Remember that 1980s deodorant ad where various celebrities, including then-Denver Broncos head coach Dan Reeves, advised people to “Never let them see you sweat?” “
Today, those words are the unspoken mantra of men and women, both paid and volunteer, juggling the myriad of mobile elements involved in organizing charitable fundraising events.
Sleepless nights and knotted stomachs can be occupational hazards for those tasked with keeping events running smoothly, but many planners have agreed that the headaches are worth it when everything goes without a hitch.
The problem is, this doesn’t always happen.
Which leaves planners with no choice but to take a deep breath, grit their teeth, put a smile on their faces, and make every problem go away in the most discreet way possible.
Someone has drunk too much and placed the âwinningâ bid on an automobile, motorcycle or work of art, and their spouse is having a seizure? Ask the auctioneer to announce that the auctioneer generously donated the item to be re-sold. Lunch in the event space is over time, and it looks like this event’s cleanup is far from over, which means your event decor team has an even narrower window to set up the centerpieces, backgrounds and everything else needed to turn a hotel ballroom into a themed wonderland? Roll up your sleeves and get to work.
And, of course, there are now concerns about COVID: After a year of participating in virtual fundraisers, will anyone want to start attending in-person events again?
âI love dressing up and being in the ballrooms with all of my friends,â said Adrienne Ruston Fitzgibbons, who has chaired fundraisers large and small. “But a lot of people think it’s pretty cool to sit on their couch, in a sweatshirt or pajamas, and
watch the event unfold on their TV. They don’t have to worry about buying a new dress or tuxedo, having a babysitter, etc.
Then there is the weather.
A summer rainstorm can literally wipe out an event held outdoors, as was the case with the American Lung Association’s recent An Affair for Air Gala: A Night Under the Stars.
âMaking the difficult decision to pivot to a covered venue 72 hours before the event was stressful to say the least,â President Anya Stinton said. âI had my second full-fledged clinical anxiety attack as I began to deal with the reality of the ever-changing weather forecast and epic outdoor production, the first of its kind to be held on Fillmore Plaza in Cherry. Creek North, which I had predicted for a year to crumble in front of me, went from a forecast of nearly 90 degrees and worrying that customers would be too hot to thunderstorms scattered throughout the day.
Stinton’s first thought was to have a huge tent that would cover the party area, but all the vendors she contacted had hired their tents for the July 4th events the following weekend. Additionally, with the easing of COVID restrictions and the return to indoor events, site availability was reduced to zero.
At what was literally the 11th hour, Stinton learned that Footers, the caterer hired for the gala, had just completed his own event space, Social Capitol, in Arvada. âTwo days before the gala, I sat down with Fastlane Productions and people from Footers to reinvent the whole event. It was truly remarkable, and nothing short of a miracle, how it all turned out and we didn’t have to cancel or reschedule.
Likewise, a winter blizzard can also wreak havoc. Icy roads and whiteout conditions not only impact the ability of guests to get to the site, but they can also delay or cancel the main act flight.
A major snowstorm occurred the year Fitzgibbons chaired Saturday Night Alive, an annual event that raised millions for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. This resulted in a late guest, a delayed dinner and a WiFi malfunction which disrupted the silent auction where the bidding was electronic.
recorded on iPad. âThe DCPA technicians were trying to fix it, but they couldn’t. I think I sobbed all night.
Never one to give up, Fitzgibbons, whose mother, the late Florence Ruston, led Denver’s charitable fundraising scene for decades, agreed to chair an event for another nonprofit before realizing that it was the same night as one of the Denver Broncos’ biggest games. season. This caused ticket sales to be so low that she had to beg family members and others to come for free so that the hotel ballroom didn’t appear empty.
Then the COVID restrictions of 2020 meant that Western Fantasy, an event she was eagerly awaiting to chair, would have to be held virtually. âIt was crazy trying to figure out what we should be doing,â Fitzgibbons recalls. âNo one knew exactly what the protocols were because they kept changing. One day it looked like we might have a limited turnout event, another minute it wasn’t.
