In my non-professional life, I’m currently chairing a fundraising committee. The fundraising we are doing is funding a literacy initiative for local area first graders. Part of the fundraising effort involves, you guessed it, a special event. Because you, as nonprofit professionals, experience what it is to manage a project like this as part of your daily lives, I wanted to say “Wow!” I’m only doing this as a very limited gig, and I cannot imagine the necessary organizational skills, enthusiasm, and energy it must take to do this full-time. In the spirit of sharing, here are a few things I’ve learned during my time chairing the committee. These things are universal, and I’ve no doubt those of you with experience have already learned them many times over!
- Getting organizational buy-in for the project is very important. We’ve been lucky; our organization is very excited about both the literacy initiative and the event. The committee heading the initiative did a wonderful job of presenting it. Once buy-in was there for the literacy initiative, the fundraising committee was formed, and we then presented the event idea. The buy-in is so exceptional that it leads to lesson 2.
- When keeping people in the loop, be very careful about what you are ready to go public with and what is still in draft. I made a huge mistake when sharing an update to the board of the organization. My intent was just an internal update, but members of the board started running with it! I now know I should have been much clearer when I provided the update that the information was not yet ready for public distribution. Our committee hadn’t yet confirmed agreements for space, finalized positioning, and a number of other things. But this exposure did get us to hurry-it-up! (smiley face) All that aside, a board with that much excitement and desire to back our efforts is wonderful! We’ve got members already asking when they can start selling tickets!
- Play well with others. Our event is taking place the same day as another event, and they are happening at adjacent locations. We’ve been working with the organizers of the other event to promote cross-traffic with the goal of improving attendance and response to both events. Why compete when we can work together instead?
- Appreciate your committee members. I’ve worked with the people who make up the fundraising committee in the past, because we are all members of the same organization, but I’m amazed all over again at what a small group of dedicated, capable people can accomplish. Putting together a small group of go-getters produces incredible results. I hope each and every one of you has members and volunteers like this at your organization.
My hope for all nonprofit professionals, especially those who spend so much time managing projects that culminate in events, is that you have the great experiences I’m now having. My hat’s off to those of you who do this all day, every day!