If you want people at your gala to stop drinking the cocktails and sit down for dinner, try a flash mob.
That’s what Tipping Point, an organization that raises and distributes money to poverty-fighting programs in the San Francisco Bay area, did at its gala last month. The event raised a record $6.5-million, a half-million dollars more than in 2010.
Tipping Point has been careful to maintain an image of innovation with its annual gala, now in its fifth year. A couple of years ago, the charity showed a 30-second video in which the actor Will Ferrell admonished everyone to take a seat—or else.
The main purpose of the flash mob this year was to get some 900 dinner guests to sit down at their tables, always a bit trying with so many people, says Jen Pitts, managing director of communications.
“What could we do to kick off the night, to make it fun and get people in the right mood?” Ms. Pitts recalls thinking. “It’s about doing good and feeling good. You have to have it be a party.” Ms. Pitts says she was inspired by the band Black Eyed Peas and the flash mob routine the group performed on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show last year.
About 80 to 100 Tipping Point staff members, board members, and volunteers danced to a choreographed routine, which they had practiced secretly for a month.
This year, by sheer coincidence, one of the guests had brought a friend along: Will.i.am, who, with Fergie, sings the Black Eyed Peas hit: “Just Can’t Get Enough/I Gotta Feeling,” the same song chosen by the flash mob on Oprah.
After organizers asked Will.i.am to say a few words before the surprise flash mob, he introduced himself and said something to the effect, “I have a feeling that tonight’s gonna be a good night.” Then the music and dancing started.
As the song ended, giant curtains opened to dinner tables, and the dancers, arms pumping, led the way into the seating area. They got people to sit down in about 10 minutes, a task that would normally take much longer.
The flash mob, Ms. Pitts says, connected with donors. “It’s something that starts with one person, and you reach a critical mass. That’s what Tipping Point is about, a few passionate people that create an idea and then there’s a domino effect. You capture people’s attention and you motivate them.”
Check out the video below of the Tipping Point flash mob.