Alex Grovenstein, Director of Annual Giving at Georgia Southern University
Last Friday, students in the Events Management class received event planning advice from alumus Alex Grovenstein. Alex’s event planning specialty lies in a niche area of event planning–fundraising. Sure, most people think of wedding planning, release parties, corporate events, etc. as the area of event planning they wish to work in, but someone has to raise funds. And, depending on the industry, they must raise funds all the time.
Currently the Director of Annual Giving at Georgia Southern University, Alex shared his event experiences with students. His advice to them: (1) Get use to not getting public credit; (2) Events don’t always go as planned; and (3) Sometimes you have to do it all yourself. He provided students with examples from his current and previous jobs to illustrate these points. One such example was a Hockey Classic he planned. He found out 48-72 hours prior to the event that the coils necessary to make the floor freeze were broken and there was no one in the area that could fix the problem. (Sidebar: It takes about 48 hours for the floor in this facility to freeze into ice.) Solution: The building manager of the facility made some calls and found individuals from 4 hours away that could come down immediately and fix the situation.
After relaying this story and others about his event planning experiences, students asked Alex some questions about event planning. Below are the bulk of those questions, and his answers.
Social media was not around when you began in the industry. How did you raise awareness of events without social media?
We held a number of events locally; used word of mouth; traditional print; had media partners in radio and television; and each event consisted of committees and those committee members were centers of influence. We knew if we had those members it would instantly boost the credibility of our event.
What are the best events for fundraising?
Career fundraisers do not like events as a model for fundraising, and there is a whole argument behind that issue. However, you have to cultivate relationships with potential donors. The best event, however, depends on your market. Typically, the most successful events allow for everyone to participate. That is why running events are so popular. But also, look for something unique to the area.
How do you handle the pressure of planning and executing an event?
You have to plan in advance, and do not sweat the small stuff. There will be points of failure, but there are times when you have to go with the flow. When you are in the moment of the event you get tunnel vision and you just get it done. Keep a running tally of what is needed for next time to help with the planning.
What advice would you give potential event planners?
Finding a job in strictly event planning will be difficult right now because people will pull someone from a larger project to run an event for them. Therefore, not as many people are hiring for just an event planner right now. You will need to move to a larger market for that. Be patient and keep looking if you want to exclusively plan events for your career.
What is the most challenging part of your job–besides fundraising?
Politics, but this is part of every job. Also, this job is a transition from a private sector to a university setting, so there are some differences there as well.
What additional questions would you like to ask Alex about fundraising and event planning? Maybe we can get some of those questions answered. Comment below.
Many thanks to Alex for speaking to the class.