Episode 20: Integrate your Mission into your Events

Ever wanted to know how to weave your vision throughout your organization? We were joined this week by Gwendolyn Cowle of Feed My Starving Children. She shares how they have been able to encapsulate their vision in all their events and create an engaging gala. 

We have Gwendolyn Cowle, the Marketing Manager from Feed My Starving Children.  Tell us about that.

We are a Christian non profit organization. 31 years old this year. Basically what we do, is we have volunteers come in and pack 4 simple ingredients in an assembly line fashion, full of energy, full of fun! They put together some key ingredients for a meal that was put together by food scientists that really helps people that are in very severe states of malnourishment, really living very hungry lives. We come in and produce that product with our volunteers, manna pack, we send that to food partners all over the world. They are out in over 70 countries. We give that food away. We distribute that to them and they use it in their school, churches, malnourished clinics. It really does change lives.  This year it’s about 1 million meals a day! That’s our goal 1 million a day.

You said it’s four simple ingredients so you are literally feeding starving children. You involve the public?

Absolutely its anyone from age 5 to 95. And so many times it’s kids. They come in with their class from school or sports team and they go home, because they know they made a difference with their two hands, they will tell mom and dad, grandma and grandpa.  Soon that opportunity to pack becomes bigger, you bring in different people. That’s how we’ve grown.

FMSC is an organization that feeds starving children, tell me more about the events you do?

I talked earlier about the packing experience and that happens at permanent sites in 4 different sites in the US. We also bring that event on the road. That packing experience, we call it Mobile Pack, that is in itself an event. What we are focusing on today (for the podcast) is galas.

We do two of them every year. One here in Minnesota where our organization is corporately based and where it started, and in Illinois where we have more permanent site, we have a base there. Here we are using the convention center in Minneapolis. The last couple of years we’ve been in a couple of different places in IL, most recently the Schaumburg Convention Center.

Walk us through the event.

Upon arrival we try to make sure people know where to go. The opportunity to use greeters and signage, the convention center made upgrades and does signage digitally, and obviously check in.  Having that space be comfortable when people arrive and not crowded. Once you are checked in going into our hall we also have a piece of our organization called marketplace. What they do is primarily sell goods made by artisans where our food goes. That is set up as people arrive and walk in.  We actually flipped that, in the past that hasn’t been where people have entered. We flipped it because it is a really close tie to our organization it makes sense. It’s kinda like that next step. After you eat and get healthy what can you do, you can work!

Are you buying those goods from them?

Yes. Profits go back to our food program to make more meals. It really is an incredible program.

How many people attend your events in MN and IL?

In Minneapolis it is around 1,500. In Chicago it’s closer to 1,200. We’re hoping to grow that next.

How do you price your tickets?

People can buy individual tickets and of course tables, of ten. In MN its $100, and it’s tied to what is our catering price. In Chicago it’s a little more expensive so our ticket price is $125.

How long have you had your ticket priced there?

I would say at least the last five years.

You walk in and go through the experience then what?

Once you check in and come inside and start experiencing marketplace the other fundraising activities we have before our program begins, we do a raffle, beer and wine pull. We also have what we call a christmas stocking pull. Back to the Market place we have artisans who make christmas stockings. We work to have each of those feed a child for a year. We keep trying to tie back anything we can message throughout the night to the fact that what you are doing here matters, it’s making meals that feed starving children.  You are still walking away with a beautiful product along with some goodies inside, but it’s really that $80 value, you get that back and more. There are typically worth more.

It’s hard to believe $80 will feed a kid for a year.

And when you stop and do that math, and you go wow how easy do we spend that amount of money on something when it can be so impactful.

Tell me about the program.

You try to keep it tied to our mission. We keep putting kids faces in front of people because that’s what we are there to do. TO build that level of excitement. How do we share compassion and feed the kids that look like this. Being joy-filled is important at that event. We make sure people can see the impact, the happy, the healthy child because that is what happens when they get engaged.

As far as the program on stage, we bring in an MC. We as a christian organization invite pastors to open our program and then really try to get into it right away. What we’ve learned from past surveys, it is a night to spend with people at your table talking, not only about what and how they may know FMSC, but spending some quality time over a meal.  

