Thursday, August 27, 2009

Lose Some, Win Some

What a roller coaster of a week this is- yesterday was pretty stressful. I received an email from a very pretty girl who had signed up to be auctioned saying that she was no longer single and didn't want to participate. This was upsetting because her photo is all over the place in our marketing, some of which can't be changed, and she would have done well. She had offered to find someone else, but I didn't really want to be bothered with going through the whole emailing process with a new person. Then, yesterday afternoon, I received a call from a very good looking guy who was going to be auctioned and was in the lead to be selected for the Wendy Williams show saying that he couldn't participate because of work conflict. That was extremely disappointing- he would have done extremely well in the auction. It was also slightly embarrassing to tell the producer that he wasn't going to be able to participate, just a few days after I told her was available- makes me look like I don't have my stuff together. Things were looking up late yesterday though- I finally got the contact info for a number of fire fighters and one in particular would be a great candidate for the Wendy Williams Show. He is very attractive and has a big personality and he is really enthusiastic about being on the show. I gave the producer his info and she is speaking with him tomorrow. So hopefully, we'll have a final decision on that. This afternoon, I got back to the office and there was an enthusiastic email from a young woman who wanted to sign up for the auction. She included her photo as well and she looks very pretty. She seems like a really nice person too. If the other girl hadn't dropped out, then I wouldn't have had space for our new bachelorette. So, I was happy to have her included. She said she's invited her coworkers too. It always works great when people who are in the auction promote the event to their friends/coworkers- we really need their help in doing that.

So things were looking down for a bit, but today they're getting back on the upswing. In other good news, I finally sold our last calendar spot. It is a returning sponsor from the last few years. I'm so relieved. I was determined that I wasn't going to have a calendar space go unsold, but it was looking pretty bleak. If this sponsor hadn't come through, I really don't know what I would have done. Tomorrow, I need to proof the calendar again. I'm still waiting for the ad copy for a 1/2 month spot, but hopefully that will come in tomorrow. The goal is to get the calendar to the printer on Monday, but I think it might not be until Tuesday.

I'm working on getting more auction items for both events. I'm doing a lot of following up with people that promised items. This can be a very frustrating experience. There are a lot of people that committed to auction items, but I have to keep calling and calling and emailing to try to actually get the item in hand. There is a salon in Boston that has been promising a gift certificate for 5 months. I can be pretty relentless- one has to be in this job. I will follow up as many times as it takes to get the auction items. But it is extremely time consuming to keep following up with people to actually get the items. More than half my day gets spent on following up on auction items. I'm also waiting for ad copy for the date auction program from a couple of sponsors. I understand that everyone is busy, but the amount of time that I have to spend chasing people for things they already promised is really annoying, particularly because it is time that could be spent working on lots of other things.

Today, I was up in Worcester for most of the day with a group of Boston University students that were part of a freshman volunteering program. They came to the warehouse where we store our surplus stuffed animals and spent the day sorting and boxing up stuffed animals. This is the 3rd year that we've had the student group here and they always do a great job. There were a lot of things that I didn't get to today though because I was out most of the day.

Anyways, I am super tired- I almost didn't blog tonight, but I missed blogging yesterday and didn't want to do that two days in a row. I find blogging a good way to unwind as well and I get to reflect on things that happened during the day. Tomorrow night, I'm back on the Boston harbor cruise selling raffle tickets. I have a lot more volunteers this time, so hopefully things will go well and we will bring in a few hundred dollars. I will keep you posted on our high seas ticket selling adventure!
Until tomorrow..

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

We Got the Grant!

