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Episode 13: Using Sleep to have a Better on site Experience

On this episode of Meeting Minds, sleep expert Sarah Moe teaches about the importance of sleep and sleep habits and how it affects our productivity.



You have some tips for us don’t you?  I feel like we sleep better in the fall.

That’s actually quite common. A lot of people do find that once it does start to cool  off and they open the windows at night they are sleeping a lot better. The science behind that is because the recommended sleeping temperature for your bedroom is 65 degrees.  The reason the national sleep foundation recommends this is because our bodies are naturally going to attempt to drop to that temperature in the first place.  So if you are able to speed that process along it’s that much easier and causes less interruptions in your ability to initiate sleep. 

Try it for a few days, you will be surprised.  It is difficult for most of us to wake up because our REM sleep happens at the end of our sleep cycle. REM sleep stand for Rapid Eye Movement and that’s the stage where we dream.  Because of that we have a natural paralyzation that happens where we are paralyzed so we can’t act out our dreams. I don’t know if you’ve ever woken up and you feel like you can’t move it’s because of those hormones. It’s called sleep paralysis and it’s very common.  It’s also why it’s difficult to get out of bed, if you’re groggy and slow to move you were probably in REM sleep.

I love that part when you’re about to fall asleep and you feel like you’re falling and you jump.

That’s very common as well.

It’s common for us in the events world to put sleep off. Talk to us about how that can affect our performance.

It’s common across all fields, it’s an American mindset, I will put off sleep to be more productive. It’s actually incredibly counter productive.  If you were able to achieve the sleep that you were supposed to have every aspect of your next day would be more positive. Our sleep impacts everything we do our ability to make proper judgements, our moods, our physical health. Everything is impacted by how you sleep the night before. When you are going to sacrifice your sleep to get more done just know that if you did take that time to get the sleep you were supposed to have then everything you were going to do the next day is going to be better.  

There’s so many things that have happened in the history of our culture that have been disastrous based on poor sleep. We were talking earlier about the Challenger (The Shuttle) I remember when I was younger hearing how devastating it was.  It was something that could have been prevented. After they did the investigation after the crash they found that it was a faulty o-ring and there was a leak and it caused the explosion.  The crew that was in responsible for checking the o-ring was found to have been going on two hours of sleep the night before. So when they found that in the investigation they realized that was something that was poor lack of judgement on their part based off of sleep deprivation.

When we think about going into our jobs or workspaces, especially in the event planning world, when you have these large things you are working with, to be on your game with a good night of sleep will be helpful for everybody.

We are hanging heavy things over peoples heads every day!  Thousands of pounds are being raised up.

Imagine if that person who was responsible for that construct was sleep deprived. The three main things that they look for that will decline after sleep deprivation sets in is:

1. Cognitive abilities

2. Reaction time

3. Decision making process

What is it that happens when you sleep that refreshes you?

There are four stages of sleep and each stage does something different. We’re now learning the role that sleep plays in memory.  We’ve always known that you can’t have a good memory if you don’t have great sleep.  But now we are learning the science behind it including the different parts of the brain involved even the different brain waves that will consolidate memories. They are proving that when we are learning something our brains are in record mode we are taking in this information, it basically sits there. When we sleep it becomes storage. Our brains in stage two sleep will decide if what you processed that day will be stored into longterm or short-term memory. If we’re not having consolidated sleep we’re not able to store those memories and have them accessible the next day.

In college I read that sleep is more important than studying all night, so I would go to bed early rather than staying up all night studying.  I would do just fine on my tests.

These poor college students who are pulling all nighters, reading this information, and thinking they are going to be able to retain it the next day and be tested on it, it’s the complete opposite. They would be so much better off learning through out the day, getting a good night sleep being able to consolidate those memories, and then go about the next day.  

In the events business a lot of techs are expected to work long shifts, what is the recommended shift?

The average American adult needs 8 hours of sleep, we’ve all heard this. Even now they are saying 7-8 is sufficient. The majority of us are admitting to getting 6 1/2.  It doesn’t seem like it’s that much of a difference but that extra half hour does make a huge difference for your abilities of the next day. 

That being said, the average person sleeping 8 hours a night will have that be 1/3 of their lives leaving the other 16 for wakefulness. There are a lot of other things that need to happen during wakefulness like commuting to work, taking care of family, social life, all these hours that add up.  16 hours is not only too long of a shift to work, but it’s too long for actual wakefulness. At that point 16 hours is where your body starts to break down and it is to the point of being comparable to alcohol. So after 16 hours your sleep deprivation is going to leave you being impaired the same way to alcohol.

Is it fair to say that the mind needs offline time or rest?

Absolutely, meditation is a huge helpful tip right now, not to replace your sleep but to have a healthy bedtime routine. That’s been proven over years. When you think of the chaos in our lives it’s not just with work, it’s with family with social. It’s important for you to have time to yourself to think about what’s important in your lives, if you want to continue to be busy. Sleep is a huge part of that to help you process your thoughts and feelings.

What is happening that’s causing all this good stuff in your body when you sleep well?

The cool thing about sleep is that it’s a system that requires all other systems.  You can’t even achieve sleep without ever other part of your body being involved. I think thats fascinating, when you want to wiggle your toe you don’t need your other systems as such. Everything is incorporated in sleep cardiology, respiratory, neurology it’s all one big crazy neat puzzle. 

Even to initiate sleep it takes a lot of little systems together at the exact time so you can get to sleep. It is still unknown, because sleep medicine is so young when you think of the other fields. We’ve really only gotten the research in the last 30 years so we still have a long ways to go but we’ve learned so much to be able to save lives

What are you saying about sleep saving lives?

Despite having the lack of physiological research our elders knew what they were talking about when they say, “drink some chicken noodle soup and go to bed”. One of the first things that happens when we do become sleep deprived is that our immune systems drop. It is easier for you to get sick when you haven’t been sleeping well.  That’s because we are not able to fight off simple bacteria that we would be able to on a normal day. That being said, they’ve also classified shift work as a carcinogen, which is something that is likely to cause cancer.  After a night of less than 5 hours of sleep, your cancer fighting cells reduce by 70% in your body.

How important is it that an event organizer makes sure that the tech’s get enough sleep?

It’s extremely important, especially from the realm of safety. There’s so many minor avoidable mistakes that happen due to sleep deprivation or fatigue. That being said, it is great to be aware of your team and their needs. If there is a day that’s longer than the others, of course that’s acceptable, but just to be aware that the next day needs to be different so you can make up that sleep and improve your ability to perform. 

There are so many physiological implications.  Even just heartburn and obesity.  That’s a vicious cycle with interrupted sleep.  A lot of people will start with a sleep disorder and because of that become obese. Or they will be obese and develop a sleep disorder. Its a vicious cycle. Leptin and ghrelin, two hormones regulated during sleep, play a part in appetite control and burning calories. If you have interrupted sleep or a sleep disorder, and you are obese and trying to lose weight, if you are not sleeping well and have the proper regulation of those hormones you’re already starting the next day behind.

Is it a thing where most people don’t know they are not sleeping well?

Most people who have a sleep disorder are unaware. The people who suffer the most are the bed partners. They are the ones who realize something is wrong usually the reason people will come in for treatment for a sleep disorder. 

What are symptoms people should look for?

