Discussing fundraising events with Alex Grovenstein

Alex Grovenstein, Director of Annual Giving of Georgia Southern University

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.

Urkovia

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34 Comments

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34 responses to “Discussing fundraising events with Alex Grovenstein

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  2. Looks like Mr. Grovenstein does a LOT more than just plan parties and fundraisers. It also seems like the students were very intrigued with what he had to say and his experiences dealing with crisis management! Wish I could’ve been there to hear it for myself.

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  4. This post provides an abundance of informative facts that correlate with out topics in class. It gives a lot of insight on the world of event planning that is helpful to anyone who is pursuing a career as an event planner. His tips are so important to keep in mind at all times. I personally am not interested in event planning, but if I was I would most definitely use this information provided to be the best event planner I can be. In today’s society a lot of people do not like to help you and give you tips about whatever career oath you may be choosing but he did and it is a great thing. This post is so influential.

  5. I want to go into event planning specifically so these tips were very helpful considering that i will be starting to look for a job this year in that field. I really liked the hockey story I would have been scared to death.

  6. I hope anyone who was interested in even planning was able to hear his speak because he gave some really good advice from what I can see. When Monica Whitehead came and spoke to our class she went along the same lines as Alex Grovenstein. When she mentioned to always remember that events usually don’t go as planned I knew she was right because in any event (obviously much smaller than what they are referencing to) that I plan, something always seems to go off track and you have to be ready for the unexpected. I love everyone who has come to speak to classes this semester! It gets me even more excited and ready to graduate and start my career!

    -Juliana Sweek

  7. I liked this because of his advice.
    (1) Get use to not getting public credit
    We all love getting praised for what we have done, specially when people like what you’ve done and it has gone over well with the public, but PR people are behind the scenes more than you realize. We, PR people, keep things running but, a lot of the time, we are not seen so others don’t realize how hard we work.
    (2) Events don’t always go as planned
    I think the better advice would be, events never go as planned. Ever when the event goes perfectly and everyone loves the event, something always happens that you don’t plan for. I am a high stress person and if things are thrown at me unexpectedly I tend to have a panic moment, but I can honestly say that I have always been able to work through whatever the problem was, and managed to keep my sanity.
    (3) Sometimes you have to do it all yourself.
    This is something I already do and am very good at. I HATE group projects in college because there is always the people that done work and want the grade and the people who will work but they don’t do their work well and settle for Cs and Bs. I take charge in group projects, do all or most of the work, and then if others do actually do part of the work I always have them send it to me so I can make sure it is A worthy work.

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  9. This is interesting because I am interested in getting into event planning. I also found it exciting that it was for fundraisers because most people like to get into other aspects of event planning. I think he touched on some very important points because most people try to glorify the job and some people think it’s easy when it is extremely stressful. I have helped plan some events and it definitely is a thankless job, it is extremely rare that you would get acknowledged for it and you shouldn’t look to get recognized for it. Planning events I’ve come to realize that it never goes as planned at least one thing always happens unexpectedly. Having read this I am definitely considering fundraising as an option for when I get a job in the future.

    -Adrienne Glover

  10. I appreciated that he was able to be successful through true hard work. He did not have the luxury of social media, as we do today. I also liked that he stressed on how important organization and planning in advance was. I agree that you will fail and make mistakes, but you must learn from it and keep going. You can’t sweat the small stuff. I am glad he was honest about that and reassuring that we all make mistakes at times, but you have to keep going.

    Kaitlyn Brantley

  11. williambeeks

    This posts is so informative and couldn’t have come at a better time. In the intro to PR course we had the luxury of having the event planner from SCAD come and speak. The points made here ring true throughout the spectrum. Alex as well as the young lady made it clear that there is more to even planning then what one who is coming to the event would experience. There are late nights, deadlines, frustration, and exhaustion all usually coming to an end with no recognition to the people who planned it. These are all lessons the prospective event planner would need to know and know well.

  12. nadinebenjamin

    Event Planning is so much more than the fancy scene and socializing. So much time and effort is taken to make things come together well. Personally, I think that event planning is one of the highlights of PR.

    Like Grovenstein stated, planning is crucial when you are planning an event. In doing so you better stay on top of your planner, finances, and remain friends with everyone you encounter.

    The challenge like always is that things don’t go as planned. I see this as a challenge as well as a mini ‘crisis management. It’s hard work but it s doable!

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  14. Kristen Pappaterra

    As a student in a Public Relations major, my main interest in the future is event planning. The aspect I have always been interested in is the wedding party, release parties, etc., but I have never thought of the financial aspect that goes into the event planning. The first word of advice about getting used to not getting credit that you deserve stood out to me. Most people that are involved in PR are dealing with the outside work to make something bigger. People applaud what comes out of it more than what goes into it. Another thing I need to remember is that events will not always go as planned, and I need to prepare myself to make adjustments as needed. This made me realize how much work goes into events and the expectations people have.