Can I say that again? We got the grant! $5k from the BJ's Charitable Foundation! I was getting really anxious because I hadn't heard anything. On Friday, I was on their website to see if there was a number that I could call, but the website specified no phone calls. Saturday morning came and I was rushing to meet my friends, I went to the post office, opened up our box and there- among a few other pieces of mail- was an envelope from the Foundation. It was a very thin, lightweight envelope and immediately, I thought it was bad news. I leaned against the wall of post office boxes and felt a wave of sadness come over me. I opened the envelope, neatly as I always try to, and there was no check inside. I was almost ready to cry. I didn't even want to read the letter, but I opened it (not even all the way) and started to skim the first sentence- and then the words I was longing to read "we are pleased to inform..." I still wanted to cry, but this time tears of happiness. I stood there for a few moments, just to take it all in. It is hard to explain how I felt- it is such a relief to have this grant. It is so personal too- our successes with Project Smile are very personal, as are our lows. My personal success is also intertwined with Project Smile's success.

Continuing with the good news bus- on Friday afternoon, I received an email from a producer at the Wendy Williams talk show in NYC. They found our date auction online, love the event and will be having one our bachelors come to NYC to be on the show and say a few words about our date auction! How awesome is that? I am totally excited. I'm going with the bachelor as well. I told Katie, the marketing director at Sofft Shoes and she was really excited about it too. She offered to have our bachelor bring Wendy a pair of Sofft Shoes to give her on-air. The producer loved the idea, so we'll be doing that too. This is our first time on a national show, so it is really great. The Wendy Williams show airs at 2pm on the CW channel in the Boston market. I sent the producer the photos and info for 2 bachelors that I think would be a good fit, I'm waiting for her to make her decision.

So last week, with that awesome Yelp event, the online donations, the talk show news and the grant, was a pretty fantastic news week. I'm working on keeping this week on a roll- it's off to a bumpy start, but we'll get there. There is a lot more to write about, but I'm getting tired. I wanted to share this great news with everyone! Until tomorrow friends...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Moving Along

Well, this is going to be a short blog, my eyes are hurting and I need to sleep. So what's new? I was working on both our events today- I was contacting more auction item donors. I had a lot of people that had said they would donate, but I didn't have their items, so I was working on following up with them. I was also contacting people who donated last year and I hadn't contacted yet- almost all of them are on board to donate again this time. I have an awesome volunteer who has been helping me out this week. He is a college student who wanted to do some volunteering while on summer break. He's going back to school soon, so he won't be here for very long, but he has been such a big help. He's picked up gift certificates for me at a number of different places- this saved me a lot of time, he's been updating our Constant Contact database, stuffing gift bags, sorting items for donation and other general office duties. He has really saved me a lot of time.

I was also working on date auction things. This year, we have two sisters being auctioned. My sister Cordelia was auctioned our first year and I did it too, so these girls are not our first sisters, but I was thinking it might be cute to auction them off together. I'm not sure, it's just a thought. I'm waiting for my list of participating firefighters, hopefully I will get the list tomorrow. I'm getting anxious that I don't have their info yet as the event gets closer and closer, but hopefully things will work out and we will stay on track.

Miss Massachusetts also confirmed that she will be a special guest at our Anniversary Celebration on October 2, so I'm happy about that. We had Miss Mass at our event two years ago and Valerie- the title holder- was delightful. She was very friendly and even bought a bunch of silent auction items too.

I think that's it for tonight, it is 1:45 and I need to go to bed. I got home around 11:30, but instead of going back to work and finishing up some emails, I dawdled on the computer and ate watermelon (one of my absolute favorite fruits), so that's why I'm late in blogging. I didn't want to go to bed without blogging though! Until next time...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Awesome Yelp Event

Good news! The Yelp Boston Red Carpet Gallery Gala was held last night at the Harvard Museum of Natural History and we received $3,600 in donations! How cool is that? Leighann, the Yelp Boston director had contacted me last month about the event and wanted Project Smile to be the charity that guests are asked to donate to. The event was free and people got to sample lots of different food and drinks from a lot of different restaurants and they received a gift bag and toured the museum, so it was a terrific event. There were a bunch of volunteers that did a great job- we collected donations at the check-in table and we had a table near the photo booth as well. I had no idea that we would raise that amount of money. It was especially awesome since all we had to do was show up at the event- there were no expenses, no marketing pressure- nothing but organizing some volunteers, preparing donation jars, setting up our table and greeting guests and nicely asking them to donate. I can't begin to tell you how relieved I am our this donation. Money has been dwindling in our account, yesterday afternoon, I deposited a small check and had such a sinking feeling when I looked at our balance. I already knew approximately how much was in the account, but when you see the balance written out- it is jarring. The size of this donation was unexpected and I am so appreciative of Leighann for selecting Project Smile and for everyone who donated last night.