Fatigue is the number one symptom. Fatigue is like pain. If you break your arm there’s a signal, pain is saying something is wrong. Fatigue is saying something is wrong with your sleep. Unfortunately majority of us have adapted to a tired lifestyle where we think we are supposed to be tired all the time. My first piece of advice would be to practice good sleep hygiene which is what we call sleep habits. Once you get to a point where you focus on removing the negative influencers on your sleep and focus on getting 8 hours of sleep a night, then you still feel fatigued its probable you have a sleep disorder. Over 30 % of the population has a sleep disorder and there are over 115 sleep disorders.  The main one though is sleep apnea where you stop breathing at night. It’s estimated over 20 million Americans are undiagnosed sleep apnea. 

Are there things that can help you get into a better sleep cycle?

Yes.  The two main negative influencers are caffeine intake and blue light. Caffiene is really prevalent in our culture this is not a judgment.  Caffeine is important given our busy lifestyles.  It is important to know how it works so you are not abusing it as you use it. Caffeine is an adenocine blocker, adenocine is a hormone that makes you feel physically fatigued, makes your eyes feel tired.  Caffeine blocks the release of adenocine, when you have caffeinated beverages in your system and you try to go to sleep that when you end up in that phase where my mind is racing and I can’t go to sleep. You’re body wants to fall sleep but the presence of that caffeinated beverage will not allow it. 

The average caffeinated beverage has 100 mg of caffeine and caffeine has what’s called a half life. It takes 5 hours for half of that to get out of your system, then 5 hours later the other half will exit your system. If you do drink caffeinated beverages try to stop by 2 pm so it can exit your system. 

The second one is blue light, it is huge, number one negative influencers on our sleep. Blue light is the fastest frequency of light.  It’s not only telling us to be awake but also when we are sleeping.  Spontaneous arousal’s that may be caused by blue light, and can be avoided by not using your digital device before bed. Avoid it for an hour, the national sleep foundation says 2, but I’m a realist.

What about night shift on the new phones?

They are slightly impactful but do not do what they claim to do.

What about sugar before bed I heard it makes you wake up to use the restroom?

That’s one of the few things that will cause you to wake up to use the restroom. A lot of people think they are waking up to use the restroom when in reality they are waking up for another reason and realizing they could use the restroom and then they go.

Other negative influencers?

Sleep disorders.  Most people don’t think they have one because we adapt.  We think we are supposed to be tired because of busy lifestyles.  But again with over 115 of them a lot of us do suffer from them. With bed partners being the ones who suffer most people don’t think this is something I should go talk to my doctor about. Another big part of the problem there, a majority of our Doctors in med school are practicing about 2 1/2 hours of sleep education.  There’s no mandatory education on sleep.

You mentioned a sleep study now what is that?

I worked overnights in school doing sleep studies and diagnosing sleep disorders. Patients come in and we put a bunch of wires on them and watch them sleep and see what’s going on.  From what we can monitor which is brainwaves, respiratory, your heart, all your systems and how they work together and if there is a sleep disorder present.  We treat it and send you on your way. 

So does being a tech where you are staying up all night and watching other people sleep what does that do for you?

It’s called hypocrisy. We sacrificed our sleep for yours.  I used to ride the bus home because driving home in that state was so dangerous.  I used to fall asleep on the bus all the time.  

Tell me about someone who wants to consider a sleep study. 

Most insurance covers and now is a great time of the year to do it.  Most people met their deductibles and now have the rest of the year to different medical procedures. IF you are tired I highly suggest getting a referral from your primary physician and say I’m tired, I’d like to get a sleep study.  They will refer you to an accredited lab in your network.  You get to go spend a night with an awesome tech and wake up with some answers.

What are things you can do in your routine to get ready, even if it’s not your home?

Yes sleep disorders are prevalent, but for most of us having good sleep habits and a routine will help us to sleep so much better.  Stop drinking caffeine at two and stop looking at blue light an hour prior to bed.  I also wear an eyemask to bed. Every time I pull down my mask I can physically feel my body say oh it’s time for bed.  We are so trainable.  It takes 28 days to form a habit but with sleep it’s so much sooner because your body craves sleep so much, it’s adaptable when it comes to sleep habits. I always suggest doing one physical habit that will train your body it’s time for bed. 

A nice glass of wine, alcohol is a sedative.  But it suppresses REM sleep, so do not have more than the recommended 1.  Don’t use excessive alcohol to fall asleep but have a night cap.  

They are leaning that a lot of people are having a hard time falling sleep because of worry.  They did a study where they listed five things they wanted to do the next day and five things they were grateful for. In that order first remove the worry then be grateful.  The ability to fall asleep was exponentially higher for them.

It’s good to keep a sleep journal keep it by your bedside.  A lot of time its good to write down your dreams, they can be very telling and you don’t have dream recall unless you wake up out of that specific dream. We have around 5 different REM cycles. 

Tell me about zzz-quill.

I am a fan of sleep aids. That is if you have done a sleep study and ruled out a sleep disorder, have good sleep hygiene then yes take a sleep aid. The long – term ramifications of sleep deprivation are so much more negative than actually taking a sleep aid. 

Are there other foods that are not good and ones that are good for sleep?

Cherries are one of the only natural sources of melatonin. Melatonin is very frequently mis-used unfortunately because of pharmaceutical companies mislabel them. I don’t know if you’ve ever used them, the way it was marketed was as a natural substance and you can take a natural thing but the melatonin you are taking was created in a lab. You are supposed to talk it 2 hours prior to sleep but most bottles say a half hour.  People think it’s going to be this magic sleep aid when in reality melatonin is used in circadian rhythm regulation, which is our bodies time clock.  If you take it two hours before you are setting your body up for when it’s time to sleep and not adjusting the shift to much by taking it a half hour before.  

It’s good to go out in sunlight in the morning to boost natural melatonin production. So when you wake up and you are able to go outside for ten minutes that’s really helpful. 

What other things would you like people to know before wrapping up?

It is really important to be aware of it. I’m not going to sit here and say sleep is the most important thing and you have to go to bed at the same time overnight. If you are suffering everyday, just know there are steps you can take to feel better. We live in the age of information you can google anything.  If you are tired there is something you can do about it.


Meeting Minds by EideCom

Episode 12: How to Raise $10 Million in One Night

On today’s episode we talk to Brady Forseth from the Starkey Hearing Foundation and most recently the African Community & Conservation Foundation. He shares how he, with a team made the Starkey Hearing Foundation gala become an event that raises over $10 million in one night. Hear the importance of truly internalizing the mission of your organization. Contact Brady at

