Tammy Moloy is a guest contributor for Nonprofit Hub. She leads the Events Strategy Team at Ashley|Rountree and Associates—a nonprofit consulting firm based in Louisville, Kentucky. Tammy has managed events for more than 23 years in major markets such as Los Angeles, Nashville, Boston and Washington, DC, and has managed more than 75 special events in her career. She’s worked with talent such as Jay Leno, Reba McEntire, Jerry Seinfeld, Martina McBride and Jim Belushi, as well as various political leaders. She also executed the largest, non-political gala in DC raising nearly $3 million with one event.
Sometimes meetings make you want to tear your hair out. You know—one of those meetings that tangents off the agenda to debate the most inane topic possible aiding nothing at all to the assignment at hand.
A meeting like my first sorority meeting 25 years ago in which the girls were hotly debating over the shade of green we should choose for our new sorority blazers. Teal, forest. Teal, forest. And then someone suggested emerald.
I will never gain those two hours of my life back. To this day, I have to admit there’s still a twinge of resentment inside.
Hence, here is lesson number one about running event committee meetings:
Avoid “green jacket” moments at all costs.
Heated discussions over white or red roses in your centerpieces, Times New Roman versus Arial font in the event program, tees or balls in the golf tourney goodie bag or black versus white t-shirts for your walkers is not an efficient or effective way to use your volunteers’ valuable time. More importantly, it takes the focus off the end goal: raising money.
Event committee meetings should focus on the three M’s:
And then the meeting’s outcome is the fourth M: MOTIVATED.
Notice “green jacket” (discussions about logistics) isn’t on the list. Again, event committee volunteers need not waste their time debating over the pros and cons of white versus black tablecloths, roses versus lilies, and the size of the gobos (and by the way, event committee members shouldn’t even know the definition of a gobo!).
After introductions, every single meeting, from events to program services, should start with a mission moment. Ideally this mission moment comes from a person who has experienced your organization’s mission first-hand—i.e. a cancer patient whom your organization helped, a student whose scholarship your organization provided or a once homeless man whom your organization has housed. In addition to the in-person mission moment, your meeting room should be filled with mission reminder, which could include the mission statement written on the whiteboard, an organization scrapbook in the middle of the table or a constituent thank you card at each volunteer’s seat.
Mission is the number one way to motivate your volunteers to fundraise on your organization’s behalf. It is a subtle way to remind your volunteers that making a fundraising call is the easy part; fighting cancer, quitting school or being homeless is the hard part. Mission moments also guarantee a good start to the meeting; over time, as your committee comes to expect these moments, it also insures timeliness to your meetings.
“Money talk” focuses on how your committee is doing on the achievement of the event’s financial goals. If you have recruited your event committee properly, they have already signed a contract stating that fundraising is their main job.
During this portion of the meeting, committee members should report about their personal sales efforts (i.e. how many event tickets or sponsorships sold to date, additions to their prospect lists and where they need help) and their recruitment of new committee members, walk teams, event volunteers, etc.
Prior to the meeting staff should have armed the committee chair (note that these meetings are not run by staff) with all financial historical data, achievement thermometers and each committee members’ prospect list to discuss and update.
Merriam-Webster defines map as “to plan in detail—often used with out, i.e. to map out a program” amongst other things. This is exactly what the map portion your meeting is about plain and simple. Your committee needs to discuss how they plan to achieve the event’s financial goal.
During your “money talk” you have reviewed how many more sales you need. Now the committee brainstorms on how they are going to get those sales. At this point, the meeting minutes are critical. When someone says they will do something, write it down. Then your committee chair can follow-up with specifics. Instead of “how are you doing?” your committee chair can ask “did you visit with Mr. Smith yet?” Peer pressure and accountability is critical for success.
The Outcome: Motivated!
Keep out the green jacket talk. White versus red roses will not save a life, help a student or house a homeless person. Securing sponsorships, selling tables or recruiting walkers will. Respecting your volunteers’ time by having meaningful meetings focused on mission, money and map with unambiguously defined goals and expectations will motivate your committee to achieve your event’s goal—to raise money to fulfill your organization’s mission.