Making A Living

When I went on vacation to Chicago last summer for BlogHer, I returned to work and discovered that my boss and two event co-chairs had raised our fundraising goal from $575,000 to $700,000. For a luncheon. This is a  luncheon that is an ask event meaning there is no ticket price- guests register to come and we hope that the program we put together is inspiring enough to encourage them to give generously. The average gift at this luncheon is $250.

I was never convinced we could reach that new goal. Times are hard. People are struggling, many still unemployed, and their portfolios have suffered. Despite any misgivings, I forged ahead working with a team of amazing women to pull together a rock-solid event. Even though we got a late start solidifying the program, it came together beautifully and our speakers were top notch. One ended up stealing the show- a 16 year old young man, former foster child, who did not go to school until the age of 8 because of the severe neglect and physical abuse he suffered from his birth family. He is now a poised, articulate, straight A student with a black belt in tae kwon do who plays a musical instrument and volunteers in his community. He wrote his own speech and it was, in a word, perfect. He got a standing ovation. Everyone was going up to him after shaking his hand and a few people asked for his autograph. He was beyond excited about this. Such well deserved recognition for a kid who has been through more than any child ever should and persevered.

There were two huge snafus which color my excitement in the aftermath of the event. We were short packets for table captains which means not every table had pledge cards. My coworkers scrambled to find more and it all turned out okay but I hate when I make mistakes. HATE. Worse than that, later back at the office after the money was counted and we had a team of 20+ volunteers helping to write thank yous (we send thank yous out the same day so everyone gets their thank you the next day) one of my coworkers said we were missing a box of thank you cards. I went into a panic scrambling to find them. We all did – looking high and low – and that’s when I broke. I was totally exhausted and stressed and had not eaten well in days. The weeks of long hours were catching up to me and my adrenaline was fading. Thinking I had lost an entire box of thank you cards which would seriously negatively impact us was mortifying. I spent a good hour crying and beating myself up. I basically lost my shit after holding it together for weeks.

It was not a proud moment.

Turns out there never was a second box of thank you cards. One box had the entire amount. My only mistake was not putting all the thank you card stuff in one place and ensuring it was ready for the volunteer team. Instead, I lost an hour of my life to a complete freak out. I’m still kind of embarrassed about how I handled that and am grateful my co-workers are so supportive and helpful.

This is one of my downfalls. I am very good at micromanaging details and thrive on the stress that is event planning  but if I make a mistake- because I pride myself on my meticulousness- I  will replay my errors in my mind until the success of my accomplishment is worn away. I’m fighting to feel good about what we did yesterday because it’s deserved except I keep thinking about what I could have done differently. (More fodder for therapy!)

Let me break it down for you:

There were over 1,200 guests registered to attend.

The most we’ve ever had at this event was 800.

The most we’ve ever made on this event in the 9 years we’ve been doing it was somewhere around $550,000.

Yesterday we set a new record and exceeded our stretch goal by raising $707,326.


When I left the office yesterday, I had worked a total of 37 hours in three days. I felt like a train wreck.  I would like my life back. The one where I sleep and eat regular meals and have a modicum of free time. The one where I exercise and arrive home at a decent hour to feed my cats. The one where I get to see my boyfriend and my friends and family.


43 thoughts on “Making A Living

  1. congratulations!! this is awesome! and every good fundraiser loses her shit at some point … at my last dinner, i realized mid-auction that i was woefully unprepared for the insanity that comes with a professional auctioneer … it was not pretty. but there is no event without a moment or 3 of panic … now i hope you get to relax for a bit, and let the fabulous success sink in!

  2. Wow. That is an amazing job! Sizzle, the fact that that is ALL that went “wrong” is incredible. Pat yourself on the back, and then cuddle with the kitties and the boyfriend, and go hang out with your family and friends.

    You did a fantastic job, and you deserve to pat yourself on the back and feel GOOD about it. Forget about the mini-breakdown. You pushed yourself a bit too far, but it worked itself out.


  3. Let me give you a little perspective. The local public radio station here is currently doing its spring pledge drive. Their goal is to raise $1,000,000. The drive lasts approximately a week. And the number of listeners they access is above and beyond 1,200.

    Long story short, you did an AMAZING job on this fundraiser. And you have every reason in the world to break down over a few relatively minor things. Really, give yourself a break and know you did good. Really good. Heart you, girl

  4. You have really outdone yourself – My jaw is on the floor!!! Major kudos to you, Sizz. I hope that you are able to put your feet up and close your eyes for a little bit. Just remember that NO event ever goes perfectly. What ever goes wrong is just an offering to Murphy (Murphy’s Law – We respect it at our office!) Do you realize how many people’s lives you just changed? I am tearing up just thinking about it. At the end of the day, that is what people will remember. Bravo, sister – BRAVO!!!