Tell us about you and your history with the Starkey foundation.
Son of a preacher, that tells you something, watch out! I grew up in Long Island, New York. Out of college I was a history major.  Thought I was going to be a history teacher and coaching football and baseball because I was drafted out of high school to play professional sports with baseball. Wound up hurting my arm, thank God for that. I met my wife, and have my kids and have my beautiful family now.
Out of college I really got into the non-profit management world right off the bat.  1993, it’s coming on 25 years already, that I’ve been doing this work. For me it’s always been about passion, purpose, and what’s the impact you’re going to make. It’s about the heart, the dignity, the respect, and showing people value and self-worth.
Out of college I started off in education for a few years. From there I quickly moved to a non-profit that was providing about 1500 families in Long Island, New York with autism, developmental disabilities, and the whole spectrum. I became a lead advocate for children and adults who wouldn’t have that opportunity otherwise. Think about that. Not just raising money, cause that’s not what it’s about, yes raise the money that’s the end goal. How do you become and advocate for these people how do you define your purpose, passion to make impact. At the end of the day a lot of it has to do with the cultivation, the stewardship, and ultimately the friend-raising which we will talk about. Did that for about 8 1/2 years.
About that time, I decided it’s time to go back to my roots, I’m from Minnesota. We moved with my wife and three daughters to Minnesota. I was at a University over at the Northwestern Health Sciences University, formerly the College of Chiropractic, one of the leaders in a natural approach to health. When I came into the role as a chief development officer, they had nothing going on. It was grass-roots, no communication.
When you look at development and fundraising it’s never really about just the development attack at all, it’s more about how you communicate how do you develop the relationships and get people on board. I did that for 7 1/2 years. What had happened, I was doing an event at Hazeltine National Golf Club, it was called the president’s invitational.  It wound up becoming one of the larger events for golf. 5 years into that the board had said “Hey what’s another non-profit here locally that’s doing good work here, nationally, and globally.” And I said, “That’s a good question, you tell me, I’m new to Minnesota” There’s all these wonderful groups out there and there was one guy on the board that said, “You should share money with the Starkey Hearing Foundation.” I chuckled, not in a bad way,  in a way, “yeah right these guys raise about 2 million in a gala. I don’t know if they are going to want to get involved with us”. Next thing you know he explains to me, “Well did you realize the first chiropractic patient that was ever treated was a guy by the name of Harvey Lillard. He had his spine adjusted to help with hearing loss. Every chiropractor in the world knows that message.”
That began a strategic partnership with The Starkey Hearing Foundation and Northwestern Health Sciences University and the foundation. I never knew that five years later I’d go to work for the Starkey Foundation. Well 5 years fast forward I got to connect with Bill and Tani Austin who I consider a father and mother to this day. They’ll always be family to me. When I began with them Bill and Tani Austin were doing great work they were helping anywhere from 25,000-40,000 hearing aids a year. In one years time, what I was able to do because Bill was so laser focused really connecting to the patient, connecting that back to life through hearing.  I started turning over the rocks of opportunity. If you think about who Bill Austin is as a man, he is someone who is changing not just the community but the world. And there’s a lot of people that want to help. I was the guy who started to develop the opportunities. There was a meteor storm of opportunities that started coming to our plate. I was starting to get calls seemed like every other week whether it was Ethiopia, or the West Bank, and the heart of the Arab Springs called to say can we help. It became not just a hearing mission to help the people but a mission of peace and understanding.  It grew where President Clinton, part of the whole Clinton Global Initiative, Starkey Hearing made a commitment to do a 100,000 hearing aids annually through the decade. It was amazing to see to see how this last year that was already fulfilled.
The Starkey Hearing Foundation has gone to a whole different level. I appreciate what you said about me earlier about how I’ve created this and I’ve created that to be honest with you I believe in the philosophy Bill Austin believes.  Alone you can only do so much, really together you can make a difference. For me it’s about collective impact. That’s how the fundraising/friend-raising really works. Connecting the dots, dotting the I’s crossing the T’s, and figuring out how you take the landscape of where you need to be at a future point so you have true sustainability moving forward. We’ve done it in a variety of ways. When I started with the Starkey Gala they were raising millions of dollars and it seemed like each year it started to grow and grow and grow. As a lot of that connectivity, that friend-raising, doing the cultivation of the relationships, stewarding those relationships, and ultimately there’s a conversion point. For me it’s not just about this fancy proposal that you are going to give someone, when you really connect with a donor, at whatever level, they really believe in it. It will be sustainable and its going to be transformational for many years to come.
That foundation event has grown to a different level, it’s raised millions. The Starkey gala is a weekend of passion and purpose to make a difference. You see this global event that’s right here in Minnesota, they come from all over the world. That really is a testament to who Bill and Tani Austin really are.  They don’t just talk the talk, they walk the walk. That’s been really easy to help promote it, it’s not selling, it’s promoting it to people who care who want to make a difference.  50% of that audience comes from around the world. They converge on Minnesota for a weekend. They’ve honored everyone. That weekend has become an inspiration it has really catapulted to a different level. The momentum has grown to a different level. We’ve been able to build and army, if you will, of ambassadors who are ambassadors of change and for good who really want to see a transformational impact on the world. Today that has grown to such a level under Bill and Tani Austin that they have sustainable programs in the world. When I started there were “x” amount of countries now there in 5 continents, in 103 countries.  What I’m most proud of in my 10 year career is that they now have sustainable community based hearing healthcare programs that also provide after care services in 62 of those countries. Starkey has shown that they can do the work its become a world hearing health plan that is being accepted by even governments around the world.
When I’m thinking of taking an event to a new level, how do you create an environment that attracts the right people to sit in your audience?
A lot of it has to do with introductions, a lot of research.  As you’re connecting with the networks involved you have to understand what people really believe in.  They have to understand what your purpose, mission, and vision are about. They have to know if they are going to get involved the money is going to be used for the right reasons. That’s been very clear, I’ve always been involved in all these organizations where I knew the money was going to go right back into it, there’s low overhead. 80 cents to the dollar non-profit standards is an A rating , I could tell you it was way above with Starkey.  A lot of it has to do with the connectivity of the donors as well. Not just the donors by the way because all people can help at different levels. Theres that 80/20 rule, I actually call it 90/10– 10% of the people giving 90% of the money. What about the masses of the people as well. They can help in a different way, shape, and form as well. You have to be able to connect with the people they have to understand. When you’re doing an event it takes a team to do what you’re doing, you’ve got 100’s of volunteers, in the case of Starkey.  You have to be able to work and manage with all of them. You have to be able to articulate the message, you have to be able to use the PR the Marketing expertise of the teams that are around.  The social media impact, I talked earlier about some of these celebrity ambassadors, they got platforms that will scare you. I don’t care if its 500 to a million, to 50 million. We’ve had them all step up to say, “How can I help?”  they might not write that 15-20 thousand dollar check that’s fine.  They can say “Today was one of the best days of my life, I got to see what it’s like for a child to hear.  And what it’s like for the future of that person’s life”. There’s a lot of social media with calls to action. On the marketing, PR, and social media sides of things the friend-raising permeates not just through donors but also through PR, the media, tv, and radio stations. There’s an opportunity like this for me to use a platform to get the information out.
When you know you are going to have world-class guests, how do you create the environment and experience that is world-class for them?
It’s from the moment they step off the plane or get out of the car, or in the case of the Starkey Hearing galas, a lot of it had to do with the weekend of events. When you get to that size of an event you need people who can host their experience along the way, getting them from event to event, being able to have them understand what the message is and the purpose of the weekend to make that impact and how they can help articulate that. They become in the case of the Starkey Hearing Foundation hearing angel ambassador for that weekend.  They are there to put that message out, because it’s going to raise more awareness and support for what you are doing.  That person who sponsors or buys a ticket, who comes to the event, from the moment they come, once they get on the red carpet of the Starkey Foundation Gala to the top of the steps after their registration and see what’s going on with the silent auction, knowing exactly where to go, how they can actually be able to support that evening.