So what else is happening? More good news- Axe is on board to donate product for our date auction gift bags. We have 700 bottles of Axe shampoo and 350 mini bottles of hair product arriving soon. That is a really cool gift bag item and a perfect fit for our audience. I'm really happy with the donations we have for the gift bags- Axe, Green Mountain Coffee, Sofft Shoes, Fuze Beverage, Salon Capri, BodyScapes, California Closets- all really good stuff. Cholive, a really cool chocolate company that provides truffles and chocolates for cocktails is going to be donating small boxes of truffles for the bags too. We also will have two working microphones for the date auction which makes it easier for the hosts and they can also banter a bit. I've ordered a bigger stage as well which increases visibility for the guests. We're getting a 15% discount on rental items- I was hoping for more, but at least it is something.

I've submitted our event for listing on different publications, I still have more to do. We've sold some tickets so far, I think it is more than we had sold this time last year, but it is only a few. That always makes me nervous, but I know that I shouldn't worry. The event is 4 weeks away- which is nothing when you're planning an event, but for ticket sales, it is still a long way to go. I have more event marketing to work on tomorrow and I need to work on gift certificates for the couples. Maureen, one of the ladies being auctioned, has been so incredibly helpful- she got us 3 awesome gift certificates for couples to use on their date. We are still really short though. Especially since once sponsor who said they would donate just told me that they probably won't be able to- very disappointing since I was counting on their donation.

Well, that's it for tonight. I keep getting so nervous about our events, but I need to relax and just keep working like I do and believe that things will be fine. They were fine last year and I'm doing all the same things- even more things- so that should translate into things being fine this year. I still worry like crazy though- perhaps that should have been my middle name- Catherine Worry instead of Catherine Valentina. Until tomorrow friends..

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Reminder

Well, I'm back to work- my vacation in Quebec City was wonderful. I left on Thursday morning and came home last night. For those who have never been there, it is definitely worth visiting. There is a ton to see, the city is absolutely beautiful, the food is delicious, the people are friendly, it doesn't matter if you can't speak French, the prices are fairly reasonable- there are only good things to say. There was an awful thing that happened on the way home and it was such a reminder of how quickly things change. We were driving on Rt. 93 in the middle of New Hampshire- traffic was light, good weather, straight road ahead of us- my friend Pam was driving and I was in the passenger seat, half dozing. Suddenly, I heard Pam call out and I opened my eyes to see a car flipping in the median in front of us. It happened in the blink of an eye, but it was an unreal sight. We immediately pulled over and I called 911, other people stopped as well and went over to help the occupants. Since I was the only person on the phone with 911, the dispatcher asked me to go over to the car so I could tell them what was going on with the occupants. Thankfully, no one died, but it was a sickening sight. The driver, a man in his twenties, was out of the car- blood was all over his face, his ear, his t-shirt- he was standing near the car with a dazed look. The car, a white BMW, was mangled- its roof caved in, windshield smashed, windows broken. Through the open driver's side, I could see a pair of bare legs with blood on them sticking out. At first I thought it was a child, because the legs were so small, but it was a woman. I didn't see her face because she was slumped down in the bottom of the seat. I could hear people saying that she was breathing, but unconscious. I gave my phone to a man who was helping so he could explain things to 911, he then gave it to a nurse who had stopped to help. A doctor and another nurse also stopped and helped. The State Police came within about 5 minutes, then the fire fighters. The passenger did wake up and the doctor said she was moving her limbs, so hopefully she will be fine. It was such an awful scene, it is still hard to get the image from my head of the car flipping, the wreck and that poor woman's legs sticking out. Pam told me that the BMW had passed us a short time before, then pulled in front of us- the car started to veer into the breakdown lane, then jerked sharply to the left where it went across the passing lane, up at an angle into the median, hit a tree, bounced off it and rolled over, coming to rest right side up- I saw when it was airborne and flipping. Luckily, it didn't hit any other cars.

