Financial support is essential for Perkins School for the Blind to carry out its mission to educate and empower children and young adults who are blind. In this “What I Do” blog post, Emily Goodman discusses what goes into planning fundraising events that bring together hundreds of people for a good cause. This story was compiled and edited by Karen Shih.
I’m always juggling something. As the director of special events, it’s my job to keep things fresh. How do we keep folks coming to our events? How do we keep it new and exciting?
At any given point, I’m working on five large events, and then other things pop up. The Perkins Gala in May is our biggest: That’s a 600-person sit-down dinner with live music. We have a new golf tournament every June that we started last year. In the fall, it’s Taste of Perkins, a 300-person cocktail reception. In November, we have an annual meeting of our donors, trustees and Trust Board.
At this point, I’m also planning for the Boston Marathon in April, putting together the team and helping the runners raise money. Throughout the year, there are other small events: there might be a store downtown that wants to have a shopping night to support Perkins with a percentage of the sales, or someone might host a fundraising dinner in their home.
Right now I’m gearing up for Taste of Perkins, which is on Oct. 6. It’s really unique. People are blindfolded while they try out sips of wine and bites from our caterer, MAX Ultimate Food. It’s not something other organizations are doing. We made the blindfold tasting an optional part of the evening, but we find that about 90 percent of folks do it. They can also participate in a silent auction and a raffle, learn about Perkins at sensory exploration stations and listen to music by the students. To keep it fun, we try new things. For example, we added the “Taste Challenge,” where we get four or five local celebrities on stage to taste the dishes.
When I came in 2004, it was the first time Perkins had anyone dedicated to fundraising events. We wanted to start a gala – it’s a great way to bring donors and other folks to campus – and now we have all these great events throughout the year. I’m thrilled that they’re so successful and they’re able to support the school. I work closely with everyone from fellow staff, vendors, volunteers to donors to make them happen.
My favorite part is seeing the students at the events. Sometimes they’re introducing everyone, welcoming the group as hosts. Other times the chorus performs or students play the piano. I love seeing how they rise to the challenge – it’s really a chance for them to shine.