Every marketing campaign should contain a bit of what I call social marketing or corporate events. When events help non-profits as part of the effort, then the result ends up benefiting a much wider audience and helps build good will. You really can’t buy that kind of reputation, it has to be earned. People like doing business with people they know, but also people who help others.
No matter what, it’s important to have a party every year and invite your clients into your space. This event gives you lots of opportunities beyond being simply celebratory. You can call people to see if the got the invite and that gives you a non-threatening way to engage a client – it’s the excuse to call—it’s a nice way to offer something without asking for anything in return. If the event gets well known, then people will ask for invitations, they’ll put it on their calendar a year in advance. A great party gives your clients and pals ways to possibly get new business for themselves. Giving begets giving.
Silvia Dumitrescu, Jay Bothwell, Marilynn Mendell
Frederick Ognibene, Marilynn Mendell, Michael Hickok, Lisa Gold, Judy Sherman, and Yolanda Cole
Yolanda Cole, Marilynn Mendell
EVENTS & ORGANIZATIONS
Over the past thirty years, I have been involved with many organizations and have consistently pushed for them to increase their connection to helping the community. Years ago my great grandmother said that in order to inherit anything from her estate that we had to work our way up doing charitable things in the community. I worked as a candy stripper in hospitals, then as a volunteer stuffing envelopes, then I worked on events, and finally I began running them. She pushed us to become active inside of the organizations so I have always moved to leadership positions where I could do the most to affect change.
As the largest off-premise caterer in Western New York, I have literally done thousands of events. They ranged from small events with 200 attendees to events where the number exceeded 5,000. I also like to ask for sponsorship support and to arrange for partnerships. Not everyone can ask these tough questions or reach out to total strangers and suggest a partnership for a first time event. This talent must be present for an event to be successful.
When ArtPark in Lewiston , New York hired me to re-image them I decided that the Park needed to come to the fore as the theater had always taken the top billing. With that in mind I set a goal to get ArtPark nationally recognized as a major bird sanctuary. I planned events around a yearlong effort that culminated in a partnering of the Roger Tory Peterson Museum, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the National Wildlife Foundation, and many local foundations and private corporate clients. We raised millions of dollars and saved a national treasure in perpetuity.
The Erie County Museum of Science had just lost their development director and they needed a major fundraiser as well as a means to drive national visitation. I decided to ignite a small group of women volunteers who were all quite elderly at the time and who had been the Museum’s ardent supporters for years. They had once done massive parties and over the years had just lost some sparkle when the Museum hired a development director. I gave them a goal of doing an international horticultural conference around the world renowned Marchand collection and the fact that the Museum had the largest herbarium East of the Mississippi. I cajoled a friend and fellow botanical artist, Carol Wooden, to do an original painting and donate it to the Museum so we could use it to identify our conference. She also donated several hundred prints so we could give them as gifts to corporate and private sponsors. As a long time member of APGA, I asked many of my very well known botanical garden directors and editors of famous garden magazines to be the speakers. I set up an Excel file for everything. We had a giant map where we tracked with push pins all of the people who began to register for the conference. They ultimately came from every state and many from Europe. We had companies like Lyric Bird Seed and HSBC, as major corporate sponsors. We exceeded the Museum’s expectations by raising a net of $120,000.00 with over 600 attendees for the two day event. We partnered with the local Ikebana Society who did a show and a tea ceremony. Carol Wooden produced a national show of botanical illustrators that stayed on view for a month after the event. We had a contest where local florists did massive arrangements and vied for the first place award. The publicity was amazing. However, the best part was seeing the Woman’s Committee once again get the spotlight and be recognized as still extremely valuable to the Museum.
For Rotary’s Cold War Healing event, Retired Brigadier General Carl Reddel (Executive Director of the Eisenhower Memorial) asked me to pull off a major international event just after 9/11 that would get mostly Russians to come to Washington, D.C. for a two day conference on how to improve the health in Russia—oh, and it would take place in February. I designed the conference logo, organized and coordinated the effort. Carl got the speakers, helped with the funding and named our committee the Tiger Team. We pulled off the event with flying colors. I made lapel pins of the logo, all of the corporate identity, booked all of the transportation, acquired most of the sponsorship funding to pay for the speakers, fly them in and house them. We developed a huge database of people that might be interested in attending the conference and ultimately attracted 800 people to the two day event.
I do the same thing for my clients. For example, Hickok Cole Architects had an enchanting idea to open their office up to friends and family and to other architects along with clients for a night of camaraderie and an Art Night where employees and a few other local artists could display and sell their work. They had a young woman who worked at the Corcoran curate the show. It matched their theme: “Make a little money and have a little fun.” I saw it as a great opportunity to benefit the community and become a major fund raiser for the Washington Project for the Arts. It would propel Hickok Cole into a place where they would be aligned with great art and by association: great design. Over the years the event has become a well recognized art event in Washington, DC. Mike Hickok thought of the Art Angels and I set about bringing in the sponsorships. We’ve won many awards for the collateral material and have written articles and given speaking engagements about the evening. The event gets national media attention as well as a copious amount of local press.
There are a few factors to why the events I produce succeed and then do not continue after I leave. I bring passion and the sincere desire to do something good for the community and by association my clients. I am a stickler for attention to detail. I thank people with written notes and not just once -–all year long—and years after even if they haven’t supported the event recently. People who support the events I do know that I am genuinely grateful and that there will be some kind of networking advantage to them for participating. I always make sure that all events I run have win-win component for everyone.
The events I direct have another signature that is less quantifiable. They possess a kind of sophistication. That is to say that everything that’s produced never looks cheap and always makes people feel afterwards like they’d like to return and have the experience all over again.