I know this has nothing to do with Project Smile, but it was a frightening experience and was a reminder of how quickly things happen. I don't know what caused the driver to lose control- maybe it was just a momentary distraction and he tried to over-correct, it was such an awful thing to see, I can't imagine how bad it was to have been inside that car.

So here I am today- back to work, stressed out, tired, with a thousand things to do for work, fed up with people that commit to donating but then back out, incredibly anxious about our events and feeling way behind on things. Not wanting to work until 3am, but knowing that I probably will just to stay on track. But I also want to remember how important it is to enjoy one's days and be grateful that one is alive and happy and healthy- because in one horrendous second it could all disappear. One of the strange things was that a few minutes before the accident, I had my eyes closed but was awake and thought how awful it would be if one was asleep in the passenger seat and woke up to find oneself in the middle of a car accident happening- little did I know what would be happening in less than 10 minutes.

Anyways friends, that's it for tonight- it is 1am and I'm going back to work- or maybe I will go to bed and be bright and fresh tomorrow and ready to follow up on a hundred auction items. Not to sound preachy, but please always wear your seatbelt. I'm pretty sure that the two people in that car were wearing their buckles, otherwise they would have been thrown from the car in that violent impact.
Until tomorrow friends..

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


It has been almost a week since I blogged- yikes! I was intending to blog last night, but by the time I was finished with work it was after 2am and I just went to bed. Things are incredibly busy right now. The primary focus is the date auction- marketing is under way (it has been underway already, but now it is getting kicked into higher gear). We finally have a finished flier, our ad is submitted for Stuff magazine and the html ad for our major marketing effort. Our listings started this week in the Pros in the City newsletter. When I get back from Quebec City next week, I will have the html flier sent out to everyone participating so they can forward it to their friends. We've been promoting it a lot on Facebook. We still have a long way to go for promotions, it always starts out slowly then the ticket sales pick up as the event gets closer. We've had some very attractive men sign up for the date auction recently and I spoke with the firefighter who is helping us recruit and he has a list of names for us, so I'm relieved about that.

Connections are so important, they can really make a huge difference in getting a donation or just being ignored. We're really struggling to get enough gift certificates for the couples to use on their date, so I asked one of the ladies being auctioned who works in marketing, if she could help us get some certificates donated. Within a few days she had two certificates to high end Boston restaurants donated and is working on getting some more. I had contacted those restaurants before but never got anywhere. It is such a big help to have her assistance. I'm always so grateful when people make the extra effort to help.

Last week, a young woman left a comment on my blog, calling me a 'kindred spirit' and gave me the link to her blog which was about working for a environmental non profit. I read her blog and was completely surprised. Her blog was mostly about how much she hated working for a non profit, she had just started there- definitely not a kindred spirit. I don't understand why anyone would think that I hated my job- if I did, I wouldn't be doing it. I love my job, it has given me some of the happiest moments of my life and given me the opportunity to meet some awesome people and have incredible experiences- the best of which will be yet to come. With that love also comes incredible frustrations, anxiety and stress and lows which can be utterly miserable, but there has never been a day when I hated my job. There may be aspects I don't enjoy, but everyone has that. In her blog, the girl vented about how she hated how non profits relied on donations in order to do their work and had to constantly fundraise. Of course that is difficult, but every business needs to bring in money to survive and non profits are no different. It was sad to read her blog and I hope that she finds something that makes her happy. If she doesn't like working for a non profit, she really shouldn't be there. She isn't doing herself any service with that amazingly negative attitude and I can't imagine that she is doing any service to the non profit she is working for, particularly with the way she criticizes her executive director who is also the founder.

