In late 2007, five young professionals, long connected by both friendship and family, decided to pool and tap into their own altruistic nature while encouraging others to do so. Their forum - the party. Calling themselves 'fun-raisers' their track record bears evidence. Each party, named symbolically to represent the initiative, donates 100% of ticket sales to a chosen non-profit organization. The first party, L'Altruist Noir, gave them their name and was arranged to benefit Sudanese High School students. Then Amal, meaning 'hope' in Arabic, raised money for Alliance Investment Fund to help orphans and children of sex workers in Ethiopia. Most recently, 'Renovacao', Portuguese for 'Renewal', raised dollars for Nah We Yone, an organization that aids displaced African immigrants in New York City. Now, this Friday, their fourth and largest fete, named Protea, after an African flower that symbolizes diversity and courage, will benefit the Georges Malaika Foundation. Founded by Congolese model Noella Coursaris, GMF is dedicated to unlocking the potential of young African girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo through education.
Guest of a Guest caught up with the five co-founders of L'Altruist, Rania, Dina, Reham, Elkhair and Dj mOma:
What is L’Altruist?
Rania: L’Altruist serves as a liaison between people and choice causes – we host elegant and fun-filled events to connect people and raise funds for innovative charities. We consider ourselves ‘fun-raisers’ – our events services and attract a diversity of young cosmopolites and do-gooders in New York City, ranging in type from cocktail soirees to culturally focused events. Our strategy is pretty straight forward: if you provide people a familiar platform to give, they will. So we do it.
How did L'Altruist start?
Reham: Well, in 2007, Rania, Dina and I wanted to bring Sudanese high school kids to the US for a student model UN conference in New Jersey. So we called Elkhair since he runs a great party promoting company (3Kings) to help us out and asked dj mOma to DJ the party, since he’s (hands down) one of the best DJ’s any of us have ever known. In the end, we weren’t able to bring the students because of visa issues, but we ended up throwing a radical party to raise money for them and decided we had so much fun doing it, we should keep the party going.
How do you pick the organizations you host events for?
Reham: Since we’ve each traveled a lot, we tend to focus on international organizations that focus on education, especially for children. We prefer to work with apolitical charities that promote positive change in local communities, and all the organizations that we've worked with to date have been relatively small so our partnerships have been mutually beneficial. In the past, we’ve often gone about doing research for great causes and then reaching out to see if it’s the right fit, but we’re happy to say more organizations are reaching out to us nowadays.
But we’re not set in our ways at all – we’re open to working with a diversity of different charities, provided they are a registered 501(c)(3) and have a local presence in New York City during the planning stages of the event. If you’ve got a great organization that you want to promote and fundraise for, shoot us an email and we’ll see what we can do!
What's the point of the host committee?
DJ mOma: Our host committees are AMAZING! Let me repeat - we would be nowhere without them. We usually seek out 10 committed and connected members in the community, ask them to own the event, spread the word, and bring at least 10-15 people. They commit to learning about the cause and being ambassadors for L'Altruist and also, advise us on strategy. We generally put together a crew that's as diverse in background and profession as possible in order to ensure a unique group of patrons at the party.
Who is your target audience?
Rania: Since we’re all about networking, we really target young professionals and the socially conscious do-gooders of the City. Our crowd is so diverse - I wouldn’t even know how to categorize them. We’ve got the bankers, the lawyers, the models, the artists, the not-for profit crowd, etc, and our ticket prices are so low, that the unemployed even come through. We want people to come together, have a good time, and learn about a new cause each time. Perhaps even pick up a date – who knows! It’s all about good energy and positive work. We’d love to come to a point where thousands of New Yorkers know who we are and with or without our help, find their passion in the community.
What's your budget?
Elkhair: We don’t really have a budget honestly. We keep costs extremely low – everything is done in house by one of us or by someone we know. For example, Reham does our website, Mo DJ’s our parties, and we book our venues during off hours (after work hours) when business is usually slow (so we never pay to rent the space). If we have incidentals (like business cards, website maintenance), we just absorb the costs.
Where do you see this going in a few years? Do you plan to quit your jobs and do this fulltime?
Reham: Well, that would be nice! In the next 5 years, we’re hoping to incorporate an annual gala, complete our registration so we can partner with more companies and apply for grants. As we grow, L’Altruist has become less of a simple hobby and after-work interest of ours and more of a serious venture, so we’re interested possibly create one or two fulltime positions through a corporate or private sponsorship.
Now that you have organized several successful events, do you feel like you have the hang of it? Does it get easier?
Dina: Haha. Not sure if ‘easier’ is the word, but we do have a better understanding of our market. Its great to have organizations contacting us now, and to work with venues appropriate for our patrons. Having the L’Altruist brand better known only makes our events all the more successful – our supporters are extremely loyal. And we’re always trying to expand and do new things, so there’s no opportunity to get the hang of it.
What kind of atmosphere do you attempt to create and what elements are important?
Dina: Every event is different. We try to have each of our events reflect the type of organization we're raising funds for. This is why our events vary so much - they can be anything from an after work silent auction to a full blown party. But we make sure that people who have attended our parties in the past know that we organize events with a certain standard in mind. What really makes our parties so unique is our ability to put so many different types of people from the New York nightlife scene in one room. And, of course, the music mOma plays is essential to our parties' atmosphere.
What motivates you to continue this when you all have full-time careers?
Dj mOma: Well everyone has a different story, but we all share a passion for philanthropy, particularly education and positive causes. Reham, Rania, and I had corporate jobs at the time (Rania and Reham in banking, myself in Engineering – Rania since left and works full-time in philanthropy), and we were interested in doing more with our talents. I’m already pretty booked up in the evenings because I’m always DJing throughout the city, and I constantly travel, but I knew I could use my DJing for a good cause. At the end of the day, we hang out together outside of work, and it’s a great way for us to spend our time together – by doing good.
Saturday, May 25
We sat down with Anne Pasternak for a few questions about Creative Time's past and future, as well as the importance of having an awareness about public art in the city.