Tell me about the production.

We work with the various venues, someone who comes in and does all that stage setup. We have no staff and expertise in that. We rely on someone coming in to do that. We have been fortunate to set up the day before our events. Once we made that decision to move from a Friday event to a Saturday event and experienced what that was like vs an 18 hour day…

Earlier we had a gal on and talked about sleep health, it’s important to provide your crew and team enough sleep. The show goes so much better and people are happier during and after the show.

It’s stressful enough, so sleep is great if you can get it.

Show on saturday, load in on Friday, do you do rehearsals?

We do and typically we do that with our MC, guest speaker, our CEO, our auctioneer, and sometimes those pastors, but they are typically comfortable in front of people.

Tell me about the average guest.

It’s all. We do sell sponsorships so many businesses will align themselves with us at various sponsorship levels. As part of that package they will get a number of tables. It’s people in business, people we’ve done those mobilepack events with, people with church, or might be someone who did it as part of a big family effort. So mobile pack hosts, families and it is now a different level of opportunity to learn more experience. We’ve seen more and more kids come as well.

How much do you raise?

We tell people what we are trying to raise.  In MN our goal was 1.2 million and we are really close to that as of this point. Some people choose to give after the event we see money continue to come in for a number of weeks after our events. In Chicago it’s closer to $750,000.

You mentioned that FMSC is blessed to have the strong recognition in MN we haven’t been in IL as long so we are building that. We have great volunteers and donors there but it takes time.

Tell me about the event itself.

We try to tie things to our mission but we are also there to raise revenue. Our live auction company once we put together packages will help guide us on the order that goes in. Having a mixture of things is important. Being able to offer is a sports package is great. Different audiences in a room right?! Pay attention to what is hot and using their expertise and knowledge. For years, in home meal. Having an opportunity to have a chef come in and prepare a meal for 10 of your friends. The other thing we’ve seen success with was a package that included a food truck. You would pick your date and have that food truck come and feed about 100 people. Again, pay attention to trends. Trips of course with mileage is huge. We have gotten a number of miles from American Airlines.

When it comes to leading up to your event, how much of the money that you’re raising is pre-raised?

I would say in MN, what we are shooting for is close to half of that by sponsorships. In IL it’s a little less than that, not as close to half.

You have to tell me more about how is this growing?

We try to pay attention to what is going on. Not only in events, but how does what hot spill over to events. A few years ago everyone at events had a photographer that came and everyone came and took a photo and it was sent out to people afterwards, now of course taking selfies, make an area where people can share that photo instantly. Instagrammable. We need to do better at that. Find something that is unique and hot, but it has to make sense for who you are and what your mission is. You have to find something that has longevity.

Who sponsored your event?

We have many sponsors but for the past couple of years James Haglin family has sponsored us. It’s a family that has come forward and been our sponsor for at least three years.

You started in MN and opened an event in Chicago, and before we started recording you said you have permanent sites in Arizona and Texas, would you do a third event?

You are not the first to ask… I know there have already been talks and discussion around does it make sense in the Texas market? We need to explore that but I wouldn’t be surprised. The tough part is figuring out when. As you know events are a lot of work. We do a lot of the work and preparation from within so doing it internally and figuring out when we could do a third. In addition because the mobile pack events, we do those in holiday time, which makes great sense. It’s a natural giving time. People want to give back. We’ve expanded packing opportunities during that time. We do those in Arizona, Hope Filled Holiday. In Texas we are doing it for the first time also, A Hope Filled Event.

For the event planners, do you have any great tips or tricks?

1. We try to get better and better to communicate, not only externally about the event but internally to all the people that touch your event. Vendors, a lot of what we rule out that night is staff. Our team in marketing, we understand what’s going on with the event, but trying to make it easier for someone in another department to step in and help is really about communication. We’ve tried some things, layered on improvement. Using emails, videos, sending pictures, you might not know who ____ is and if youre saying I need to report to _____ what do they look like. Really communicating things that you really think that doesn’t matter, a lot of times you’ll be surprised to learn it does matter to someone who wants to come in and perform their best for you. It’s really communicating.

