Q&A with Jeannette Morrill
We hosted the Maine “Swinging for a Cure” Golf Tournament and Dinner (September 2007). We had 44 golfers and 100 people attend the dinner (pictured right). The golf was a scramble format using the best ball. We had closest to the pin, longest drive, 50/50 raffle, mulligan tickets, and a silent auction at the dinner. We tried to include patients and friends and family members, pharmaceutical representatives, medical professionals, and family of support group members we had lost.
Q. What makes your event unique?
A. For the upcoming tournament we are adding a patient forum that will run while the tournament is taking place and then all will come together for a 2:00 luncheon.
Q. What was your greatest challenge in organizing the event?
A. Getting golfers!
Q. How far in advance should you begin getting ready for the event?
A. Our event was planned for September and we had our first meeting in Dec. There were a lot of phone and email contacts within our committee members. We tried to meet every other month. The date was set in Dec. and by January we had picked the course and had two or three meetings with the course and the hotel where the after golf activities were going to be held.
Q. What did you start with to get the event planning started? What is the most important thing to do first?
A. The initial meeting in December was the first meeting and from that we really got a good start on the process. We found out about the seed grant money and applied for that right away. Setting the date is one of the most important things to do first.
Q. What can you procrastinate on, and get away with?
A. Soliciting items for the auction was ongoing and we made a push on items in July and August.
Q. Who do you ask for sponsorships? What have you been most successful with in terms of sponsorships?
A. I sent letters to all the pharmaceutical companies, medical supplies providers, banks, healthcare facility, car dealerships, all the oxygen companies in the state, just about everyone we could think of. I got several sponsorships from local businesses in my home town. The most successful sponsorships came from the pharmaceutical companies.
Q. Where and how do you advertise? What do you think has been most effective?
A. I had an area newspaper reporter who wanted to do an article about me and ph along with the tournament. I sent press releases to all the newspapers in Maine, only of which 3 or 4 ran anything about the tournament, that I know of. I sent flyers to all the golf courses in Maine. I sent letters and flyers to all the New England support group leaders and PH centers.
I think the most effective advertising was done by those involved and came from family and friends. I say that because I firmly believe that we will have many more golfers this year than last; advertising coming from word of mouth from those who attended and participated.
Q. What are your biggest expenses? How did you cover those costs?
A. The cost of the dinner was the largest expense and it was covered by the sponsorships that we received.
Q. What is an unexpected challenge you faced in planning the event, and how did you overcome it?
A. The fear of the event not having enough golfers was a huge challenge. We had only 7 teams 5 days before the tournament. We took some of the sponsorship money to entice 4 other teams to participate. It worked because the people on the new 4 teams contributed to the event by participating in the other fundraiser activities of the day.
Q. What do you think is the most important advice or information for new special event planners to know?
A. In the first year, I felt it was really important for me, the event coordinator, to know everything that was happening. I learned so much by doing that. I was very much concerned and I worried way too much over things that worked out just fine. Use your committee members! Don’t be afraid to delegate! The most important thing is to be very organized; have every detail covered and think through the plan with your committee members. I bounced everything off my committee members and it helped a lot.
Q. When is the best time of year to plan an event like yours? What factors should be considered in picking a date?
A. I think that a golf tournament is a year long planning commitment. Truly this year is a lot easier than last and sometimes when I am not doing anything I wonder what I should be doing. The second time around is much smoother. My committee members knew what other events were taking place and we picked a date that nothing else would conflict with; we did not want to compete with something else going on the same day. Picking a date with the Maine weather was tough, but we were lucky, it was a gorgeous day. We did a Friday last year and are doing a Sat. this year. Golf is about $5 more per person but thought we should give it a try.
Q. Do you think it is possible to fundraise and keep the event accessible to everyone, including patients and their families who may be on fixed incomes? How do you do it?
A. Patients who wanted to either golf or attend the dinner were admitted at no charge. Family members were charged $25/person. Since several patients attended the dinner, with family members, I don’t think it was a problem.
Q. How did you choose your venue? What sorts of places did you consider, and what were the deciding factors?
A. I did a lot of research of the courses in southern Maine. The deciding factor was the fact that there was a Marriott on site at the course we chose, so that people could stay right there and not have to go to another location for the dinner. Having the course within walking distance of the banquet facility and lodging was very beneficial.