What was the turning point for you and your gala?
When I came in, they already had the celebrity.  That factor was already there, they already had the celebrity factor as a testament to who Bill and Tani Austin are. For me it was about how do we develop the sponsorship level, taking things to a different level with sponsors. I started to reach out who is the network that is around what Starkey and the Foundation is really about. Who is involved, and it’s just a matter of someone being their 365, 24/7 really hitting the pavement. I start to worry if I’m sitting behind the desk. You have to get out and be able to look in their eyes so they understand.  It’s also about getting out.  I needed to be out in the trenches, myself. It’s one thing to give a fancy proposal, it’s another thing to be able to say “I’ve been in the trenches.  I’ve seen what’s it’s like for a son to be able to hear for the first time and the mothers crying because it’s the first time she’s heard her son say I love you”. Those are the testimonials you have to share. I was spending 4 to 5 to 6 months of the year doing that stuff. It made my job a lot easier when you are able to get out there and be able to identify who those networks and people are.
Next thing you know the Minnesota Vikings hear about the work we are doing.  They get involved in some of the local work we are doing.  Next thing you know the Minnesota Twins are getting involved in different levels. The Minnesota Wild, and so on and so forth. So you hit the sports market and you hit all different levels. It’s about caring and sharing and they understand from the top down what the purpose and mission are. It’s important for donors and those involved to see impact reports. Beyond just the intro point to the cultivation, to the stewardship, to the conversion, the thank you is the most important thing.  I’m the guy who’s going to be calling you from Rwanda or texting you to say, “thinking about you right now, I just wanted to say thank you. What I’m doing right now you made that happen.” Your investment at all levels, its important how you engage that.  It could be a school super intendant to a principal to whatever is mobilizing people to get behind what you are trying to do.  There are multi-lateral versions of fundraising that can be done in all different channels and ways. You always have to be on that, moving those, prioritizing, and re-prioritizing, make sure you’re moving the ball forward. It’s like Bill said you can hit some singles and doubles and sometimes it might not work , no is never a no, They might say, “I can’t do the event this year but I can next year” “I can’t do this, but I can do that.” And that’s ok, for the Starkey Foundation hearing was the platform. Now I’m on a different platform where we’ve actually gone to a different level of the whole circle of life, but at the end of the day it’s important that you really stay on that. They understand that you cultivate that steward that and move forward.
What are you doing now?
It’s been an amazing journey, I’m the CEO of what’s called the African Community and Conservation Foundation.  The patron is a guy by the name of Paul Tudor Jones, he’s out of Connecticut. I don’t know if you’ve heard of the Robin Hood Foundation, it’s a foundation he started that raises overall about 60-90 million to knock out poverty and homelessness in New York. I’m not working for the Robin hood Foundation, but Mr. Jones has these properties throughout Africa, but what I’m doing is “blessing the rains in Africa” Toto/Weezer style. Ultimately on a circle of life programs. I’m a big believer of wild life management, I believe in conservation, I believe in anti-poaching. I would not have left the Starkey Hearing foundation just for that. I would have written a check for that, and everything else.  Add the circle of life to that where you are doing human impact programs, where you are providing clean safe water, education where you can give them the tools they need to be able to get jobs and care for their families. You talk about health issues, whatever it may be. That’s what I just spent that last couple of weeks on, doing needs assessments in these areas where they are surrounding the properties there. I”m on the non-profit side of it there.
We are laser focused on everything from scholarships to English immersion to all different things, safe homes for little girls who need it. We won’t have time on this to talk about it all. You talk about what’s going on with the poaching, it’s a terrible issue. They are slaughtering elephants, they are slaughtering rhinos taking the ivory for medicinal, or jewelry. It’s a terrible thing. My whole purpose is to focus on the coexistence of wildlife and humanity and the circle of life. Were doing it not just in Tanzania were spreading out throughout Africa. I’m not going to just leave there. What were doing is expanding into Rwanda, Zambia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. That’s where I spent the last couple of weeks, seeing the property and the surrounding.  We are going to the Robin hood thing in the surrounding.
Africa has been a second home to me with the Starkey Foundation. I know Africa very well. It’s been nice to see the needs and the basic necessities of clean water, education, food, agriculture.  You give them the fish feed them for the day, teach them to fish feed them the lifetime.  It’s about empowerment. Starkey Foundation’s done a good job on the hearing side of that. There’s a menu of options to get engaged. Even though we’re in Minnesota or the USA this is a hot topic when you talk about the wildlife side the conservation side. Many great organizations are doing great work in the area, I won’t mention names but they don’t have the twist of the circle of life. That’s where I was really interested in being apart of this and taking that to a different level. Our goal is to take this to a level where it becomes a household name, not just in the US but around the world. I’m spending a lot of time  going around the world and finding those people who have an interest to make a difference in the circle of life program.
You are also getting ready to use your expertise of events as a fundraiser…
Events have been and amazing platform for us. We’ve had third-party events where rather than me put the expense into it, people say I want to host events for you. For example Liberty on the Lake, coming up this next year. We are excited for the opportunity there, we will be looking at the anti-poaching side. At the same time all different types of events. There’s a lot of these donors, friend-raisers if you will, people come to me and say listen I want to host and event, encumber the expense make it happen so all the revenue we can raise can go right back into the sustainability and transformation of the circle of life programs in Africa. We are bringing a lot of people on what I call a Safari with a purpose, you get to go see some of these properties that are off the charts, I’m not going to lie to you. More importantly, not just about that, rather get out into the community. Yeah see the animals one day, but lets follow the K-9 unit and go look for some poachers.  It’s almost like riding around with the sheriff if you will.  The next day you can go do another safari then lets see what the water programs are doing, let’s go to a school, lets see one of the safe homes where these little girls are living, see what your investment’s making into their life’s that’ll have a future. At the same time, we have a lot of small business enterprise programs there as well. Events will be very key to us.  We are looking to do more events there a lot people in the twin cities that have asked to do events. I love to deal with a lot the event planners, I know they have a lot of great expertise in these areas. I know this is something that will become a household name, not just in this area, but throughout the US as well.
If we don’t start addressing the situation through what we are doing there will be two things: the extinction of animals, these beautiful animals that we will lose.  I can tell you in Tanzania alone, where our property is, there was one rhino there in February.  In the 1970’s they had a thousand, two thousand rhinos there. One at our property, the 2nd one came from the San Diego zoo yesterday.  It’s brand new news that’s going out and it’s going viral. Next year we’re looking at reintroducing 8 to 10.  Then eventually 12. So those 14, when they eventually get there will make up 10% of the entire Tanzania population. Then you talk about the poaching of the elephants. We’re going to have the extinction of the animals, and that can’t happen.  We are counteracting that with anti-poaching units, there’s drone programs that Mr. Allen’s been involved with that are going out to help find and stop the poachers. At the same time we don’t want to lose Africa.  Africa is a jewel.  Whether you’ve been to Africa or not, or whether you never go to Africa, we can’t lose Africa. You talk about the whole human-wildlife conflict and you talk about what’s happening with the density of all the population in Africa we need to start addressing these issues and the needs assessments that are on the ground in these areas.
For the people who want to be apart of it and get involved how can they do it?
We are launching our website which will go live 10/19.  We are also going viral on a whole announcement on the brand. There’s a variety of ways. You don’t have to be a major donor to get involved.  you can sponsor a mission, we’ve had families to say I don’t have the money but I want to go. I’ve got vehicles and platforms for them. We’re doing peer-to-peer fundraising model where we have what’s called Everyday Hero.  We customize an a site.  You talk about social media kids go nuts, they can raise their way to go.  I’m looking at the schools we went to last week in Africa, where the schools want to see what American schools look like from an African perspective.  I’m creating connectivity between the two. We’re going to work with all the schools here locally and were going to hit this hard where the schools can see what Africa is about and what they are doing. We have the sponsorships levels for people to get engaged. There’s number of ways people can get engaged. Our website is
Meeting Minds by EideCom

