Have you ever looked forward to something for so long that it felt like a dream when the thing actually happened? And when it did happen, the pictures that people show you feel like something that happened somewhere else? That’s what I felt/feel like.
Let me start from the beginning. I don’t know when or how, but I’ve got an interest sparked in me for the organization The Polaris Project. I guess it doesn’t matter how, but as soon as I found out about this organization, I was hooked. Since the cause of Human Trafficking was already close to my heart, I’ve always felt like I could identify with an organization that is founded on such real, multi-faceted, serious approaches to combating this issue. They’ve had their hand in a TON of legislative measures addressing trafficking laws, and plus, they’ve been given 69 points out of 70 on charitynavigator.org. So yeah, Polaris is pretty much the bomb (I did a presentation on the organization, if you’re interested).
Fast forward to my freshman year of university. My best friend, Vanessa (yes, we have the same name), and I are eating dinner, and we’re talking about a formal event that the honors scholars were doing. Over a bowl of miso soup I made the comment that I thought a lot of people on our campus seem to get duped into dressing up for stuff that they don’t actually want to do.
“Well, what kind of stuff would you want to dress up for? Like what do you think’s important?” Vanessa asked.
Then it hit me. After a little bit of back-and-forthing between a few organizations, I realized that I wanted to do a black-tie fundraiser for The Polaris Project. I talked to Vanessa for a while, got some input from my teacher, mother, and friends, and thus the event Polaris Night was born.
For a while, I had absolutely no clue how I was gonna do it. First things first, I ran to our university’s administration to see if we could snatch a room. Apparently, you’re not allowed to hold a room unless you’re officially represented by an organization. Cool. I sent out emails to 5 different social justice organizations on campus, 3 different cultural unity organizations, and the visual arts department to get help on advertising. Lots of meetings. Not much else.
A word to the wise: a lot of people will say they’ll do something, but not many people follow through.
I got hip to this really quickly. A lot of people will say that they’ll help you for this or that, but not actually help you for this or that. If you really want them to to follow through, then assign them tasks that they will be accountable for. Caution: some people can just be a little flaky either way.
It was by dumb luck (or by God, but I prefer the latter), that I met up with Frankie. I sent out an email to the visual arts department on our campus asking for help with advertising and stuff like that on campus. She emailed me back, almost immediately.
Hi Vanessa! My name is Frankie, and I am with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. I am contacting you because I heard about your project with Polaris through [the director of visual arts]. InterVarsity is hosting a week long human trafficking awareness campaign April 6-12. Throughout the week we will have documentaries, speakers and more to engage the campus with this issue. I would love to talk to you more about the campaign and your event and we could possibly partner or support each other’s events. Let me know what you think! Feel free to email or call me at [her cell phone] and I look forward to hearing from you soon!~Frankie
She sent that email on March 7th. Four days later, I had the opportunity to be introduced to their committee, we talked about a game plan, and I had a date set up. April 8th. April 8th. That’s like tomorrow in event-years, especially for a girl who had a little more than a name planned and has never planned a school sponsored event before.
I’m not even sure about if I could tell you what happened within that next month; It was a scramble of catering estimates, monetary suppositions, forms (oh so many forms), and meetings. Oh yeah, and I’m still a student (theoretically). Plus, our student government was running on a drought, so none of the student organizations on campus could receive funding for the second half of the semester. Ouch. So I ended up putting a down payment on everything. Room deposit. Food. Utensils. Decorations. Lets just say it was a pretty penny. Plus, there were a lot of questions that suddenly needed to be answered. How are we going to fix the room? What are we going to do? What am I feeding them? How may I advertise? Are the ticketing staff okay? Are my performers feeling alright? Yes [insert person here], what do you need?
I was stressed out. But then, I saw our tickets that the school’s in house graphic designer drew up.
It reminded me that in the midst of all the paperwork and people, our University does indeed deliver.
So yeah, it was a hot mess. But you know what? Polaris night was a great time. Look. I couldn’t have had a better team than Intervarsity. These people are the bomb.
Not a lot of people can do what I did. I’m not saying that to be a snot, I’m saying that because I realize that not a lot of people would actually want to. But, if you’re reading this, and you’re just as insane as I am, listen to these 6 tips.
1) Don’t try to do it all by yourself. Spoiler alert: you physically cannot. Get yourself a really good team behind you. I personally didn’t realize how much of the bomb my team was until it was 20 minutes for the event and we couldn’t find the projector for the powerpoint presentation.
2) Checklists are your very best friend and confidant. Use them. Often. Organize yourself.
3) Start your planning earlier than 4 weeks in advance. Try 2 months.
4) The second you’ve got a date planned, post on *every* (not just some) social media website possible. That includes but is surely not limited to: eventbrite, zevents, facebook, twitter, instagram, google +, your school’s blog, someone else’s schools’s blog, and every place that they’ll allow you to post a poster.
5) Start with finding a good coalition, then go to your administration, and reserve a room/pick a date, then make a finely detailed list of things that you need, then crunch a budget together, then fill out financial aid forms. THAT is the best order of operations. I learned that the hard way, by doing it in a weird, mixed up, confusing fashion.
6)Write down every conversation, save every receipt, and put in a folder all your emails. Conversations start running together really quickly.
By the way, have a good time at your event. You deserve it.
I can’t believe that we pulled it off, but we did indeed. Also, we pulled it so far off that we raised enough money to keep the hotline running for an estimated 32 hours. That’s a big ass deal. At the end of the day, all that running around was worth it. Definitely. I couldn’t be more proud.