Anyways, I'm off on a mini vacation on Thursday to Quebec City. I am so excited! I haven't been away on vacation since 2007 when I went to visit a friend in Cleveland. I went to Baltimore for a few days last year, but I got sick the day after getting there, so that really wasn't a vacation. I've been rushing to get as much done before I leave as possible. My goal was to have 30 gift certificates ready, with Maureen's help and one that I'm picking up tomorrow, we are up to 26. I still have more emails to catch up on, but I'm doing OK in getting things done before I go. I'm only going for 2 work days, so it really isn't a big deal, but for me it seems like I'm going to be away for a month.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) night, one of the ladies being auctioned off will be on TV. She is appearing on the new dating show Holidate on the Soapnet channel on cable. Single ladies swap lives with another single woman in a different city and go on dates. It's on a 10pm, so be sure to check it out! I'm looking forward to watching it.

I will try to blog tomorrow. I'm going to go send a few emails and then get back to packing- I feel like I haven't packed enough clothes, but maybe 4 suitcases is enough for 4 days? Kidding! Until tomorrow friends..

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Can't Stop

I can't stop working- I have so much to do, I don't want to stop until it is done. I was busy all day- two photo shoots, then working on date auction things and following up with anniversary event auction items. I went to a local meeting earlier tonight, I came home around 8:30, brought my dinner into the office and went straight back onto the computer until midnite. I was going to watch a movie that I really wanted to see, but I couldn't take myself off the computer. Part of this obsession with work is based in fear- I'm very afraid of having two event disasters and in order to avoid that, I want to work as hard as I can, for as long as I can to ensure that we have two successful events that bring in serious money. It's kind of funny, one always hears about procrastinators- how they wait until the last minute for things. I'm the exact opposite- I want things done as early as possible. I'm obsessed with getting things done before they are needed. 6 weeks may seem like a long time before an event, but for me it feels like tomorrow. The hardest part is waiting for other people- I'm still waiting for the contact info for a number of bachelors, I'm waiting for ad info for some of our sponsors. Some people are amazingly slow in sending their info over.

Our date auction flier is now finalized and I'm really happy with the way it looks. We had some issues, but now they have been resolved. One of our sponsors gave some good feedback about the flier and we made some changes that improved it. There was an aspect of the html invitation that I wasn't very happy with, but Lisa was able to change it and everything looks awesome. This is my favorite flier. Our event page has a lot of updates that I need to send over. I was going to do it tonight, but didn't get to it.

It's so important when you are involved in a situation to first decide what you want out of it- whether you want things to work or not. This sounds really simplistic, but it is important to keep in mind. There was an issue with an event that arose recently and when I started negotiating to resolve the issue, i knew that I needed to keep in mind that I wanted this situation to work out. Sometimes, it can be as simple as saying to the other side, "I want this to work out." That way, it is clear what you want and that you're willing to work on a solution. When you tell someone that you want things to work out, it usually makes a difference. It is strange, but sometimes people don't want things to work out, either consciously or subconsciously, and they will engage in behavior that pretty much guarantees a negative result. In my position, I never want to lose anyone's support of Project Smile. It is the same as any business that wants to maintain their customer base. My goal is to maintain and grow support for our work, I always keep that in mind when I interact with people. When problems arise, it is up to me to diffuse them in a way that keeps sponsors happy. Of course, there is a balance. I can not always accommodate every request and sometimes there are just differences of opinion on matters and nothing will change that. But the most important thing is that there is a genuine desire to solve the problem to everyone's satisfaction and that issues are handled with grace and professionalism. There are many times when I get fed up and annoyed at things that happen- or haven't happened- and some people are incredibly difficult to deal with, but those feelings of frustration can never leave my desk.