Episode 11: Tricks to Grow Your Events

Interested in growing your events? On today’s episode Amy Zaroff shares her experiences in the events industry and the core values of her business! Today is all about creating your business’ culture through core values to grow events. Check out Amy Zaroff at

How did you get going, what’s your story?
I always wanted to be in broadcasting and since 7th grade Ted Koppel from Nightline was my idol.  I thought some day I’m going to go to DC and I’m going to work on Nightline. I never worked for Ted Koppel but I did go to Washington DC.  I went to American University,  became a broadcast journalism major, and I worked for all the different television stations in DC and Minneapolis as well.  Back when I was a high school senior there was a show called Good Company which is now Twin Cities Live. Steve Edelman and Sharon Anderson were the co hosts and Steve was my mentor back when he gave me an internship. When I moved back to Minneapolis I started working for Hubbard Broadcasting and I loved production.
Production in any form is telling a story there’s a distinct beginning, middle, and end. And just like when you’re putting on a great show you have to carry the viewer, the attendee, the listener through the story. So there I was getting really excited.
Then my husband decided when we were twenty-five to open an authentic New York Style Deli restaurant. We had it for seven and a half years and that’s where I got the love of hospitality.  The combination of hospitality and production were what fueled me to get into event production. In 2004 we closed our restaurant and just prior to closing a woman who owned a thirty-two year invitation stationary and gift shop called Give My Regards To, contacted me. She said, are you interested in buying my business. I had no clue how to sell paper or gifts or have a retail space but I knew her customer base was an upper to mid-high clientele and I wanted that clientele. So what I did, I bought the business. I turned it into event planning and design because if they were already coming to buy the invitations I was going to convince them I could throw them a great party. That’s how I got my start.
What are you doing today?
Over the years I started with social events, weddings, bar mitzvahs, general celebrations and as the economy changed, close to 2008, people weren’t buying invitations and stationary as much as they used to, most of it was going online. I’ve always enjoyed being ahead of the trend or whats next. When you’re an entrepreneur you can feel change coming. I decided I was going to bring graphic design in-house, I was going to move away from retail space.  I was going to move into an office and industrial space where events came first, retail was second. In 2008 we made that change and moved to a spot in Edina. In 2010 we were getting ready to change the name of our company so people didn’t think of us as an invitation store.  So I paid someone a lot of money to tell me to change the name of my store to my name. In 2010 Target called and that was a game changer for me. They said, do you do cooperate events and do you do national events. And I had done national weddings and bar mitzvahs but the only corporate  I had done was local.  I said yes. They gave me incredible opportunities all over the country. Once you have Target as brand profitability that’s a good thing. I live by the mantra “all you have is your name”. I would say and they would say we stand behind everything we do.
Is it just you, you do have employees?
I do, I have a great team.  I have a team of 4 full-time employees. At some points its been more sometimes its been less. Right now we have a real sweet spot. We believe fake it till you make it doesn’t cut it. We surround ourselves with wonderful creative partners and our team grows as it has to.
You have a lot of experience, for our listeners out there, what are the things they can do to make their business a better business?
We created a core values document for our company. Our EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System) facilitator, Sue Hawks, she encouraged us to put together our core values document and to hire, fire, reward, and review by it. That’s fine and well I know my team prescribes by these values. I have found it much more helpful to share with our creative partners and our up and coming event professionals so they can really understand what it means.
I said earlier all you have is your name, so understanding the value of reputation is one of our key values. Wherever we are in the community, you’re an extension of your brand. You can be in the grocery store and someone may come up to you who recognizes you and may ask, hey did the invitations go out for our event and even if you’re in your sweats on a Sunday in your baseball cap, you have to be on in that moment because you are representing your company.  You are only as good as your last event so that means not only should it look great and be photo worthy but you have to understand what it means to work with your creative partners effectively, respectfully, with integrity all those things.  There have been times where I have lost my temper and I needed my teams and my creative partners to teach me we are all in this together but there’s a better way you can say that! I’ve learned from that.
Exhibiting confidence and expertise in all that we do.  We can’t fake it till we make it.  If you really don’t know something as a company it’s ok to say it.  As long as you say I’m not sure but I will find out for you. It’s fun when you are in a creative business to learn together. You can throw big ideas out there and see what sticks, and when you throw the big ideas out there, you can figure out how to make it work if you have the right people.
Tell us more on exhibit confidence and expertise.
When you feel like you look good, you exude confidence. There’s another thing about being confident and being an expert in something: if I tell you Sheila has the best cupcakes I’ve ever had or heard about, if I only heard about them and never met her, I’m not an expert. I’m giving you hearsay. There are many people that say I hear you’re great or I hear he is great you should use him, the only way we can know that is if we work together, then we become an expert. That’s really important too.
Hirees and partners should have the similar values as you…
Absolutely.  You have to have had the conversation. Networking can seem like a chore and cold calling people to get coffee, but it’s all about the first impression.  I’m a big believer, especially with people who want an informational interview, I’m going to pay more attention to you if you call me over an anonymous email.
You’ll never replace an in person interview.
Absolutely because you feed off their energy, we right here have had so much fun!
Let’s talk about no dropping the ball.
I love no dropping the ball.  Here’s the deal, if I tell you I’m going to get a proposal to you by Wednesday by 3:00, if I get it to you by Wednesday at 2:30 I have exceeded your expectations.  If I get it to you by Wednesday at 3:00 I have met your expectations and if I get it to you by 3:10 I have not done a great job.  I don’t want you to over promise and under deliver as an employee or as a creative partner. When I am on a timeline you are on a timeline as a creative partner.  We have to work together to understand whats up.
When I have the relationship, over the years, there’s an unspoken understanding between me and the vendor, we know how each other works.  When I have a new employee or training somebody they may not know.  I encourage my team to go meet with as many people from that organization as possible so they can have their own shorthand. I don’t want them to go on the merits of the brand but because they have the relationship. So that’s on no dropping the ball and finish what you start.  Fully deliver what you say you are going to deliver.  You will be trusted more in the industry when you do what say you are going to do and you have the integrity and you care. For me this business isn’t just about making money, it’s about creating life’s most memorable experiences.  We really need to think what that means on a much deeper level.
Keep going…
Willing to go the extra mile. I’m a real proponent of being proactive versus reactive and doing something before it’s asked.  That’s not just for my team there’s been so many times where a creative partner has just thrown something in, going the extra mile makes such a difference! If you’re loyal to others they will be loyal to you, because we’re all in this together.
I have been plenty reactive in my career over the years. Where I learned to be proactive, in the restaurant business when you are a server or a host and you see someone’s eyes come up from the table or from whom they are speaking with you know that even if they don’t raise their hand to say excuse me, they must be needing something or they’re about to ask for something. That’s when you take that proactive mentality and go and say “is there something I can help you with.”  I think that’s important.  This is a really easy skill, you have to pay attention.
I want to talk about being truthful, accountable, and no blame, if you do something wrong or you made a mistake just own it.  I’m the biggest proponent of this because I make a ton of mistakes and I have to own them. I have to apologize when I should and learn from it and move on. There are so many people from my business who have left the company and started their own business’. I do not see that as a problem I see it as a wonderful success story.  Many are female entrepreneurs so I’m excited about that. It’s exciting to teach someone and watch them go.
The last two points are be able to handle the intensity of all situations.  Sometimes with intense type A personalities passion can come across as disrespect. That is not to sugarcoat that if you’re being a jerk you’re being a jerk.  If you really are feeling it, it’s not only you feeling it, but your team too. If you can’t handle the intensity of all situations the event industry may not be for you.
And lastly for our company, we live by insanely high standards.  If there is a seam in a back drop we are using that’s not going to photograph well and we can’t have the seam. The fabricator may say you have to have a seam, well guess what we are going to seal the seam, make it look good, no one is going to know the seam ever existed. Those details matter, we are in the business of details. If you expect great things, great things should and can happen.
What do you tell someone who’s listening who’s thinking I don’t like intense situations, any tips?
It’s important to note it’s never personal. It’s not a personal attack on you the person, it’s the concern about the event in the moment. If you can understand that you are part of a larger mechanism to make something great for someone else and that you’re part of building an experience then you’ll go about it as exciting work. It’s not that I would say don’t join the business if you can’t handle intensity but it is a million miles a minute. There is an innate characteristic of someone in the event industry.  They don’t care about being on their feet 16 hours at a time, they don’t care they may miss breakfast, lunch, and dinner and have to go through the Burger King drive-thru at midnight.  There’s a whole bunch of things.  It’s not a sexy business.
How do people develop core values for their own business?
Every organization has either a mission statement or a value system which is why you’ve been attracted to work for that company. As a leader, a planner, or a designer or anything what matters to you and what value can you add to the company. What can you bring to the table, what can others bring to the table, and where do you see common ground.  Start with 3-5 things, what makes you tick in your business, share that, you’ll find it will resonate with the rest of the team and spark conversation.
How do I deal with team members that don’t line with the core values?
That’s a great question the book you mentioned by Gino Wickman called Traction, talks about there being a visionary in an organization, an integrator, and the leadership. One of the tools he puts forth is putting the right person in the right seat. If you don’t align with the majority of the core values and you’ve been reviewed by your leaders on whether or not you align you may be the wrong person.
It’s important to show these in the interview process.  That will allow the person being interviewed to say do I fit?
What about someone on your team not adopting the core values?
As far as buying in, you lead by example. If the culture is such that everyone is following these values it’s going to just be.  If you don’t subscribe to them you’re going to feel like an outsider. The mechanism that’s in place through the EOS, with this people analyzer it’s part of the review process.  If you follow along with EOS and do what you’re supposed to do it does work. If you’re hiring, firing, reviewing, and rewarding by the document it will work.  You have to be sure every 90 days, if you tend to have new hires, that you are referring back to it. And I would ask the question to that person, how do you feel about how these core values are resonating with you after being here 90 days?
What about making sure your customers are a good fit?
It’s on my website. These core values are on the website for a reason. I want people to know.  If you read this you know there’s no BS, she really means this. Showing who you are and what you stand for speaks for itself, there are times you aren’t the right fit.  Sometimes you have to divorce yourself of a client or the client of you. Fortunately that hasn’t happened in a long, long, long time.  It did happen in the beginning of my career on both sides. I was just learning what I was doing, I was getting my feet wet. I owned an invitation store that happened to do parties, that was over a decade ago. When it does happen, be honest and say we may not be the best fit for you and suggest someone who may be.  That doesn’t mean you think less of the person you’re referring it means you know their core capabilities and they really would be a good fit.  That’s trust.
What other pieces of advice for the early on entrepreneurs?
Education, our community has many great organizations that people can be apart of.  They can be apart of ILEA (International Live Events Association) the wedding community, the audio-visual community. Getting your face out there and meeting as many people as you can, informationally interviewing with people as much as possible.  I see a ton of young women in the wedding space popping up because they’ve either attended an event, helped their sister plan her wedding, or really feel like they are very organized and can handle multiple tasks simultaneously. That does not make a great event planner.  What makes a great event planner is the knowledge of function and form coming together seamlessly and if you don’t truly know what that means get out there and start asking people.
I love meeting with the newbies.  I do not want to do wedding planning.  I will tell you all the tricks I know to make you a great wedding planner, I’ll happily tell you.  Go out meeting, learning, getting educated, follow people on social media. You have to get out there see and be seen in the early days especially.  That’s not to say you shouldn’t later in your career as well, you have to stay relevant.
You can reach Amy Zaroff on social media as @amyzaroff
Meeting Minds by EideCom

