I recently co-hosted a charity fundraiser for Unitus, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing innovative, market-based solutions to global poverty. The Police have named Unitus the official charity of their 2008 Tour, and have donated front-row seats and backstage passes to many concerts, which Unitus is auctioning off to raise money for their efforts. The event was held at a stunning home in the hills above Los Angeles. A few doors away, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver's house had posters for both presidential hopefuls, McCain and Obama, decorating their fence. After snacking on decadent puff pastries filled with mushrooms & brie, sipping fine Italian wines, and talking about how best to help the three billion people in the world who live on less than $2 a day, we all went outside for the auction, which took place on a sprawling lawn next to an infinity pool and white-cushioned pavilion.
People in attendance all snapped up the front-row seats and backstage passes to the three concerts this event was auctioning off for thousands of dollars each. Then, it came time for the grand package, which included four front-row seats to the Police's upcoming concert in Las Vegas, two rooms at the luxurious Wynn Hotel, backstage, sound-check, and VIP tent passes, and signed band memorabilia. When the bidding seemed to stall at around $12,000, one of the attendees spoke up. "I'll throw in round-trip transportation on my private jet from LA to Vegas." Immediately the bidding accelerated. When it stalled again at around $15,000, another attendee said "I'll buy dinner, for the winning group of four, at the fanciest restaurant in town."
In the end, that package alone raised $17,000, and we raised around $40,000 total that evening. Given the way Unitus is able to leverage their donations to make loans to the world's poorest, we calculated that this hour of competitive bidding would help 40,000 people become more self-sufficient.
What interested me most, however, was the juxtaposition of the immense wealth and splendor which surrounded us, and the abject poverty of those we were there to help. Specifically, the different money archetypes which I write about in my book, It"s Not About the Money, all had different things to say about and contribute to the affair.
The Caretaker in me was thrilled that we were there to help those less fortunate by using our money generously and compassionately, while the Saver and Empire Builder were pleased that there are people with enough abundance that they could in fact help those in need without jeopardizing their own financial security. The Pleasure Seeker enjoyed the magnificent food, views, warm Spring-time breeze and elegant attire which all were pleasant on my senses, while the Idealist bristled at the thought that if only we were willing to live on less, there could be so much more to help those hungry and suffering beings. The Innocent, however, felt a great deal of optimism that with brilliant minds like those employed by Unitus, the Gates Foundation, and Omidyar Network all working on the issue of global poverty, we are sure to solve it in the next ten years. The Star in me really enjoyed standing on the stage and helping the auction along by reminding all the bidders just how much of an impact their generosity could make in others' lives. But the Guardian had a pang of worry and anxiety as I wrote out our check for $2,500 that I hadn't really looked at our overall financial situation in a while to see how our spending and giving was doing relative to income.
It was also interesting to see how different bidders were motivated. There was the ex-hippy in the back row who threw out a $4,300 bid for some front-row seats not because he had any interest in seeing the Police, but because he felt that $4,000 was too low a price for four tickets. There were the three wealthy, well-dressed business owners (Stars & Empire Builders) who were enjoying the attention they got as they bid each other up in $500 increments for the grand package. And there were the Innocents, Stars and Pleasure Seekers in the crowd who enjoyed being at the event, but due to their avoidance of money, or their spending in excess of income, just didn't have enough to be able to bid.
If you'd like to explore your relationship to money more fully, please sign up for my Friday evening/Saturday afternoon workshop at Yoga Works in Santa Monica, June 6-7, or my workshop at Yogaphoria in New Hope, PA, October 24-26, or any of my upcoming events. Please subscribe to my blog to stay informed about future workshops and media appearances, and to reflect on your inner relationship to money in the weeks to come.
Brent Kessel is the author of It's Not About the Money (HarperOne, April 2008) and the co-founder of Abacus, a nationwide financial planning firm with a focus on sustainable investing.