Ultimately, however, the virtual edition turned out to be profitable and she and co-chair Steve Edmonds were asked to reprise their roles in 2021. The Western sartorial benefit for Volunteers of America is expected to be an in-person feature at the Western national events. Center October 16, hosted by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
As face-to-face events pick up after COVID shutdowns, so do the things that are giving those responsible sleepless nights.
The comedian who made sure he would deliver a G-rated show delivers a set full of F-bombs. A renowned musical group has decided they are fed up with doing shows featuring their biggest hits and performers of the new. music, unfamiliar tunes that fail to resonate with those who had paid a lot of money to hear their favorite songs.
Florists are keeping their fingers crossed that flowers imported from South America, Holland, or points across the United States arrive intact – or not at all, given flight delays or staff shortages at the source.
And who takes the heat from disgruntled guests when the lines at the registration or auction cash desks are backed up, there are only two bars for a crowd of 1,000, dinner service is slow and apparently everyone and his brother extend the program by giving a speech?
The well-meaning souls who volunteer to chair these money makers or the paid professionals whose expertise is supposed to prevent hiccups or, if they do, smooth things out in ways that are not obvious. Who is it.
âWe want others to think we’re cool and calm and collected, but I’ve never been,â recalled Crissie Snow, who as a paid staff has planned major events for Colorado State University, the Colorado Historical Society, the Junior League of Denver, and other nonprofit organizations. . âEvery detail was important to me and although I looked cool on the outside, it was a mess in my stomach. It’s hard when you’re trying to please hundreds, if not thousands, of people.
Especially, it seems, when celebrities are involved. They can be huge draws. They can also cause anxious moments.
Like the comedian who, according to his driver, asked to stop at a cannabis dispensary on his way from the airport to the hotel and, presumably after enjoying his purchase, not only did not show up for the control of the sound, but arrived at the right place as the event coordinator asked the emcee to announce that the performer had been shot down by altitude sickness and could not appear.
An award-winning actor who was scheduled to discuss his journey to sobriety at a recovery center’s annual luncheon fell off the wagon, leaving his agent with no choice but to cancel the appearance, throwing organizers into dizziness as trying to find a replacement about a week before the Seawell Ballroom would be filled to capacity with association supporters.
âFor me, the incident beyond them all happened during my first year as Director of Development / Marketing at Firefly Autism,â said seasoned planner Dave Sevick. As such, he served as an executive producer on Firefly’s flagship event, Laugh Yourself Blue.
âFor our talent, it was going to be easy because we were resuming the comics from the previous year. I was told it was already booked and we were good to go. Three weeks before the event, I learned that he had actually not been booked and had been hired for another gig in Los Angeles the night of our gala. There were three weeks left and suddenly we had no more headline entertainment! “
Repeating “failure is not an option,” Sevick and Renee Ortiz, founder and president of Eventful Productions, agreed not to tell anyone about the fiasco until
they had solved it. âThe next 12 hours have been hell,â admitted Sevick, âbut with the help of our dear friend John Farnam, who always seems to have the ability to solve any problem, or knows someone who does. may, we prepared another comic and a signed contract. It was my first big ‘Oh, s # $%’ moment, but it seasoned me for the next two I produced. “
And, of course, COVID and its side effects remain a huge factor. Uncertainties regarding the Delta variant continue to mount. Event venues, caterers, ridesharing services and other providers are understaffed and the race to set a date becomes frantic as many of Denver’s 15,722 nonprofits work on their own to get their fundraising activities back on track.
Katie Hilborn, Founder of Global Orphan Prevention, a non-profit organization working to end orphanages and sex trafficking in Nepal and India, has found that while the goal is to always make as big a profit as possible, âPaying a little more to have our Sep. The 18th Gala at one venue, the Hilton Inverness, which is essentially a one-stop shop, is well worth it. It reduces stress because they take care of everything.
The best advice for reducing stress, however, comes from Lisa Cook and Leslie Heins of Affair with Flair. “Always have a plan B. Always.”