Episode 6: Producing Work with a Purpose

Talonya Geary is part of the Tony Robbins organization, an author, and an entrepreneur! She is talking all about what it means and looks life to live on purpose, her new book, and what question you need to be asking yourself.



I love that you are asking that question! It is so important. When I first started speaking in 2012, I spoke about hard skills with a soft skill twist, like negotiating tactics and communication, but over the last 5 years I’ve gone through my own transformation and realized those things are great but I was looking for something with meaning. I wanted to know the “why.” I think people are asking that question now more than ever. I don’t think they were asking it to the degree and frequency we are asking it now, but now if you aren’t asking “why am I doing ______,” you are kind of asleep at the wheel! Some people don’t even know they are asleep so hopefully this wakes them up!


The distinction to make here is that it is a daily practice. My analogy is this, and maybe it’s just me, but I thought living on purpose meant you get hit by some meteor and the meteor gives you your purpose. I feel like people are waiting to get hit by that meteor! If you know what your purpose is and your waking up everyday and chasing that, then some people are like, “where’s my meteor? It hasn’t hit me yet.” Instead of realizing that you have to make the choice every single day to live on purpose. I’ll give you an example of someone that lives physically on purpose. So you have someone that has a really good body and is really healthy. Well that person has to choose every day, several times throughout a day, to live with a body on purpose. Meaning, drinking water over soda, working out instead of sleeping in, etc. They have to make that choice at every crossroad. Same thing goes for living on purpose. I wake up every day and I write in my notebook. I have 6 principles I answer every day. Those 6 principles can be found in my book. I make the choice every day to live by those 6 principles and rewrite them every day. Or if I find one that doesn’t serve me anymore, I update it and I check in with it. For me, living on purpose is a choice. It is something you do everyday and it is something that is within everyones reach.


Yeah I do a spiritual exercise too, but I have done this for so long that I think this way. People ask me what my secret is and the secret is that I wake up everyday and I go do. Consistency. Every single day. And because of that there are some days that I have less time, say 3-5 minutes, to do this practice but I’ve conditioned myself, this is my life style, so I think this way.


For me, the end game is “how quickly do I get to serving others?” I think the end game should always be “what is it going to take for you to get to where you’re living a life of contribution?” And if you are working and your life is all about you and how much money you are making, you are going to be addicted to yourself and that is a quick road to disappointment.

To me, I share this in my book, living on purpose meant starting to change the question to, “how can I serve somebody else, a community, an industry?” And there were days I had nothing to give and I still asked that question. By nothing to give I mean I had nothing. I was a mess. I still forced myself to ask that question. How can I stop obsessing over myself and instead serve and give to something other than myself. At one of my businesses we do corporate talent development and I always tell people, “you have to focus on getting to where you’re living life at a level of mastery” and I learned that from Tony. Then, they always ask me what that means because it seems so out of reach, but when you are living at a level of mastery it means your cup is running over. You now have enough that you can pass onto others. I guarantee everyone has reached a level of mastery somewhere in their life.