2. After the event, recap and survey, try to listen to what did the sponsors think of the event. Getting feedback from them, paying attention to it is important. We try to gain feedback from not only sponsors, our staff. We have a gala committee we will listen to what was that experience like for them. Layer in what are you learning from them? What their point of view that can help your event improve.

How do you continually make the audience experience better?

For us one of our key differentiators and why they come to our events is to hear the guest speaker. Bringing in for us a food partner, a person who is on the ground distributing our mannapack meals. We’ve had people from Uganda, Haiti, all over the world. Ryan is based here in MN so that was easier. Bringing them in and having them tell the story is what our guests want to hear. Where does this food go? How do you do what you do? What kind of difference is it making?

We put things in the live auction that connects to our mission. One of our packages is an opportunity to travel with our CEO to Haiti to see where our food goes. One year we offered an opportunity to skydive with him. It was a wow and a surprise, but we are trying to tie things to our mission.

What else do you do to help guests feel more connected after the event is over?

We also place a thank you gift at each place. That is tied to our event message and theme, it’s been a takeaway that they can remember the evening or pass along to introduce someone to the organization. And yes there’s always follow up. We want people to know there’s an opportunity to pack not only at a permanent site but if they are traveling on the road those mobile pack events, where packing occurs on the road, are available in over 30 states. People can do it that way too. Coming in and packing, choosing to be a mobile pack host, maybe they want their company or church to do it.

http://www.fmsc.org

gcowle@fmsc.org

We are a Christian non profit organization. 31 years old this year. Basically what we do, is we have volunteers come in and pack 4 simple ingredients in an assembly line fashion, full of energy, full of fun! They put together some key ingredients for a meal that was put together by food scientists that really helps people that are in very severe states of malnourishment, really living very hungry lives. We come in and produce that product with our volunteers, manna pack, we send that to food partners all over the world. They are out in over 70 countries. We give that food away. We distribute that to them and they use it in their school, churches, malnourished clinics. It really does change lives.  This year it’s about 1 million meals a day! That’s our goal 1 million a day.

You said it’s four simple ingredients so you are literally feeding starving children. You involve the public?

Absolutely its anyone from age 5 to 95. And so many times it’s kids. They come in with their class from school or sports team and they go home, because they know they made a difference with their two hands, they will tell mom and dad, grandma and grandpa.  Soon that opportunity to pack becomes bigger, you bring in different people. That’s how we’ve grown.

FMSC is an organization that feeds starving children, tell me more about the events you do?

I talked earlier about the packing experience and that happens at permanent sites in 4 different sites in the US. We also bring that event on the road. That packing experience, we call it Mobile Pack, that is in itself an event. What we are focusing on today (for the podcast) is galas.

We do two of them every year. One here in Minnesota where our organization is corporately based and where it started, and in Illinois where we have more permanent site, we have a base there. Here we are using the convention center in Minneapolis. The last couple of years we’ve been in a couple of different places in IL, most recently the Schaumburg Convention Center.

Walk us through the event.

Upon arrival we try to make sure people know where to go. The opportunity to use greeters and signage, the convention center made upgrades and does signage digitally, and obviously check in.  Having that space be comfortable when people arrive and not crowded. Once you are checked in going into our hall we also have a piece of our organization called marketplace. What they do is primarily sell goods made by artisans where our food goes. That is set up as people arrive and walk in.  We actually flipped that, in the past that hasn’t been where people have entered. We flipped it because it is a really close tie to our organization it makes sense. It’s kinda like that next step. After you eat and get healthy what can you do, you can work!

Are you buying those goods from them?

Yes. Profits go back to our food program to make more meals. It really is an incredible program.

How many people attend your events in MN and IL?

In Minneapolis it is around 1,500. In Chicago it’s closer to 1,200. We’re hoping to grow that next.

How do you price your tickets?

People can buy individual tickets and of course tables, of ten. In MN its $100, and it’s tied to what is our catering price. In Chicago it’s a little more expensive so our ticket price is $125.

How long have you had your ticket priced there?

