Mini Apple Cider Doughnuts; Lemon Meringue Pie Pop; S’mores Cone; Warm Chocolate Chip Cookie & Vanilla Bourbon Milkshake Shot; Espresso Martini Shot

Pizza; Grilled Cheese; Waffles; Ice Cream

Contact Us to Start Planning Your Event at Jazz at Lincoln Center


One of the things we look forward to the most each year is our Farm to Table Event with The Sylvia Center, a nonprofit dedicated to educating youth and their families on the connection between food and health. We support The Sylvia Center and host them at Katchkie Farm, helping their students learn about where food comes from and how to prepare various ingredients to create delicious, health supportive meals. From planting vegetables, to tending crops, and ultimately harvesting and cooking them, they get hands on experience with the full lifecycle of produce.

Each summer, we host The Sylvia Center’s Farm to Table Event at Katchkie Farm, our organic farm in upstate New York, to help them raise funds for their programs that run in under-resourced communities throughout Columbia County and New York City. Their programs are helping to develop the next generation of healthy eaters, cooks and advocates that can fundamentally change the future of food.

Georgette Farkas, our culinary ambassador, has created the menu for this year’s event. We promise an informal evening of dining al fresco in the fields on a farm inspired menu.

Event details: Saturday July 24, from 5 to 8pm, at Katchkie Farm in Kinderhook, NY

Purchase tickets here:

If you can’t make it but would like to help support The Sylvia Center, you can donate at the link here:!/donation/checkout

Check out some images from last year’s event!


By Rob Arango

Photo: ©Julie Skarratt Photography

It has been a remarkable, heartfelt gala season with the ever generous New Yorker’s coming out to support the multifarious. Whether it be the Sylvia Center teaching children about nutrition and fresh food, or the World Childhood Foundation advocating on behalf of protecting young children from exploitation and international trafficking, not one gala is more important than the next.

All of them are critically in need of constant funding to teach, protect, inspire and find a loving home from birth through the oldest adoption agency in New York. The New York Foundling has placed thousands of infants and young children in loving, caring and warm homes since 1894.

I was fortunate enough to be invited as a guest at the New York Foundling’s Gala at The Plaza and at my table seven guests, all who were adopted, shared their gratitude to their adoptive parents and to the Foundling. I’m pleased to share quotes and pictures from these charities.

Photo: ©UP Studios Photography

The Foundling’s 150th Anniversary was spectacular! This is mostly due to the hard work and hands of the banquet team and wait staff. I highly recommend The Plaza Hotel! In all my years of serving on charitable gala committees, and as a board member of philanthropic organizations, I have never experienced such passion, professionalism and generosity from the head of events at any venue, let alone one such as the legendary Plaza Hotel!

– Joanne Marisa Sullivan, Guest and Committee Member at the New York Foundling

The World Childhood Foundation, established in 1999 by Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden, envisions a world where all children are free from violence, sexual abuse and exploitation. Each year, Childhood USA hosts its ThankYou Gala Awards in New York City. This is the largest fundraiser for our foundation, mobilizing support for our US programs. These critical funds allow us to continue our work to stimulate, promote and enable the development of solutions to prevent and address sexual abuse, exploitation and violence against children.

During this annual event, we recognize outstanding individuals and corporate leaders that have significantly furthered the cause of children’s rights worldwide. By honoring these extraordinary individuals it is our hope that their work will inspire other leaders, businesses, foundations and organizations to follow our awardees’ example by protecting children everywhere.

– Agna Brayshaw, Project Manager at the World Childhood Foundation USA

Photo: ©World Childhood Foundation
Photo: ©Harlem School of Arts

The Harlem School of the Arts Gala is our largest fundraiser and for the past four years, we have raised over a million dollars holding the celebration at The Plaza. The funds raised have a direct impact on our students’ access to arts education in the four disciplines of music, art and design, dance and theatre, where over 60% of our students, most of whom are from Harlem and Upper Manhattan, receive financial support.

– Talya Westbrook, Chief Development Officer at Harlem School of the Arts

Our annual event at The Plaza, A New York Winter’s Eve, provides the perfect setting in which to graciously thank our supporters, give them an insider’s look at new or expanded services coming down the pike, and tell a client story or two through multi-media, that leaves guests feeling inspired and proud to be associated with Volunteers of America-Greater New York. For instance, at Monday’s event, our emcee, Willie Geist announced from the podium that funding was just approved for us to begin providing mothers whose babies are born with neonatal abstinence syndrome,

the permanent housing and wrap-around services they need to overcome their addiction and never return to using. Saving babies, saving families is something everyone can get behind and conveying complex, not very pretty issues in a beautiful room like the Grand Ballroom, when everyone is there to celebrate our successes, welcome in the holiday season and support our efforts, makes it easier. We are all in this together. Our donors, our staff, The Plaza, the entire team.

Rachel Weinstein, Vice President of Communications and External Relations at Volunteers of America

Photo: ©Volunteers of America

In the little world in which children have their existence, whosoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely perceived and finely felt as injustice.

Charles Dickens