The Happy Hearts Fund sounds almost like something George Costanza and Kramer would concoct right out of a bad Seinfeld episode; but in fact it’s actually a legitimate charity founded by Petra Nemcova that builds schools in poor neighborhoods here in the US, in post-2004 tsunami Indonesia; and recently, in post-earthquake Haiti.The group’s annual gala is a major part of its fundraising effort, and in 2013, the glamorous supermodel decided to try again, after being turned down two years earlier, to get Bill Clinton to attend as the event’s “honoree.”
This is a pretty standard technique in fundraising: You “honor” someone with connections and rich friends; and then you market the hell out of this event to those people. What’s more, you couldn’t do much better than a former president of the United States as the rainmaker. Somewhat surprisingly, it turned out Bill was a bit “too busy” that night, even for a gorgeous supermodel. Unless, of course you’re willing to shell out a half-million dollars for Hillary’s campaign…
We’ll let the charity’s former executive director Sue Veres Royal lay it all out for you1 in last Friday’s New York Times:
Happy Hearts Fund first asked Mr. Clinton to be its honoree in 2011. Trying again in 2013, Ms. Nemcova sent her first formal letter of invitation in July, asking Mr. Clinton to be the primary award recipient at a Happy Hearts gala on Nov. 4, 2013, celebrating Indonesia.
Mr. Clinton’s scheduler replied with a cordial rejection — “Regrettably, he is committed to another event out of town that same evening” — in an email copied to Frank Giustra, the Canadian mining financier who is one of the Clinton Foundation’s largest donors and also a supporter of Ms. Nemcova.
Ms. Nemcova subsequently met with officers at the Clinton Foundation, Ms. Veres Royal said. Afterward, she said, “Petra called me and said we have to include an honorarium for him — that they don’t look at these things unless money is offered, and it has to be $500,000.”
The invitation letter was revised and sent again at the end of August. It moved the gala to 2014, offered to work around Mr. Clinton’s availability, dropped the focus on Indonesia and shifted it to Haiti, and proposed the donation.
“Understanding the need and commitment to ‘rebuilding better,’ Happy Hearts Fund would like to also share the proceeds of the event with the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, committing at least $500,000 in partnership on a joint educational project in Haiti, of your selection,” Ms. Nemcova wrote, ending with her customary signoff, “Lots of Love, Light and Laughter.”
When charities select an honoree for their fund-raising events, they generally expect that the award recipient will help them raise money by attracting new donors. But the Happy Hearts Fund raised less money at the gala featuring Mr. Clinton than it did at its previous one.
Further, it is extremely rare for honorees, or their foundations, to be paid from a gala’s proceeds, charity experts said — as it is for the proceeds to be diverted to a different cause.
How common is it for fundraisers like this to pay honoraria to featured guests? It’s unusual on this scale, especially for someone supposedly acting on behalf of another charity, says an Ivy League expert contacted by [NY Times journalist Deborah] Sontag.1 In fact, he considers the Happy Hearts Fund transaction “distasteful:”
“This is primarily a small but telling example of the way the Clintons operate,” said Doug White, who directs the master’s program in fund-raising management at Columbia University. “The model has responsibility; she paid a high price for a feel-good moment with Bill Clinton. But he was riding the back of this small charity for what? A half-million bucks? I find it — what would be the word? — distasteful.”
Why this is in The Hearing Blog:
We’ll simply let the photos tell the rest of the story, and then you can draw your own conclusions. Note the links to the sources in the captions of the 2013 Gala (red background)4 and 2014 Gala5 (last) images…
Hearing Charities We Like:
There are a number of excellent hearing charities worthy of your financial support, and also welcome donations of hearing aids. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Auditory-Verbal Center in Atlanta (Donate — Guidestar);
- Center for Hearing and Speech in Houston (Donate — Guidestar);
- John Tracy Clinic in LA (Donate — Guidestar) More of our coverage on JTC;
- Carel duToit Centre in Cape Town, South Africa (Donate (Guidestar not available));
- The Ear Foundation in Nottingham, England (Donate (Guidestar not available))
Also, for adults as well as children who would not otherwise qualify for assistance for hearing aids, we recommend the Miracle-Ear Foundation. Here is their eligibility criteria and application download (Tip: It’s a 14 page color form, so when printing it out select “Greyscale Printing” to save ink.)
- An Award for Bill Clinton Came With $500,000 for His Foundation. New York Times, by Deborah Sontag, May 29, 2015;
- Charity begins at home: Bill Clinton shakes down school-building fund for $500K. Hot Air, by Ed Morrissey, May 29, 2015;
- Hillary Clinton’s husband shook down a small school-building charity for $500,000. Cain TV, by Dan Calabrese, May 29, 2015;
- A ‘Night Out’ With Hillary Clinton is Reportedly Not Cheap. The Blaze, by Oliver Darcy, August 25th, 2013
- Hillary Clinton has made $12 million since leaving the State Department. The Daily Mail (London), by Francesca Chambers, July 21st, 2014.