I would say at least the last five years.

You walk in and go through the experience then what?

Once you check in and come inside and start experiencing marketplace the other fundraising activities we have before our program begins, we do a raffle, beer and wine pull. We also have what we call a christmas stocking pull. Back to the Market place we have artisans who make christmas stockings. We work to have each of those feed a child for a year. We keep trying to tie back anything we can message throughout the night to the fact that what you are doing here matters, it’s making meals that feed starving children.  You are still walking away with a beautiful product along with some goodies inside, but it’s really that $80 value, you get that back and more. There are typically worth more.

It’s hard to believe $80 will feed a kid for a year.

And when you stop and do that math, and you go wow how easy do we spend that amount of money on something when it can be so impactful.

Tell me about the program.

You try to keep it tied to our mission. We keep putting kids faces in front of people because that’s what we are there to do. TO build that level of excitement. How do we share compassion and feed the kids that look like this. Being joy-filled is important at that event. We make sure people can see the impact, the happy, the healthy child because that is what happens when they get engaged.

As far as the program on stage, we bring in an MC. We as a christian organization invite pastors to open our program and then really try to get into it right away. What we’ve learned from past surveys, it is a night to spend with people at your table talking, not only about what and how they may know FMSC, but spending some quality time over a meal.  

Tell me about the production.

We work with the various venues, someone who comes in and does all that stage setup. We have no staff and expertise in that. We rely on someone coming in to do that. We have been fortunate to set up the day before our events. Once we made that decision to move from a Friday event to a Saturday event and experienced what that was like vs an 18 hour day…

Earlier we had a gal on and talked about sleep health, it’s important to provide your crew and team enough sleep. The show goes so much better and people are happier during and after the show.

It’s stressful enough, so sleep is great if you can get it.

Show on saturday, load in on Friday, do you do rehearsals?

We do and typically we do that with our MC, guest speaker, our CEO, our auctioneer, and sometimes those pastors, but they are typically comfortable in front of people.

Tell me about the average guest.

It’s all. We do sell sponsorships so many businesses will align themselves with us at various sponsorship levels. As part of that package they will get a number of tables. It’s people in business, people we’ve done those mobilepack events with, people with church, or might be someone who did it as part of a big family effort. So mobile pack hosts, families and it is now a different level of opportunity to learn more experience. We’ve seen more and more kids come as well.

How much do you raise?

We tell people what we are trying to raise.  In MN our goal was 1.2 million and we are really close to that as of this point. Some people choose to give after the event we see money continue to come in for a number of weeks after our events. In Chicago it’s closer to $750,000.

You mentioned that FMSC is blessed to have the strong recognition in MN we haven’t been in IL as long so we are building that. We have great volunteers and donors there but it takes time.

Tell me about the event itself.

We try to tie things to our mission but we are also there to raise revenue. Our live auction company once we put together packages will help guide us on the order that goes in. Having a mixture of things is important. Being able to offer is a sports package is great. Different audiences in a room right?! Pay attention to what is hot and using their expertise and knowledge. For years, in home meal. Having an opportunity to have a chef come in and prepare a meal for 10 of your friends. The other thing we’ve seen success with was a package that included a food truck. You would pick your date and have that food truck come and feed about 100 people. Again, pay attention to trends. Trips of course with mileage is huge. We have gotten a number of miles from American Airlines.

When it comes to leading up to your event, how much of the money that you’re raising is pre-raised?

I would say in MN, what we are shooting for is close to half of that by sponsorships. In IL it’s a little less than that, not as close to half.

You have to tell me more about how is this growing?

We try to pay attention to what is going on. Not only in events, but how does what hot spill over to events. A few years ago everyone at events had a photographer that came and everyone came and took a photo and it was sent out to people afterwards, now of course taking selfies, make an area where people can share that photo instantly. Instagrammable. We need to do better at that. Find something that is unique and hot, but it has to make sense for who you are and what your mission is. You have to find something that has longevity.

Who sponsored your event?

We have many sponsors but for the past couple of years James Haglin family has sponsored us. It’s a family that has come forward and been our sponsor for at least three years.

