The Four Seasons was a famous hotel in New York that opened in 1959 and was recently closed. It’ll be opening again in a different location, but in the meantime, memorabilia from the location is being auctioned for charity. Among those items is a sign, which simply reads “The Four Seasons.” It had been missing since 1960.
It turns out that the sign was stolen by then-highschooler Fredric Lary, who was pledging for a fraternity in school (fraternities actually started in high schools). Pledges had to steal a sign, and when he saw that one, he figured it was a sure thing getting in. Luckily for him, the statute of limitations on grand larceny in only five years, so when he heard that the hotel as closing and auctioning off memorabilia, he decided to chip in his sign.
The sign sold for $40,000, following another, larger sign that sold for $96,000. Those two sales garnered a huge amount of money, but there are likely many more objects that will raise a lot more.
Charity auctions are a time-honored tradition for raising funds, and they sometimes bring up some interesting finds. They can also, apparently, help assuage the guilt of old men who stole signs in the 1960s. But that very specific side effect is an example of a larger benefit of charity, namely, that it’s contagious.
Often, when someone finds out about a charity event they can contribute to, they’ll do so even if they don’t make a habit of donating. It’s not always as poetic as this example, but don’t discount the ability of simply holding a fundraiser to get attention. Being part of an event like this can be more meaningful to donors than simply chipping in an extra dollar at the grocery store.