I learned a lot through the process of planning my wedding, like how to walk the line between being a detail-orientated planner and a detail-obsessed bride. But between negotiating contracts and placing orders, sometimes it felt more like a business experience than a personal one. Mass mailings (invitations), website design and writing (wedsite), brand identity (theme/color scheme), and obviously event planning. It even involved writing for the press and video editing when we were selected to be featured in the New York Times (announcement and video here). It all reminded me a lot of the branding process at work.
In branding an organization or a wedding, you want to make sure that there is a cohesive feel to all of the materials without getting matchy-matchy. Open and frequent (but not too frequent) communication with your constituents/guests as well as your partners/vendors is key. Most importantly, you need to have a strong base of knowing who you are as an organization or as a couple to be able to come up with any of this. Our wedding stayed true to who we are: environmentally-friendly, vegan, personal, and just a little silly. I wouldn’t necessarily say we are casually elegant, though that is the feel we were going for.
Even though I stepped down as a Chair on the Boston Pride Committee, I haven’t quit altogether. I’ve been keeping a less active role as a volunteer. I helped organize the volunteers for a fundraising holiday party for them last night, and acted as a volunteer myself. We needed volunteers to help run the silent auction, black jack tables, poker tables, and roulette tables, as well as serve as waitstaff and bartenders. I helped with the assignments and set-up, then moved on to my table.
- Me running the roulette table
Volunteers (especially at volunteer-run organizations) often end up wearing multiple hats at once. In addition to my roulette lady and volunteer coordinator roles, I was also a prospective donor and a community member. So in this case, Boston Pride would be trying to serve my wants as a constituent, hoping that I donate to the cause, hoping that I get others to donate to the cause, trying to make me happy so that I will volunteer again, supervising me, having me supervise other volunteers to make sure they are happy so they will volunteer again but also that they do their job and get community members to donate while recognizing that the volunteers are also community members who may donate…. Head spinning like a roulette wheel yet?
And all of that was perfectly OK because I feel comfortable volunteering for Boston Pride and am happy to take on more than one role. Putting a new volunteer in a volunteer coordinator role wouldn’t have been the right move, but if you find the right volunteer for the job, the roles can fall into place. It is important to keep in mind, though, that volunteers are never just your volunteers: They are the clients that you serve, the donors to whom you market, and the public to whom you advertise. Always put your best foot forward to them and keep them happy in all of their roles by choosing the best task for them as an individual.
This week brought the official launch party of my employer’s new identity: our new name, our new brand, our new website. I have learned some do’s and dont’s for these kinds of parties through the process:
- DO invite the whole world. We tried to keep the guest list manageable since we have a relatively small space and didn’t really open it up to the public. We wanted mostly the leaders of the organizations we work with and want to work with. But a small guest list means a small party and less of a party feel.
- DON’T allow there to be too many speakers. Want to know another detractor from a party feel? A PowerPoint presentation. Or multiple PowerPoint presentations… Yes, its true. In our efforts to be inclusive of every stakeholder, our event turned into a bit of a lecture. Highlight the leader of your organization talking about what you are there to celebrate and he/she can mention and thank the stakeholders, but doesn’t need to give them 5 minutes to speak.
- DO serve food and give out swag. We chose dishes that reflected the cuisines of the countries we work in and gave away our new promotional items like Post-It notepads.
- DON’T forget about the details and to have every detail branded. We had orange programs, orange balloons with our new name and tagline, and orange signs to describe the food. We also had a greeter at the front of the building and a greeter at the elevator door at all times.
- DO put out a press release about your event. Ours got picked up by a regional paper (see portfolio).
Vintage Vignettes glimpse into the Communicationist’s past, one to ten years ago from this day.
On this day in 2005, the Palestianian-Israeli Peace Alliance (PIPA) held its first event. PIPA is a group I started at Boston University with my freshman year roommate. I, a young woman with Israeli family, and she, a young woman with Palestinian family, were randomly placed together. We saw an opportunity to create a forum where people from both sides could have a dialogue. Over the two years I served as President of the club, I saw people from the region have a conversation with their peers from “the other side” for the first time in their lives, on the other side of the world from their homes. We had events that ranged from discussions to cultural parties to outing off-campus to see speakers or movies. PIPA still exists at BU to this day and has expanded its work off-campus.
We had no idea if the club would get off the ground or not, and were thrilled when dozens of students turned out to Falafel and a Film. We screened Promises (trailer below), an Oscar-nominated documentary that allows the children of the region to speak about their opinions on the conflict and eventually meet each other. They speak wisely: “In war, both sides suffer. Maybe there’s a ‘winner’ but what’s a winner? People on both sides die. Both sides lose.”
Vintage Vignettes glimpse into the Communicationist’s past, one to ten years ago from this day.
On this day in 2007, I was doing street outreach in Sofia, Bulgaria. It was my last weekend of a 2-month internship with the country’s only LGBT organization and the whole team (all three employees, a few board members, two summer interns, and a couple of volunteers) pulled together to raise awareness in a park with a lot of foot traffic in the downtown area of the capital city.
We set up a tent called the Pink Point. Outside of this tent we handed out brochures and engaged people in conversation. Inside the tent we had displays and activities. Number one challenge for me in this outreach event: Not speaking Bulgarian.
So how did I and the other international intern get around this? First of all, we had print materials in Bulgarian to hand out. We learned how to say “Want to learn about equality for all Bulgarians?” (or something like that) and if they said “Da” we would just point to the tent where they could talk to the Bulgarian staff. Ahead of time we were able to contribute in other ways by brainstorming the activities and discussing logistics at the office in English. It worked out pretty well and it just goes to show that communication is more than language — Smiling, open body language, and lots of nodding can go a long way.
One of the responsibilities of being Volunteer Chair for Boston Pride is planning a party to thank all of the volunteers that made the events happen that year. In the past it had been a gathering at a billiards place or bar, but I wanted to make it a real selling point in recruiting volunteers. I approached a few cruise ship companies based out of the Boston Harbor to see if they would be interested in a barter. Boston Harbor Cruises answered the call and donated the ship, staff, food, beer, and wine for a 3-hour event in exchange for a sponsorship package of ads, registrations, etc.
Telling volunteers that they would get a free cruise for volunteering was a huge addition to my pitch. I created a few events within the cruise that I hope will encourage the volunteers to return next year. The first was “Speed Meeting.” Lots of volunteers join up to meet new friends, professional connections, dates, etc. I wanted to make sure those connections were facilitated. I created speed meeting to be like speed dating, but instead of just meeting a date you could meet a friend or other connection. Everyone who wanted to participate had two minutes to talk to a stranger, then I would ring the bell and they would move on to the next fellow volunteer and have two minutes to talk to him or her.
The other was an Awards Ceremony. This was something the Pride Committee had been talking about doing for years, but hadn’t been done, at least for several years. I created awards such as the “Unwavering Loyalty Award” for a volunteer who stood in the rain without an umbrella or rain jacket to complete his task, the ”Sustained Leadership Award” for a group of veteran volunteers, the “Long-Distance Love Award” to the volunteer who had traveled the farthest to be a part of Boston Pride. Winners received certificates, Boston Pride schwag, CD giveaways, and in some cases, tickets to upcoming shows! Overseeing and MC-ing this ceremony was a lot of fun and I think it gave all of the volunteers incentive to return and go above and beyond in 2011.
Giving out an award
The whole event was a blast and the Boston Harbor Cruises staff and Boston Pride Committee team helped out so much that I was even able to enjoy myself too. Being the MC was so much fun – I could live with a microphone in my hand. Thanking volunteers is one of the best parts of being a volunteer coordinator!