Better Events, Bigger Returns: Seattle Fundraising Duo Brings Workshop to Tacoma

Rebecca Dietz and Carol Dole knew right away that they wanted to go into business together.

It was 2008 and Barack Obama had just been elected president.

“We were very excited about Obama winning the presidency and we were not going to fly to Washington D.C., so we said, ‘let’s have our own ball,’” remembered Dietz. “We planned a phenomenal inaugural ball. We had people dressed up in costumes, we had entertainment, it was amazing.”

“People loved it. We realized we worked really well together,” she said. “We looked at each other and said, ‘let’s start this business.’”

Since then, Dietz, a former designer and project manager, and Dole, who previously worked as a producer in Hollywood, have been joined at the hip as the “duo of inspired professionals” behind Well Done Events, LLC. Managing events ranging from small gatherings to large productions with thousands in attendance, the two combine their skills effectively to pull off events for clients. They typically work in the nonprofit space with organizations with small staffs and development operations.

This spring, they will be leading a workshop designed to help nonprofit organizations navigate the complex world of fundraising events, with a focus on planning, purpose and strategy. Titled “Better Events, Bigger Returns: Fundraising Events Management,” the workshop will meet the evenings of June 18 and 20 at UW Tacoma.

Registration for the workshop is open to the public through the UW Tacoma Professional Development Center, who also offers certificates and short courses in Nonprofit and Fundraising Management. Unlike the certificate programs, which offer more comprehensive curriculums, this workshop offers attendees six hours focused exclusively on the topic of event management.

Events shouldn’t be isolated incidents, cutoff from the rest of an organization’s operations, Dietz and Dole are quick to point out. Events are most effective when they are integrated with a nonprofit’s development strategy.

“You don’t just have a party because it feels good or because the neighbor is having one,” said Dietz. “To do it effectively, you need to think about what your strategy is for the next few years.”

Over the course of two evenings, the workshop will go beyond what it takes to run an event successfully to exploring questions like, “Why are we having an event in the first place?” to “What is your ‘ask’ going to be at this event?”

Unpacked, the “better” in the workshop’s title goes beyond making an event flashy and fun. To Dietz and Dole, a “better event” is one whose design incorporates strategy, public relations and branding with intention.

“The misunderstanding we run into all the time is ‘we’re having an auction because everyone else is having an auction; we’re going to make $200,000 at the auction because this organization made that much at an auction,’” said Dietz.

Here, Dole said, is where they often see organizations making mistakes.

“They haven’t really thought about first of all, how are we making $200,000 at this auction, whose coming? It gets into a cycle that is not good business planning and not maximizing what events should be,” she said.

That’s not to say that Dietz and Dole are down on nonprofits; they are very excited about working in the sector.

“They’re doing great work and that’s why we love to work with them,” said Dole.

The mission of Well Done Events, and the UW Tacoma workshop, is to enhance local nonprofits’ use of events as a strategic tool.

“It’s really about getting out in the community, finding the people who believe in the work, moving the mission along and that takes time,” said Dietz.

“At events you’re thanking people, you’re acknowledging people, you’re bringing your community together, but as we often say: Bill Gates is not going to come to your auction and raise his paddle for $10 million,” said Dietz.

“That’s not how you’re going to get money from Bill and his friends,” she said. “He might come to your auction, but if you don’t have a strategy as to how you’re going to follow up with Bill for one, two, five, ten years, to get that kind of money, why are you having that event?”

“We come in and say, ‘Why are you doing this?’” said Dole. “The more savvy people going into the industry are about the role events should be playing, the better for everybody.”

To learn more from Dietz and Dole, you will have to join them in person this June at “Better Events, Bigger Returns: Fundraising Events Management.” You can learn more about the duo on their website, Well Done Events. For more information on our Fundraising and Nonprofit programs, visit our website.

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