A little bit of project management for charity events

I was once at a meeting with a royalty whose lifestyle is charity-driven. Her name is Marina Sturdza. Apart from curiosity about her past linked to a communist era, the audience got interested in her charity endeavours. A friend of mine asked her about how she approaches, organises and delivers charity events. All these are competencies of a project manager.  She offered the following very common-sense advice, which very much resonate with any project’s life cycle:

  •  watch your expenses to avoid spending more than collecting;
  • communicate well the reason the event is organized for;
  • follow-up and openly report after the event to build trust.

I also noted, from personal experience, that charity demands peculiarities from project managers.

During holidays, with the generosity spirit in the air, we see charity events popping up on our facebook pages, through email advertisements or friends’ invitations. I’ve made it a tradition, over the last years to organise something in support of the cause I adhere to. And to put my project management skills to work. These come down to resource identification, organisation of meetings, networking and communication.

Couple of mere examples: organise a group of friends of mine to craft Christmas decorations that were sold at a fair. Together with other nine groups we collected funds enough to support daily needs of 10 child-single mother couples for a year. A pretty good output. The next year I organised at my place a 5 o’clock tea with the objective of spreading the word about the cause of single mothers and collect funds. After the event, my guests made donations to the cause. It was an undisclosed amount. Purposefully. I wanted to preserve the intimacy of the moment, especially for those disappointed by charities in the past, an important sensitivity to bear in mind. Another year, I joined with friends of mine a charity event for about one hundred people gathered to craft hand-made toys to be sold at a fair to support a shelter for orphan single mothers. A friend of mine, to whom I am profoundly grateful for accompanying me at this event, called it ” finally, a fakes-free event, with humanity, from people to people”. An awesome outcome, i would say.

That dear friend of mine gave a perfect definition to a charity event that stays faithful to its objective. To stay true to my evaluation culture, i noted down couple of lessons I’ve collected on my charity events organization journey.
These events are about people you want to support. An individual, a group, a community. These are what we call “beneficiaries” in projects. Those organising and taking part in the event are mere means to an end (me included). Lavish charity dinners or galas are not my thing for this reason mainly.

charity events
I also got to learn something important in terms of sponsors and charity projects partners. It might happen that those with means might not necessarily be willing to be the means to an end referred to above. They might want to steal the spot light and let you down at the last moment after offers generously made but not honoured. There might be reasons for that I am not here to judge. It’s important to remember that the cause you support dearly might not instil the same enthusiasm in others. And it’s ok. We all support some causes, in one way or other.
Often the humblest person are more likely to respond to a call for contribution. It might be as simple as making a phone call that paper is accumulating in the office for recycling, knowing that these will allow napkins and toilet paper to be bought for those who cannot afford even these “benefits of civilization”. Or taking part in crafting Christmas decorations to be sold for a good cause.

Picture taken at Diaconia Christmas Charity Fair ‘From Mothers to Mothers”2013 /”De la mame pentru mame” Campaign. You can learn more about the organisation and the campaign here http://diaconia.md/?l=en

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