  5. Amazing. I KNEW you would pull it off. Cause you are super rocking and amazing. You had to have a breakdown at some point, it’s inevitable when you are dealing with such a huge (Successful!!) event. AWESOME job!!!

  6. First of all, congratulations on a job well done. Many people will benefit from your hard work.

    Now to you – boy do I relate to the focusing on the one thing that wasn’t perfect and letting it cloud the rest of the awesomeness. I hope, hope, hope that you’ve let it go by now. I hope you learn to cut yourself some slack. No one is perfect. No one is expected to be. Let it go.

  7. No one can work that many hours in three days without falling apart if something goes wrong. The mind and body do not do well without a break. If I were your co-worker I would be amazed that it did not happen earlier. In the end they will remember that you exceeded the stretch goal! Congratulations. Now, BREATHE.

  8. Good Show! So you did the show, had a brief (well deserved) melt down and you surpassed your goal. Now back to everyday life, right? Sounds like success to me. 🙂

  9. I think you are pretty amazing and great at your job. I can completely understand the replaying it in your head thing because I do that too. I wish you could know to the core of your being what everyone around you must think: You are good at whatever you set your mind to and are an amazing person.

  10. That is incredible! Congratulations. Things can return to normal now and just think of this amazing thing you accomplished. I wish I had seen the 16-year old speak…it sounded like an amazing speech.

  11. I am so proud of you! I know you feel bad about the breakdown but seriously, you DESERVED to freak out after all the amazing work you did. You are awesome!

  12. Exceeding your fund-raising goal and having 50% more people in attendance! Wow, I would definitely count that as a success, no matter what little snafus popped up!

    Good for you! Hope you get some well-deserved rest and relaxation soon.

  13. You are a total badass!!! As I’m embarking upon my first solo event management gig, I’m feeling utterly inspired by you!

    And don’t even fret about the meltdown. Every event I’ve ever worked on has had at least one staff meltdown during the day-of. Everyone completely understands!


  14. Congratulations! I hope you take a moment to refect and pat yourself on the back for a job well done. Maybe not right away, but eventually 🙂

  15. HOLY SHIT is right!! that’s incredible! honestly, 1 meltdown while dealing with THAT MUCH stress!? that’s about 14 fewer meltdowns than *i* would have had 🙂

  16. Congrats! That was an awesome undertaking and the fact that you exceeded the goal is exceptional. And seriously, only 1 meltdown? Under that much stress, I think you’d be entitled to one every few hours…lord knows I would’ve put on a meltdown show, but then again, your awesome planning and attention to details avoided that. Congrats again!

  17. …wow, congratulations Sizzle! I hope you have a few days planned to take off and recoup, you definitely deserver it!

  18. Congratulations!!! You did an awesome job and should be busy breaking your arm patting yourself on the back, not focusing on some small (not even real) mistakes. Great job!!!

  19. Wow– what an event!
    Okay two things in feedback. I think harnessing the young man, who is really what your fundraising efforts are ABOUT? Very very good. I think that put you over the top. People want to see that their money really can help.
    Secondly? I hear you about the notecards. Hyper-responsibility sucks, i know it. I also know that next time? You will have EXTRA notcards and extra pledgecards because…? yeah. That will not happen again! LOL.:-)

    Great job, Sizzle. and don;t feel badly about the meltdown. Your co-workers realize it was stress talking, and they are prolly just glad to see you are human. ((Hugs)) Time for tea and cookies, and a nice hot bath. You earned it.

  20. Having attended a similar luncheon to this in the past, I can tell you that goal is amazing, let alone your grand total. You are awesome, and I’m proud of you! And yes, I hope you are taking your life back now! 🙂

  21. Go easy on yourself for briefly acting like a person who was was overworked and who lacked sleep. Because you were overworked and lacked sleep. Big congrats for kicking ass on this, and thank god it’s behind you! :o)

  22. It clearly was a rip roaring success! Congratulations, do not beat yourself up for be you, for being human (This is certainly why I enjoying reading your blog) revel in the adrenaline of the success of the event and focus on the achievement of that 16year old.

  23. What a fantastic job you did; an amazing amount raised and that 16 year old boy sounds like an absolute star 😀 Congratulations!!!

  24. I was able to attend this event and Sizzle’s detailed worrying paid off in many ways. First off, as a table captain – I had no idea there were problems. Secondly, the process of getting badges, packages, etc. for everyone was very smooth. Thirdly, the location of my table was great (thanks, Sizzle). Fourthly, I gave more than I planned to give. I say, mission accomplished!

    Fifth and last, my thank you card was at my home mail box the VERY NEXT DAY. Seriously, read that again. I attended an event that ended at 1 pm on Wednesday and on Thursday at around 2 pm, my postman (I live 22 miles away in another city) delivered a thank you card with honest to God signatures and a receipt for my exact donation amount. Fucking impressive.

    Sizzle – you deserved that compliment from your boss and a thousand more.

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