For many nonprofits, spring is fundraising season.
The events usually follow the same pattern: wine and beer at a silent auction cocktail hour, a seated dinner followed by a paddle raise auction. But organizers of TASTE: United For Equity, an event this Friday at the Portland Art Museum, decided to throw a different type of party.
“The idea came to me about two years ago. How do you create an event that looked and felt different, was equity-focused and highlighted the food and wine industry and its diversity?” said Kali Thorne Ladd, co-chair of Taste and the executive director of Kairos PDX elementary school, one of the organizations benefiting from the fundraiser.
She shared her idea with David Adelsheim of Adelsheim Vineyard, who told her he was looking for ways to celebrate Oregon wines in their own back yard and connected her with Joth Ricci, a board member and advisor for the winery and the president of Dutch Bros Coffee.
Ricci said he recalls their first meeting was around a time when Portland was experiencing a lot of political protests, and he wanted to do something to bring people together. He wanted to organize an event that was unlike other fundraisers.
“Let's not create another table of eight events that people have to raise a paddle. Let’s actually pre-raise the money,” he said.
Pre-raising meant that the tickets would be sold at a higher price than other galas — $200 — but also that the event itself could focus more on community-building and less on actual money. Tickets for the 400-person evening went on sale this month and sold out in less than two weeks.
Organizers see it as an opportunity to support groups that aren’t always privy to Portland’s fundraising circles. This year’s recipients are KairosPDX, Latino Network, NAYA (the Native American Youth and Family Center) and Q Center.
Activist groups that support marginalized communities have been working together more and more in recent years; during election season, a diverse coalition banded together to fight a ballot measure to kill Oregon's so-called sanctuary state law and support Portland's Clean Energy Fund. In some ways, organizers say, TASTE feels like the next step.
With the focus of fundraising behind them, Ricci said the event will create, “a forum for people to become more aware of the things that are going on around them, and hopefully, a place for people can talk about things that they can do better around diversity, equity and inclusion.”
TASTE will feature food from a diverse team of Portland chefs, including the renowned Gregory Gourdet of Departure and Peter Cho of Han Oak Restaurant, and wine from some of Oregon’s top vineyards. Most of all, it will be an inclusive space. The meal will be served family style; few seats will be assigned.
“So we hope people can sort of commune and build community,” Thorne-Ladd said. “We've worked really hard to have a diverse room of professionals.”
She said some folks did balk at the $200 price tag, but she stresses the fact that it is a fundraiser. Maybe next time, she says, organizers can create a sliding scale.
Awards will be given to community influencers and there will be an inspirational TED Talk–style speaker, a spoken performance, performances by local jazz artists Chris Brown and Farnell Newton and a dance party featuring a DJ.