In Any Event 

Part Two: First-time event planner shares insight

Duke, spokesdog for Bush's Beans, was a great addition to the event.
The appearance of Duke, spokesdog for Bush’s Beans, was arranged by event supporters Todd Richesin and Bobby Brown.

Courtney Kliman, the development coordinator at Young-Williams Animal Center, recently put together her first major fundraiser for Young-Williams Animal Center. Kliman shared her insight about communication and planning in part one for EventCheck Knox.

In part two, Kliman outlines what she learned about controlling costs and securing sponsors and donations for the successful event, which was held last September and included a sit-down dinner outside, live music, silent auction and appearance by Duke, the spokesdog for Bush’s Beans.

An event for a nonprofit succeeds if one thing happens – it raises funds. While planners want guests to have a great time – and, even more importantly, come back – the bottom line is what matters most.

Control costs whenever possible

If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.

An organization’s board members are an asset when seeking support, and major sponsors are willing to listen to pitches.

“I used vendors who support our nonprofit and understand our constricted budget,” Kliman said.

Those vendors included Holly’s Eventful Dining, Magpies Bakery and Mott’s Floral Design. Todd Richesin of Todd Richesin Interiors selected the overall décor and theme for the event. Richesin, Kliman and Brittany Bailey, chair of the event planning committee, made a trip to All Occasions Party Rentals.

“We actually went together and hand-selected what we wanted within our budget,” Kliman said. “It made the process so much more fun and easier. We wanted people to feel ‘at home’ and relax after a long work week. I specifically wanted people to let loose and enjoy our live band, Pistol Creek Catch of the Day, with great food in-hand at all times.

“I wanted to create a fun, charming atmosphere. The band was great and had good interaction with the crowd and great energy.”

Be proactive in securing donors and raising funds

Richesin and Bobby Brown, longtime Knoxville philanthropists, opened their Knoxville home to serve as the venue site, and Young-Williams Animal Center board member Kym Lightholder donated the beverages.

“It’s important to rely on each other, in order to accomplish our fundraising goals,” Kliman said. “I also learned the key to making more revenue is to get more items and larger costs sponsored.”

Auction items were displayed in eye-catching fashion.
Auction items were displayed in eye-catching fashion.

Kliman displayed photos of adoptable pets and placed jars on tables, where guests could make donations for the shelter. It was an understated request that probably needed better display with a mention by the speakers of their purpose.

“The jars on the tables were underutilized,” Kliman said.

The fundraiser collected more than $10,000, a nice debut for a first-time event.

“We were able to target a new demographic and audience,” Kliman said. “It was an honor to see them supporting our mission and cause.

“It was a great to be able to achieve a goal and have an impact on the lives of unwanted pets here at YWAC.”

Kliman wants to expand the guest list and used the lessons learned from the first event to have an even more successful one in 2016.

“I want to host a fundraising event with 300 or more guests that sells out, and is a ‘go-to’ fundraising event of the season,” Kliman said.

Maximize social media

Kliman has one more learned lesson to share – don’t forget to share the event on social media.

Since this particular event was a private one with attendees on a guest list, pre-promotion was not a factor. But going forward Kliman wants to make better use of social media during and after an event to generate interest for the fundraiser and additional awareness for Young-Williams Animal Center. That will be the case for private, public and ticketed ones.

The outdoor setting set the tone for the dinner and fundraiser.
The outdoor setting set the tone for the dinner and fundraiser.

“I think we could’ve utilized social media more during the night of the event to thank our donors, vendors, and show our unique fundraiser to our fans,” Kliman said.

Kliman already has what a planner must possess – passion for the work.

“I love what I do, and I enjoy learning something daily about the welfare of animals,” Kliman said. “Not many people can say that they truly love what they do. I wouldn’t want to work for any other nonprofit, or have any other job. I truly feel lucky, and I am grateful to work for this organization.”

Erin Rainey, an intern at Moxley Carmichael, has a B.A. in English literature from the University of Tennessee. She spent last year working as an au pair in Berlin, Germany. Now that she’s back in Knoxville, Erin can be found reading Toni Morrison, camping in the Smokies and conquering arduous online shopping endeavors.


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