You started in MN and opened an event in Chicago, and before we started recording you said you have permanent sites in Arizona and Texas, would you do a third event?

You are not the first to ask… I know there have already been talks and discussion around does it make sense in the Texas market? We need to explore that but I wouldn’t be surprised. The tough part is figuring out when. As you know events are a lot of work. We do a lot of the work and preparation from within so doing it internally and figuring out when we could do a third. In addition because the mobile pack events, we do those in holiday time, which makes great sense. It’s a natural giving time. People want to give back. We’ve expanded packing opportunities during that time. We do those in Arizona, Hope Filled Holiday. In Texas we are doing it for the first time also, A Hope Filled Event.

For the event planners, do you have any great tips or tricks?

1. We try to get better and better to communicate, not only externally about the event but internally to all the people that touch your event. Vendors, a lot of what we rule out that night is staff. Our team in marketing, we understand what’s going on with the event, but trying to make it easier for someone in another department to step in and help is really about communication. We’ve tried some things, layered on improvement. Using emails, videos, sending pictures, you might not know who ____ is and if youre saying I need to report to _____ what do they look like. Really communicating things that you really think that doesn’t matter, a lot of times you’ll be surprised to learn it does matter to someone who wants to come in and perform their best for you. It’s really communicating.

2. After the event, recap and survey, try to listen to what did the sponsors think of the event. Getting feedback from them, paying attention to it is important. We try to gain feedback from not only sponsors, our staff. We have a gala committee we will listen to what was that experience like for them. Layer in what are you learning from them? What their point of view that can help your event improve.

How do you continually make the audience experience better?

For us one of our key differentiators and why they come to our events is to hear the guest speaker. Bringing in for us a food partner, a person who is on the ground distributing our mannapack meals. We’ve had people from Uganda, Haiti, all over the world. Ryan is based here in MN so that was easier. Bringing them in and having them tell the story is what our guests want to hear. Where does this food go? How do you do what you do? What kind of difference is it making?

We put things in the live auction that connects to our mission. One of our packages is an opportunity to travel with our CEO to Haiti to see where our food goes. One year we offered an opportunity to skydive with him. It was a wow and a surprise, but we are trying to tie things to our mission.

What else do you do to help guests feel more connected after the event is over?

We also place a thank you gift at each place. That is tied to our event message and theme, it’s been a takeaway that they can remember the evening or pass along to introduce someone to the organization. And yes there’s always follow up. We want people to know there’s an opportunity to pack not only at a permanent site but if they are traveling on the road those mobile pack events, where packing occurs on the road, are available in over 30 states. People can do it that way too. Coming in and packing, choosing to be a mobile pack host, maybe they want their company or church to do it.

http://www.fmsc.org

gcowle@fmsc.org

We have Gwendolyn Cowle, the Marketing Manager from Feed My Starving Children.  Tell us about that.

We are a Christian non profit organization. 31 years old this year. Basically what we do, is we have volunteers come in and pack 4 simple ingredients in an assembly line fashion, full of energy, full of fun! They put together some key ingredients for a meal that was put together by food scientists that really helps people that are in very severe states of malnourishment, really living very hungry lives. We come in and produce that product with our volunteers, manna pack, we send that to food partners all over the world. They are out in over 70 countries. We give that food away. We distribute that to them and they use it in their school, churches, malnourished clinics. It really does change lives.  This year it’s about 1 million meals a day! That’s our goal 1 million a day.

You said it’s four simple ingredients so you are literally feeding starving children. You involve the public?

Absolutely its anyone from age 5 to 95. And so many times it’s kids. They come in with their class from school or sports team and they go home, because they know they made a difference with their two hands, they will tell mom and dad, grandma and grandpa.  Soon that opportunity to pack becomes bigger, you bring in different people. That’s how we’ve grown.

FMSC is an organization that feeds starving children, tell me more about the events you do?

I talked earlier about the packing experience and that happens at permanent sites in 4 different sites in the US. We also bring that event on the road. That packing experience, we call it Mobile Pack, that is in itself an event. What we are focusing on today (for the podcast) is galas.

