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What I Learned from Throwing a Benefit for the Hungry

Doers often get a crash course in event planning, social media management and self-motivation.

When I received the Beg, Borrow, or Steal grant from GOOD to host a benefit spoons tournament for a local food bank, I honestly had no idea I was about to receive a crash course in event planning, social media management and self-motivation. I want to offer a few tips that I stumbled upon while planning Playing Spoons, Filling Plates that could be useful the next time you’re planning a benefit for your cause.

One last brainstorm \n
First off, examine your event plan for any minor details that could be changed to make an impact. The prizes for the spoons tournament were simply an afterthought until I realized that I could further our overall goal—feeding hungry people—by making a small adjustment. Instead of buying gift cards from a regular chain restaurant, I opted to buy gift cards from Pitza 42, a restaurant with a TOMS-esque business model that gives a meal to a malnourished child when a meal is bought. Can you purchase prizes or gifts for an event from nonprofits related to your cause or fair trade artisans? A last-minute brainstorm can occasionally reveal a great idea that furthers your goal.
Invite people, not bodies\n
Another piece of advice I would like to share is about spreading the word. Make your approach personal and provide opportunities for people to pitch in. Websites like Mightybell and Checkthis offer new ways to communicate and collaborate with family, friends and strangers who may be interested in your cause. Take the time to make each appeal unique, even if it means simply typing a recipient’s name at the beginning of a copy-and-paste message. Nothing says “I just need warm bodies to show up” like a mass message to every person in your Facebook inbox.
Keep your chin up\n
I would like to end by encouraging you to maintain your motivation and empathy. A few weeks ago, a cardboard box for food bank donations was placed in the hall of my University of Central Arkansas dormitory. Two packages of ramen noodles were donated before someone apparently thought the box was actually a trashcan. Others followed suit, and soon it was brimming with garbage. The lesson? Some of the students in my dorm are idiots. The lesson that can apply to you? There are many people who are more than willing to give nothing—the garbage in the donation box. Take pride in your ability to care and find people who foster a similar passion.
Photo via Flickr (cc) user stevendepolo.\n

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