  15. Grovenstein’s comments regarding event planning come at the perfect time in our course where we are discussing event planning. I enjoyed how he pointed out the lack of glamour that exists in event planning. I think that this is important to point out because many believe that event planning is all glitz and glamour when it is not. He also gave good tips to handle the pressure that accompanies event planning. I feel like this is necessary for many that are looking to join the this industry.I found it surprising that there is not particularly a high demand for event planners and that many are chosen from members of large projects. I think that this is also very informative to those with aspirations in event planning.

    -Shauntel Hall

  16. Emily Daniel PRCA 2330
    The Hockey Classic crisis sounds stressful! I a glad that I am able to hear about other situations that went wrong and how they fixed them. I feel like it has only better prepared me for the future. I would like to ask 1.Has social media helped at all in solving a crisis? and 2. Has social media changed the amount of face to face interaction with people you work with?

  17. I wish I could have been a part of that class because this sounds like a very interesting topic to get first hand advice about. As the upcoming president of a club sport team, fundraising is a topic that is very important to me. After college, the idea of doing more large scale fundraising for different organizations is something I would considering pursuing. However I do take his advice that event planning is not an easy career to get into very seriously. I would have loved to hear what other advice he had for putting your best foot forward in that industry.

    – P. Callanan

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  19. This was very enlightening to read because I have always been interesting in fundraising! I think it is such a great thing to take place in the world. I never truly knew much about it, but he really helped explain the basic aspects of it. I like that he didn’t sugar code anything and was truly telling us for our best interest. Procrastinating seems to not be a good idea in this industry which is good to hear now so I can begin working on that for the future!

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  21. Theory of a Deadpan

    Although I am far from a PR professional, I can totally relate to the difficulty involved in fundraising for a group or company. I am on the PR committee for the Statesboro/Bulloch County Humane Society, and as it is a not-for-profit volunteer organization, I have felt firsthand how thankless and tiring it is to try to plan fundraising events. I felt at first like people were going to instantly hate me for what felt to me like begging for handouts, but I eventually realized that there are right and wrong ways to go about fundraising, and I think I have gotten a lot better at it than when I first started.

    • Theory of a Deadpan

      MEGAN MUCCILLO
      Although I am far from a PR professional, I can totally relate to the difficulty involved in fundraising for a group or company. I am on the PR committee for the Statesboro/Bulloch County Humane Society, and as it is a not-for-profit volunteer organization, I have felt firsthand how thankless and tiring it is to try to plan fundraising events. I felt at first like people were going to instantly hate me for what felt to me like begging for handouts, but I eventually realized that there are right and wrong ways to go about fundraising, and I think I have gotten a lot better at it than when I first started.

  22. This is a great article and I wish I could’ve been there to hear him speak. I feel like event planning would be an awesome job.

    What are a few pointers you could give people that are wanting to go this way with PR? Also, I know every crisis isn’t the same, but what is a tip you could give others to that are planning an event and something goes wrong?

  23. This was very informational and I wish i would have been there to hear him speak because fundraising is an important aspect of any organization or event. I’ve planned several fundraising events for student organizations and I understand how difficult it can be to reach out to people and to get them to actually donate money.

  24. This is awesome to read right after guest speaker Monica Whitehead talked to the class! The important things that I remember her telling us was not to take things personal! Monica told the class that if your going to get into this field then you need to have tough skin! She also mentioned that a lot of times people do not take notice in the work you do, and that events do not always go the way they were planned. To be able to do event planning you need to be able to think fast, and that is kind of like crisis management in my eyes.

  25. I am very glad this was posted! Something i discovered i enjoy doing is being involved with event planning. One takeaway i got from public relation is the knowledge of what is proper event planning. I would like to incorporate this skill into work I plan to do in the future. I joined an organization on campus that plans activities for students on campus and thought this would be a perfect place to apply my event planning skills. I would also like to put it as a skill on my resume. I think another interesting point in this interview was the question and answer about the use of social networking. We have changed into a world of short messages packed with a lot of information. Social networking does have its downside because you cannot use this solely to advertise an event. Nothing beats face to face interaction.

  26. I know with many fundraising events people are concerned about where the money raised at the event goes or actually how much of the money raised actually make it to the cause. In your event planning–fundraising experience have you faced this issue with people or something like it? How do you let people know exactly where the money raised is going?

  27. Recently we have had many important public figures, such as a former President as well as a former White House aids, come speak at our school. How do you prepare for something as big and important as an event like that? Is there a different kind of protocol that you find yourself using compared to the local politician or local speaker?

  28. Alex Grovenstein

    My apologies for the delay in responding!! Generally speaking all companies have some protocols regarding fundraising. It typically depends on the mission of the organization. The biggest thing to think about is the perception of your methods. For example, a loud event with free-flowing alcohol works well for Ducks Unlimited, but that wouldn’t be appropriate for a faith-based organization. To my knowledge, there is no universal process. Each event, initiative and non-profit are different and have different needs.

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  30. When fundraising through large companies,do they have specific rules and protocols about fundraising? Is there a universal process used in fundraising or is it tailored specifically to the event?