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.