We do two of them every year. One here in Minnesota where our organization is corporately based and where it started, and in Illinois where we have more permanent site, we have a base there. Here we are using the convention center in Minneapolis. The last couple of years we’ve been in a couple of different places in IL, most recently the Schaumburg Convention Center.

Walk us through the event.

Upon arrival we try to make sure people know where to go. The opportunity to use greeters and signage, the convention center made upgrades and does signage digitally, and obviously check in.  Having that space be comfortable when people arrive and not crowded. Once you are checked in going into our hall we also have a piece of our organization called marketplace. What they do is primarily sell goods made by artisans where our food goes. That is set up as people arrive and walk in.  We actually flipped that, in the past that hasn’t been where people have entered. We flipped it because it is a really close tie to our organization it makes sense. It’s kinda like that next step. After you eat and get healthy what can you do, you can work!

Are you buying those goods from them?

Yes. Profits go back to our food program to make more meals. It really is an incredible program.

How many people attend your events in MN and IL?

In Minneapolis it is around 1,500. In Chicago it’s closer to 1,200. We’re hoping to grow that next.

How do you price your tickets?

People can buy individual tickets and of course tables, of ten. In MN its $100, and it’s tied to what is our catering price. In Chicago it’s a little more expensive so our ticket price is $125.

How long have you had your ticket priced there?

I would say at least the last five years.

You walk in and go through the experience then what?

Once you check in and come inside and start experiencing marketplace the other fundraising activities we have before our program begins, we do a raffle, beer and wine pull. We also have what we call a christmas stocking pull. Back to the Market place we have artisans who make christmas stockings. We work to have each of those feed a child for a year. We keep trying to tie back anything we can message throughout the night to the fact that what you are doing here matters, it’s making meals that feed starving children.  You are still walking away with a beautiful product along with some goodies inside, but it’s really that $80 value, you get that back and more. There are typically worth more.

It’s hard to believe $80 will feed a kid for a year.

And when you stop and do that math, and you go wow how easy do we spend that amount of money on something when it can be so impactful.

Tell me about the program.

You try to keep it tied to our mission. We keep putting kids faces in front of people because that’s what we are there to do. TO build that level of excitement. How do we share compassion and feed the kids that look like this. Being joy-filled is important at that event. We make sure people can see the impact, the happy, the healthy child because that is what happens when they get engaged.

As far as the program on stage, we bring in an MC. We as a christian organization invite pastors to open our program and then really try to get into it right away. What we’ve learned from past surveys, it is a night to spend with people at your table talking, not only about what and how they may know FMSC, but spending some quality time over a meal.  

Tell me about the production.

We work with the various venues, someone who comes in and does all that stage setup. We have no staff and expertise in that. We rely on someone coming in to do that. We have been fortunate to set up the day before our events. Once we made that decision to move from a Friday event to a Saturday event and experienced what that was like vs an 18 hour day…

Earlier we had a gal on and talked about sleep health, it’s important to provide your crew and team enough sleep. The show goes so much better and people are happier during and after the show.

It’s stressful enough, so sleep is great if you can get it.

Show on saturday, load in on Friday, do you do rehearsals?

We do and typically we do that with our MC, guest speaker, our CEO, our auctioneer, and sometimes those pastors, but they are typically comfortable in front of people.

Tell me about the average guest.

It’s all. We do sell sponsorships so many businesses will align themselves with us at various sponsorship levels. As part of that package they will get a number of tables. It’s people in business, people we’ve done those mobilepack events with, people with church, or might be someone who did it as part of a big family effort. So mobile pack hosts, families and it is now a different level of opportunity to learn more experience. We’ve seen more and more kids come as well.

How much do you raise?

We tell people what we are trying to raise.  In MN our goal was 1.2 million and we are really close to that as of this point. Some people choose to give after the event we see money continue to come in for a number of weeks after our events. In Chicago it’s closer to $750,000.

You mentioned that FMSC is blessed to have the strong recognition in MN we haven’t been in IL as long so we are building that. We have great volunteers and donors there but it takes time.

Tell me about the event itself.

