How to Run Your Own Charity Event
Following is the action plan I like to follow when I’m running an event. On the first read, it may seem overwhelming, but once you make your list and start to cross off tasks, it’ll get easier.
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Step 1: Know what you want to change and why you want to change it
Before I asked anyone to get involved in the Marrow Match Gala, I established my goal: I wanted to clear all the swab kits Gift of Life had waiting to be added to the international bone marrow registry.
It’s important to understand what you’re trying to change or why you feel the need to change anything in the first place because you have to be prepared to face people who may not be on board with your ideas. These people are comfortable with things staying just the way they are, and they have no interest in getting involved.
Step 2: Ask yourself: Who can help me make this happen?
I like to start by picking up the phone and recruiting people one by one. Yes, this takes longer than sending an email or text. And yes, you could do a blast on social media asking who wants to be involved, but that’s not the same as calling someone or meeting them in person and saying, “I want to do X and I would love for you to be involved.” They may join you and/or recommend other people you’ve never heard of. Send those people an email, set up a call, then turn to social media to announce what all of you are doing together.
If you don’t have any friends who can help, look at what exists around you. If you have an idea that another organization is already working on, reach out to the president and/or the supervisor and ask to set up a meeting. Maybe they’ll like your idea so much they’ll help you get it off the ground. Perhaps they can point you in the right direction about how to promote it if you choose to do your own thing. Start going to that group’s events. Make friends there. Volunteer. Once you get your idea off the ground, you can reach out to the people you helped and ask if they can help you this time around.
Step 3: Build an executive committee
The executive committee should be for the people who want to take on more responsibility for the event, attend meetings, and be involved in the overall planning and invested in the growth of the project. You can’t raise money, run the event, stuff hundreds of gift bags, and send email blasts by yourself. So assign each of your executive members a role. You should have one person as the chair or two people as co-chairs responsible for overseeing fundraising, PR, recruitment, design, logistics, volunteers, the silent auction, and swag bags. The members on your executive committee should serve as “leaders” for each subcommittee.
Step 4: Determine how you’ll communicate with your team
Once you have a team in place, how will you keep them informed? Will you have meetings? Will you send weekly emails? Schedule a Google Hangout? Get a sense of what your team prefers -- and be prepared to do two updates (one in email form and one in person or via Skype for the people who are more involved, like your executive committee and subcommittee chairs).
Step 5: Identify your go-to people to call on when things go wrong
All leaders come up against moments when they think, "Is this going to work?" "Will we succeed?" On those days, turn to the people who love you and believe in you. Who is your voice of reason? Who can make you laugh? Who is your cheerleader? Who is going through something similar who can relate to how you are feeling? And who is so far removed from what you are experiencing that when you call they won’t even know what you’re up to? These are some of the most important calls I can make when I reach my limit.
Step 6: Be flexible
Being a changemaker means you have a blueprint, but the best leaders try to anticipate every possible problem and can put out fires quickly. I always like to sit with my committee weeks before our event and make a list of everything that can go wrong. We start outside the venue door, head to registration the way a guest would, and walk through the entire space as though we are attendees ourselves. That’s a great way to see where certain items may have fallen through the cracks. But while you do everything in your power to plan for hiccups, you have to be ready for things you never could have predicted.
Step 7: Say thank you
Make sure you invest time in your team and that you’re the kind of leader others want to follow. Be the kind of leader that says, “We are so happy to see you!” when someone walks in the room, instead of, “Look who decided to show up!” You never know what it took for someone to get to your meeting. They may be late (again), which is really annoying. But at least they showed up. Try to be sensitive while respecting your standards. At all times, don’t point a finger -- extend a hand.