Allison M

I believe my experience at the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts has given me the opportunity to see how every aspect of nonprofit organization is managed and structured. From our weekly class topics my focus of nonprofits shifted every week. In the past I have focused on accountability and marketing while this week I was finally able to meet the Executive Board and observe their relationships. By being asked to lunch following the meeting I sat with the Whitaker Staff and the Whitaker’s Executive Director hearing each individual’s opinion on the success or disappointment in the meeting. Successes included the enthusiasm shown by the board members for the upcoming KiteFest Fundraiser Gala. Also the opinions existed that the board members would inspire donors through their word of mouth and dedication to the organization. Disappointment was obvious in the case of one presenter who was nervous and rushed through their portion of the presentation. This was not a Whitaker Staff member which placed a little relief on the situation. I observed that the Staff wants their organization promoted in a professional way but not with a stuffy overtone, they want enthusiasm. Therefore, demonstrating the values of the organization is expected to extend from the Board.

Sodexho, an international food service company that offers vending and catering services to healthcare (hospitals and assited living) and universities was hosting their vendors at the Whitaker Center. They held their annual regional healthcare awards for vendors at Whitaker Center to show their appreciation and dedication to their clients. Sodexho rented the Theatre, the Grand Lobby and the IMAX for a private Deep Sea 3D showing. They incorporated an ocean theme throughout the awards ceremony and into the dinner portion bring color and a little excitement to anyotherwise unoriginal ceremony.

After attending a few of these private events, it was obvious that the employees at Sodexho were interested in having the event run smoothly so, much so that they took it upon themselves not to count on anyone at Whitaker. Both Deb and I were very impressed since usually, we are the ones to greet and direct guests. As a company it was in Sodexho’s best interest to have a General Manager greet guests since they were dressed in “fish” shirts and khakis. More so, the possibility of the GM’s to know the client was very likely. Everyone from Sodexho had jobs and stations throughout the entire day showing their President it was an event for the clients and that the money spent would be to retain and promote the organization, not their personal interests. Usually, if an employee is not the coordinator of the event or volunteers to help work the companies event, employees are uninterested and less active in running the event. The lesson I learned was both the coordination on the sales managers side along with that of the organization is key to mutual success. A company needs both the advice of the Sales Manager while the Sales Manager needs to understand the values of the Company to ensure an event focuses on these needs. This way neither Whitaker nor Sodexho would experience a time of frustration or conflict.

It is astounding that actually working at a phone-a-thon and reading about the logistics of one are so incredibly different. I obviously knew what to expect since the concept is to generate sponsorships by calling local businesses and the purpose was if not to bring in money, spread the word of the event. However, actually being on the phone exhibited in-depth understanding of the event and the support each company had offered in the past. It was far easier to convince a sponsor to participate in Kite Fest if I was able to give and example of their past generosity.
The problems I encountered were many more than I expected. I had a script and contact list, but first had difficulties trying to reach the correct contact. I had responses that they worked in the corporate office, in which I did not have their number; sadly some contacts had been deceased, or just a wrong number.
Most interestingly, I found that the other volunteers served a different purpose than my own. Each was an elder businessman, volunteering both their time and services, but more so their name and local connections. The other volunteers were to use their connections and networks to influence other businesses to support Kite Fest. They were asked to look their “big money” contacts and if they recognized one, to call and sell them a sponsorship. Both men worked in Harrisburg nonprofits, showing me the relationship between the nonprofit organizations. The networks these men had already created for their nonprofits were being used to help Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts. The connections of these top executives enabled me to see the necessity of community support. By having other nonprofits involved, the word of mouth of the event will hopefully spread through Harrisburg and other organizations. Lastly, one of the volunteers, the Executive Director of Harrisburg Hello, a Dickinson Alumni, said Byron Quann was sitting on his nonprofits Board of Directors. This was an interesting link to further the internal workings of both organizations.

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