We try to tie things to our mission but we are also there to raise revenue. Our live auction company once we put together packages will help guide us on the order that goes in. Having a mixture of things is important. Being able to offer is a sports package is great. Different audiences in a room right?! Pay attention to what is hot and using their expertise and knowledge. For years, in home meal. Having an opportunity to have a chef come in and prepare a meal for 10 of your friends. The other thing we’ve seen success with was a package that included a food truck. You would pick your date and have that food truck come and feed about 100 people. Again, pay attention to trends. Trips of course with mileage is huge. We have gotten a number of miles from American Airlines.

When it comes to leading up to your event, how much of the money that you’re raising is pre-raised?

I would say in MN, what we are shooting for is close to half of that by sponsorships. In IL it’s a little less than that, not as close to half.

You have to tell me more about how is this growing?

We try to pay attention to what is going on. Not only in events, but how does what hot spill over to events. A few years ago everyone at events had a photographer that came and everyone came and took a photo and it was sent out to people afterwards, now of course taking selfies, make an area where people can share that photo instantly. Instagrammable. We need to do better at that. Find something that is unique and hot, but it has to make sense for who you are and what your mission is. You have to find something that has longevity.

Who sponsored your event?

We have many sponsors but for the past couple of years James Haglin family has sponsored us. It’s a family that has come forward and been our sponsor for at least three years.

You started in MN and opened an event in Chicago, and before we started recording you said you have permanent sites in Arizona and Texas, would you do a third event?

You are not the first to ask… I know there have already been talks and discussion around does it make sense in the Texas market? We need to explore that but I wouldn’t be surprised. The tough part is figuring out when. As you know events are a lot of work. We do a lot of the work and preparation from within so doing it internally and figuring out when we could do a third. In addition because the mobile pack events, we do those in holiday time, which makes great sense. It’s a natural giving time. People want to give back. We’ve expanded packing opportunities during that time. We do those in Arizona, Hope Filled Holiday. In Texas we are doing it for the first time also, A Hope Filled Event.

For the event planners, do you have any great tips or tricks?

1. We try to get better and better to communicate, not only externally about the event but internally to all the people that touch your event. Vendors, a lot of what we rule out that night is staff. Our team in marketing, we understand what’s going on with the event, but trying to make it easier for someone in another department to step in and help is really about communication. We’ve tried some things, layered on improvement. Using emails, videos, sending pictures, you might not know who ____ is and if youre saying I need to report to _____ what do they look like. Really communicating things that you really think that doesn’t matter, a lot of times you’ll be surprised to learn it does matter to someone who wants to come in and perform their best for you. It’s really communicating.

2. After the event, recap and survey, try to listen to what did the sponsors think of the event. Getting feedback from them, paying attention to it is important. We try to gain feedback from not only sponsors, our staff. We have a gala committee we will listen to what was that experience like for them. Layer in what are you learning from them? What their point of view that can help your event improve.

How do you continually make the audience experience better?

For us one of our key differentiators and why they come to our events is to hear the guest speaker. Bringing in for us a food partner, a person who is on the ground distributing our mannapack meals. We’ve had people from Uganda, Haiti, all over the world. Ryan is based here in MN so that was easier. Bringing them in and having them tell the story is what our guests want to hear. Where does this food go? How do you do what you do? What kind of difference is it making?

We put things in the live auction that connects to our mission. One of our packages is an opportunity to travel with our CEO to Haiti to see where our food goes. One year we offered an opportunity to skydive with him. It was a wow and a surprise, but we are trying to tie things to our mission.

What else do you do to help guests feel more connected after the event is over?

We also place a thank you gift at each place. That is tied to our event message and theme, it’s been a takeaway that they can remember the evening or pass along to introduce someone to the organization. And yes there’s always follow up. We want people to know there’s an opportunity to pack not only at a permanent site but if they are traveling on the road those mobile pack events, where packing occurs on the road, are available in over 30 states. People can do it that way too. Coming in and packing, choosing to be a mobile pack host, maybe they want their company or church to do it.

http://www.fmsc.org

gcowle@fmsc.org

Meeting Minds by EideCom

About the Author
Event and Video Production

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