Listen to the full podcast episode HERE
What do you see to be the biggest business advantage to doing or attending events?
People, number one. Feeling, number two. I’d say it’s the best way to connect with people. It’s the best way to get people excited about it and feel what you’re all about. People coming and physically seeing what you’re doing and meeting the leadership and the other supporters, I think, gets them excited and motivated about the work that they can be doing with you.
What is the most innovative thing you’ve seen done either at your event or an event you’ve attended?
So, I’ve had two experiences. I was really wowed… I know this might seem like a small thing, but so many events have this kind of front stage. You see a lot of tables, you have some function going on, you have a front stage… I was just wowed one year when I went to the WPAS event, where they changed it up completely and they put stages all around the room. You’d be sitting there, and all of a sudden, someone would pop up and sing right next to your table, or they would pop up and sing over there. They had a spotlight.
I know that might not be that innovative, but I was wowed by that, because you’re so used to the center front stage that you just… it was kind of fun to see the variety of how it could work. And then another event did a center stage, which I thought was very cool. It’s hard to pull off. It just changes the energy in the room.
I think it’s always nice to change up your experience. You always think about your customers coming back and coming every single year. They are expecting what they saw last year, so if you can change it up, it just makes them go “Wow! I’m coming back again.”
And then the other event was DC Central Kitchen, which I love when they do their food fight. Just the multi-room, and then they had a constant feed. They had a cooking show going on nonstop, so it was almost like you were watching a cooking show live with different high-profile chefs, and then you were going from room to room, doing a tasting. The kind of getting away from the typical food and wine tasting, where you’re just going from table to table… This was sure entertainment—screens going on, high energy, and it made you love the experience in the room. I’m sure it cost a lot, unless somebody donated all that equipment, but it kept me engaged, because, you know, after attending thousands of events, after a while you need something to keep you going until the end of the night.
What is the best use of technology you’ve utilized at an event or seen at another event?
Handhelds! Activating your contribution either at the live and silent auction transformation from everyone does these live and silent auctions, where you have to go and write on a piece of paper… So transforming that to using the software firm that comes in and just does everything on your handheld, so you don’t have to stand next to the item. You could actually get pinged every time you’ve been outbid, and then you can just be running around, socializing, getting in line for a drink or whatever, or sitting at your dinner at the table, and you can still be bidding, and then you can be making contributions. They send you messages, or there might be a message on the screen that says, “We’re now raising money for blank or this classroom or this truck or whatever,” and you can say, “Oh, I’m going to give $50 to that, and you can just do it right on your phone, and then you get nice recognition or not. But I just think the handheld is pretty powerful. Text to pledge, too. Texting to pledge is amazing. Smart fundraising.
GUEST: Catherine Townsend
As the new President of the Trust for the National Mall, Catherine Townsend will play a significant role in helping accomplish the Trust’s mission: to bring critical new resources to priority projects that will restore, improve, and preserve the National Mall and its iconic monuments.
Townsend, a dynamic leader with over 28 years of experience working in the non-profit sector, brings significant and relevant experience, contacts, and skills to the Trust for the National Mall, the official non-profit partner of the National Park Service. The National Mall, which attracts 33 million visitors each year, is facing a backlog of more than $490 million in deferred repairs and $350 million in needed upgrades. In fact, the Mall suffers from decades of underfunding and is in dire need of public and private support to restore, protect and revitalize this beloved space for future generations.
Townsend and her team are spearheading fundraising and awareness efforts for the high priority projects needing immediate support, including: enhancing the Washington Monument Grounds at Sylvan Theatre, repairing the Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial, restoring the Lockkeepers House and Constitution Gardens and repairing the Tidal Basin Seawall and re-constructing the Cherry Tree Walk.
Prior to joining the Trust, Townsend developed her own consulting practice, providing coaching and resource support to non-profit CEOs/Executive Directors. She has served as the President and Executive Director of the DC Public Education Fund, the independent non-profit that raises private funds for progressive initiatives to improve student outcomes in DC Public Schools. Townsend has also served as Senior Advisor at Townsend Public Affairs (a family-owned business) and launched the Federal office in Washington, DC in 2008.
Townsend’s non-profit career was shaped as she served for 17 years as the Associate Director of Share Our Strength, a national non-profit organization she helped to build from a fledgling organization to a leader in ending childhood hunger (currently known for its No Kid Hungry campaign) and raised millions of dollars annually for non-profits organizations throughout the United States and in select developing countries.
Townsend is an experienced public speaker and has presented throughout the U.S. and Canada, as well as to Africa and South America. She has a B.A. from Scripps College in Claremont, California. She is a graduate of the class of 2014 from Greater Leadership Washington and is the founder, commissioner and coach of HoopGirlsDC, empowering youth girls through the game of basketball, established in 2004 for ages 8-13 on Capitol Hill.