I used to do consulting for companies in helping them design their strategic plans. It was interesting that all these entrepreneurs and great businesses had no strategic plan. To them a strategic plan, especially entrepreneurs, think a strategic plan is for a Fortune 500 company. It’s not. It’s a set of guiding principles that guides that organization every single day to reach goals that then get replaced by new goals. For those that have completed a strategic plan, the second phase (or third depending on what model you follow) is always about values and beliefs. What do we value and believe as an organization, as an industry, and as a culture? A lot of people aren’t fulfilled because their values and beliefs individually are in complete conflict with their organization or industry.


Well if you’ve ever been to a Tony Robbins event you will hear this question, “How do I add more value to them than anyone else?” Tony’s guiding principle is 100% about serving. I know Tony on stage and behind stage and his guiding question is the same. He is all about adding value to every body at every time no matter what.


We are asking that question, first of all. We ask that question when marketing, when selecting music, etc. I always relate it to: integrity. How do I infuse so much integrity into this experience that it leaves everyone shocked. We don’t skimp on anything. We want every person to feel the integrity, from the moment they open an email to the moment they leave the door.


It’s about the why. If you’ve heard Tony speak at some past staff events he talks about how he used to have 12 day events where he was basically paying for people to go through transformation. But those years after years of him paying to keep integrity is the reason why this man makes millions of dollars.


The book for me is 100$ my purpose right now. It is called “#goDo: How to Live on Purpose” The title comes from a song called “Go Do” by an Icelandic artist, Jónsi. The book is in three parts. One-third my personal story and how I’ve overcome horrible tragedy, like my brother’s suicide. It’s also what I’ve learned in the past 10 years and how you can implement that. Basically, it’s a 6 step daily goal setting exercise. The third part of the book is the data and research behind the 6 steps. I didn’t set out to write a book, I set out to get my life together. Like I said earlier, 5 years ago I was egocentric, now as I wrap up the book I am proud of it because it finally has a real person behind it. At the end of the day, the book is not about me, it is about contributing and serving others.


Great question! You can preorder the book now. Go to and you will get an autographed copy shipped right to you. It hits the streets, bookstores, and Amazon on August 23rd! If you want a sample of it, text Go Do to 345345 and that’ll send a preface of the book, a bit about me, some testimonials from some very influential people, etc.

Look up Unleash the Power Within for everything with Tony Robbins! To talk to Talonya, email her at!



Meeting Minds by EideCom

Episode 7: Next Level Fundraising with Children’s Cancer Research Fund

Jim Leighton, VP of Events and Partnerships, and HaiVy Thompson, Director of Marketing and Community Engagement from Children’s Cancer Research Fund, join us today to share how they are changing the game of fundraising! In this episode you will learn what makes an event an experience, how to tell a story, and a special premier of CCRF’s big announcement!



One of the key things is that we put it into our value statement. One of our values as an organization is innovation. Our team and all of our partners, they know that. We are not afraid to innovate. Personally, I get bored. I don’t want to do the same thing every year. We have the great opportunity to create and play a little bit. Because we are in the non-profit space, we know we have to be cost-effective and money does matter. But you never know where the best next thing is going to come from! We have to diversify. Our event can’t just stay in the ballroom, so we play in the digital and virtual space. Innovation is at our core.

Also, we get so energized by our donors, our fundraisers, the kids, and the families we work with. We get so much inspiration from them to keep pushing ourselves year after year.


We start by thinking about what are some compelling stories that are happening with our families right now. We get so much inspiration from the things they are dealing with in their cancer journey. Even when the journey is complete and they are living post-cancer, there are a lot of challenges that come with that. We stay close with our families and we learn a lot from them. Then, we talk to our researchers and ask them what they are doing, what they are excited about, and what is new and different that donors might really enjoy hearing about. We take that and start there. Then, with all the event components, we ask how can we weave that into each and every moment whether that be a gala or a walk/run.

Impact in our world is challenging to show. Impact takes a long time. Research takes a long time. One of the things at CCRF we pride ourselves on is the time from bench to bedside. Because we focus on certain research we have had some situations where that has been greatly shortened and then we can tell that great story! In research it can be decades before we get to clinical trials. So instead of asking people to give money now and see their result in 30 years, we focus on those things that have had a greater impact in a shorter amount of time. We build those relationships with the researchers to share those stories.


Thank you so much. We think about all of the ways people are engaging. All of the senses. The one we haven’t figured out is smell, but we will get it.

In 2007 we had a mom share her story and it was so impactful (tune in to hear the story!). That was the moment in my career that I said, “Authentic storytelling. How can we continue to tell these stories?” And then we started assembling a team. So now with HaiVy and her marketing team, our partners (who are so important because we need people to amplify that story and craft it) we really put stories and mission at the forefront of every event.

A few years ago, we took the guests on an experience that the children go through. So going back to the five senses, we wanted people to experience an MRI, because that is something a lot of the kids have to go through and it is really scary for them. You have to lay really still and go through this dark tunnel. So we worked with you guys, EideCom, to really build the sound for that and we dimmed the lights and we got people to experience what an MRI feels like to signify how challenging the journey is for families, and kids especially, and that their support makes it possible so that this doesn’t have to happen in the future. That was really cool because it involved all the senses. We want to give the guests something truly memorable that they can share with their families and friends tomorrow.

We can’t do any of this without our partners. You need to have partners you can trust. Like you guys, EideCom, were so onboard with our MRI idea and you made it possible. There was a lot of things that could have gone wrong!


It’s about relationships. Great relationships with the researchers. Then, collaborations. We have a great collaboration with a group of moms called Momcology. This group is made up of 6,000 women across the country that have the unfortunate common ground of having a child with cancer. We have people on our team involved with that, listening to what is going on. The first thing in sharing a great story is that you have to listen. Then, we think how can we effectively share that story. One thing we are being more cognizant of is utilizing digital and social media, figuring out how we can tell these stories before we get into the ballroom and how do we continue the conversation after they leave the ballroom?

The other thing to add is that we have invested resources into relationships and listening. You can’t just go out and find a great story. You have to have relationships with families, researchers, caretakers, and then those stories bubble up over time. So that is the number one thing I recommend a lot of marketing teams to do, invest in an outreach person.


Definitely! One that we have retold and has new chapters to expound on is Mindy. Her son, Connor, has a brain tumor and she now works for us, but in the mid 2000s we featured her story at Dawn of a Dream and a few other marketing places. Connor was a baby at that point and had a few treatments for his cancer already. Then, a decade later things started to change. The after effects of all the treatments cause him to start having seizures. And for the past ten years his family was thinking they had conquered the cancer and they would be fine, and all of sudden the reality hits again. We shared that story.


This is about guest experience, not necessarily story telling. We look at everything about the event afterwards and we see what worked, what should be tweaked, and what didn’t go well. So for us, we will always have a live auction because it works. We really want to focus on the things that will have to most impact because again we don’t have a lot of money. Some organizations like to do things new every year and go to a new venue every year. And for us, well next year we are going to a new venue, but it has been 15 years at the same place! To us it is important to have consistency with our partners so you can make those impactful changes. One thing we try to change-up is how we tell the story. So not just through video, but through live interviews, live talent, etc. We try to switch it up so you have a variable of experiences throughout the night. We have found that in person story telling is something magical. The thing about focusing on the things that work, know who your audience is. It doesn’t matter if we are bored. Just because we might be bored with it, doesn’t mean our audience is!