What else is new? I have two more photo shoots scheduled and one more that needs to be scheduled- then we are done. The last one is a redo, so hopefully we can get that in before the week is over. My deadline for photos was 8/13 and we are almost ahead of schedule. I still have that blank spot in the calendar- the person who was supposed to take care of it still won't respond to em or phone calls. I hope they are OK, I don't know what is going on. I have one other slim possibility for a sponsor, if that doesn't work out, I don't know what to do. We never had a blank ad spot and we're not about to start now.

Well, I'm off to bed. Part of me wants to keep working, but it is almost 1am and I know that if I start working, it will be 3am before I stop. I stayed up until 3:30 on Monday, but I really don't want to get back into that. I'm going away for a couple of days next week- a short vacation, so I have an extra pressure on myself to get a ton of things done before I go away. I'm only going Thurs-Sunday, but in my head it's as if I'm planning a 3 week hiatus.
Anyways, until next time friends..

Monday, August 3, 2009

6 weeks and good news

6 weeks until the date auction- can you imagine? I can't. I've been working since January on this and now it is only weeks away. It is nervous and exciting- more nervous actually- incredibly nervous to be honest. Good news today- we have a new sponsor on board and we have reached our sponsorship goal! It was a lot of work to get this sponsorship confirmed, for a while it looked like it wasn't going to happen, but I kept working it and following up and today it worked out. I had decided months ago that I wasn't giving up on this sponsorship until I had a definite confirmation or rejection. I was feeling a little bleak about it this morning, but I kept following up and it worked out for the best. I am feeling really relieved. Our event is an excellent fit with this company's service and they were involved with our event last year, so I know it will work out great.

I have two calendar photo shoots scheduled for tomorrow, they are both redoes, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that everything will work. It is a new camera and takes awesome photos, so there shouldn't be a problem, but I still get a little worried. I have two other photo shoots scheduled later in the week and 3 more that still have to be done after that. The deadline for photos is next Wednesday. I'm going away to Quebec city for a couple of days and the calendar has to be entirely in Lisa's hands by then so she can put it together. I still don't know what is going on with a month of advertising in the calendar. A former board member had committed to filling that spot, but has been unavailable for the last 3 weeks. I don't have anyone else to take that spot and I don't know what to do. It is really frustrating when people commit to helping and then disappear. I don't know what happened with him, I'm hoping that everything is OK- I need to know what is going on. I need him to fulfill his commitment and come through as he said he would. There is no time left and no viable options to take that spot and we need it taken care of to cover production costs.

Tomorrow, I also need to follow up with sponsors that owe us their sponsorship dollars. Between the two events and the calendar, we are owed quite a bit of money. I'm not particularly concerned that I won't get the money, since most of them I have worked with before and the new ones are very reputable, but it is very time consuming to keep following up with all these people. I followed up with some recently, but still haven't received their checks.

One of my other goals before I go away next week is to make serious progress on getting gift certificates for the date auction couples. We have been languishing at 23 gift certificates for way too long and considering we need 40- we need to step up the progress. I am working on putting together dates for the couples that are technically free (tours of various places, gallery visits, wine tastings, etc.) and then if we have to, buying a small gift card to a coffee shop or dessert place. We are able to purchase discounted restaurant gift certificates, but I want to avoid that because even buying a couple adds up and I need to keep costs down. Coffee shop gift certs. are cheaper and that paired with a free event is a decent first date. The goal is to have all 17 certificates done by next Thursday- it is kind of a lofty goal, but we'll see how close we get. I'd be OK if we got to at least 35.

Well, it is 12:15 and I need to get back to work. I have to send photos of the bachelors/ettes over to Lisa to include on our html flier. I also need to pull out all our 2008 tax info to send to the accountant so he can get our filing done (we got some extensions), my part is all done- I just need to put everything together to send over. I may wait until tomorrow for that- I'm trying to not fall back into the 3am bedtime routine. I also need to print more photo release forms and respond to a few emails.
Until tomorrow friends...