Our guest blogger, Jennifer E. Goldman, President of Resonance, LLC, is a management consultant with a degree in Business Management and certifications in nonprofit management and business coaching. She’s a tough cookie with a gooey middle, cracking the whip on nonprofit organizations to teach them how to run like businesses while being entirely empathetic to the overworked staff who have all the right skills and just need someone to hand them the proper tools. Jennifer likes mom and pop secondhand shops, touring historic downtowns, and taking selfies with awesome art. Her services include regular coaching sessions, strategic planning facilitation, event evaluation and funding planning.
A million years ago (maybe it’s only been a dozen), I started as Executive Director of a community-level Main Street program and immediately got heat from merchants for being “the events organization.”
The irony wasn’t lost on me that while my board was defensive about being considered an events organization, they refused to reconsider any of our events. For a “not an events organization,” we held an annual gala, two minor holiday parades, a three weekends’ long Christmas celebration, a car show and five First Fridays. For those of you who don’t enjoy math, that’s 10 events per year. Unless you count each Christmas weekend separately, then it’s 12. Ugh, math!
The first year, I suffered silently. The thought “I can’t complain – I’m still new here” rang through my head. But, I really wanted to complain. I had a mission to fulfill: streetscapes to beautify, buildings to preserve, businesses to support and a nonprofit business to manage. Every time I took a step in that direction, it was time to coordinate another event. In year two, I complained . . .
With a little more time under my belt at the helm and having gathered a bit more mettle, I was able to have some needed conversations with my board and convince them that not all of our events were aligned with our mission. When speaking of our 20-year-running events, certain board members declared, “But they’re tradition!” Luckily, I was able to convince them that the events that didn’t align with our mission didn’t need to be canceled, they just didn’t need to be ours any longer. Also fortunate was the fact that our community was riddled with nonprofit organizations, many of whom would’ve given their eyeteeth to have the amount of exposure in the public that we did.
So, I collected a couple of eyeteeth and gave away one holiday parade and the car show. I would’ve given away more if I could, but it was a good compromise and gave me back weeks of the year that I could then spend on more appropriate activities for our organization. Since that time, I’ve found that I can help other organizations analyze the appropriateness of their events by evaluating two components: mission alignment and profitability. By gauging these two things about an event, you can calculate more data and information (more math – sorry!) to help back up board conversations about special events.