We also think about the morning after. I call it “the Caribou experience.” I want someone who has attend our gala for the first time to talk about the event they were at last night when they go to the coffee shop the next morning. If they say, “I was at a great event last night,” that’s good but I’m sure they say that about a lot of events. I want them to explode with passion. So we really think about what we want that Caribou conversation to be when we are crafting the message and planning the event. If all they can recall is the dinner and drinks and not the actual message, we had them there as a guest, not a donor.

Awareness and story telling is all a way to get funds raised. Raising as much money as we can is the key to all of this. Experience matters to fundraising, so when we have a new team member or partner I talk about the guest walking into the room. Say that guest has $500 in their pocket. Every time they have a bad experience, like valet takes too long, there goes a $100. So we don’t play games like that. It takes the whole team to be involved in making every experience matter. Registration has everything to do with revenue. All the little things combine to make a major difference.


In gala situations, talk to your table hosts. Who is it they are bringing? We are working on personas of our gala guests. There are a few assumptions we make, like they are from the Twin Cities or the west metro and they probably go to a gala a month. So we need to step up our game. But what excites them? What are the types of things that they want to do? This is a group of people who, for the most part, can buy what they want. But maybe they weren’t thinking of going on a trip to Australia, but trips sell! There is a lot of talk about balance, like there has to be something for the sports person or this or that, but for us we know trips are going to do well. So I’m not going to put in a Nascar experience, because there might only be one or two people in the room that care about that.


We know about our demographic. They like first class. If you don’t include it, they will probably upgrade anyways but be crabby about it. So it’s all about knowing your audience. If we were doing an event at a school or a smaller event, we wouldn’t do luxury trips. Also, it’s about collaboration like we said. We have an amazing partnership with a luxury travel company, Travel Beyond. Since 2010 we’ve been working with them to curate these trips. We trust them and they are excited about what we are doing. We sit down with them and they tell us what is hot and trending. They also do such a great job at selling the trip that night. They come up with the description, they will speak about it, they truly work with us in our event.


This is something I’ve grown on. Raise the money before you get in the room. You don’t know what is going to happen that night. We raise the most money through our Fund a Need, a direct ask. So as a fundraiser and human, that makes me feel really good, because the donors are not getting anything out of it. These people are giving purely philanthropical. But that doesn’t happen without us doing our homework and building relationships and asking for that money. We can try to control the experience and event, but we can’t control the weather. So what if we had an event on a snow storm and people didn’t show up? You have to build your relationships and get as much money raised as possible beforehand.

I would say we raise more than half of our goal beforehand. Our live auction does do really well but we know some people like to donate privately. We are very conscientious about that. We have a rule with our auctioneer, never call out a person’s name. We want to give recognition, but not too much.


So this is more than just what’s happening with the gala. As an organization, we are getting about 50% of our revenue from partnerships and events. So it can’t just be the gala. One of the biggest things we did is we invested in this peer-to-peer fundraising. That is a whole different fundraising conversation. It is not about logistics or people in the room, it is about where we are with fundraising. We created an opportunity for people to not have to be in the ballroom. It is the Great Cycle Challenge. They ride their bike anytime in the month of June and they set their mileage and fundraising goal. We engage volunteers to fundraise for us all over the country. This started in 2015, and in the first year we raised 1.7 million dollars. It is extremely effective and it allows us to play and be a little more creative on the other events. It is all possible because of digital! We leverage Facebook and social media. 10 years ago this would not have been possible. It is really cool to be able to take advantage of the new audiences. We get to expose ourselves and give other people the chance to know us all over the country, which is really cool.

The funds are raised all digitally. For scope, the first year we raised that 1.7M and this last year we were at 6.8M. We had 50,000 people participating and of that 15,000 fundraised. We couldn’t employ 15,000 people across the country, so we are now engaging volunteer fundraisers to do the work we couldn’t do. As an organization we pay attention the trends. Our legacy is the gala, we started as a gala, and could easily be a nice organization that does really great events here in the Twin Cities, but the trends led us to opportunities else where. We are now a national event organization. That was four years ago and now we are asking, “Now what? What’s next?”


From the moment they get invited to the event, we want the experience to start there. For us it is a lot of careful planning and making sure it is authentic to our brand. So before the invitation even arrives, they are hearing from us via email or social media or whatever. We want to make sure that when that invite arrives it is consistent to what they have been hearing from us throughout the year. So that to us is the most important thing. We want to set the tone for what they will be experiencing. That is something we want to build on for our next gala. How can we get people really excited? We want to set the theme. Right away there needs to be a key message. When they walk into the room that night or pull up to the valet, we don’t want them to be surprised. We want them to be delighted, not shocked that they walked into this thing they weren’t expecting. So it starts long before they purchase a ticket.

Once they are in the room, it is utilizing decor in different ways to lead them on that journey. We have been partners with BeEvents for years and they know how to create a space authentic to what we are looking for. They create focal points, not just little things all over. Sometimes it is using the stories to fill the room with decor. Some years we’ve had like an art gallery of children’s faces. We’ve turned technical problems into an art installation. It is really important we have great partners out there doing amazing things because they bring back new ideas to us! We do a good job of asking our partners to do that. We don’t have a laundry list of what we need. We like to empower them and give them creative freedom, because they are the experts, not us.


This all started a little while ago, and it started as a resource conversation. We ask a lot of our marketing team and donor services, so we were looking at our calendars to see what we could move around so they weren’t feeling such a crunch. We want to allow the marketing team to have the time to do everything well. So I was trying to figure out what we completely control, because we do a lot of partnership events that we don’t have full control over, like golf tournaments, radio shows, etc. And the thing that came to mind was the gala. We decided to move the gala from November, which it has been for 15-20 years, to the spring. This can be a bit risky, because it is a more competitive season, but makes more sense for us and our resources. Then, we though about our venue. We have been at The Depot for a long time, it’s great and we love it! But we heard of this great new venue that people are really excited about and we wanted to be part of it, so we started the conversation with The Armory. So I went to the space and I realized it might not really work for all the things we usually do, because it is more of a concert space. So I thought maybe it’s time for some national entertainment. I went to The Armory with the idea of doing dinner and then a concert, and they weren’t really onboard. A few weeks later we were talking and they brought up the idea! It was great. We started talking about it and I realized I had no idea how we were going to do it, because we are bringing in now two different groups of people. We have our core audience that will attend the dinner, but then we want to bring in up to 5,000 other people for the concert! We now have the former producers of Macy’s Glamorama that are working with us to produce this! We feel comfortable with them and their experience.

We are so excited, because our audience for the gala is getting younger. We see younger people in the room and in the analytics. We wanted to be able to build a new experience to match the new generation of donors and attract new people. I believe this plan that we have is going to help us achieve those goals.

The last part of our transformation was the name. Does Dawn of a Dream still make sense? So the team got together and brainstormed. We realized there are a lot of hurdles and sensitivities we have to be aware of with changing the name, but at the end of the day we are producing a new event. So on Saturday, April 27th, at The Armory you will see the debut of Dream.


We still have the website,, which would be the place to go. We will be announcing talent around December or January. It’s challenging because we are a non-profit producing this concert so we have to get the right price. Cost per dollar raised is the key we go by. We do have a dream team put together that have good connections though! So be on the lookout for that.

This is an event you will not want to miss! Check out for more info and for more about Children’s Cancer Research Fund.


Meeting Minds by EideCom