An Eventful Year at Sea and a Treasure Trove of Ideas Await!

Over the course of four decades, I have dedicated my professional life to the realm of events and event fundraising. Whether it was in the area of Olympic sports, participation-based events, music concerts, or non-profit fundraising endeavors, my days, weeks, and months have revolved around a business that I am truly passionate about. Several years ago, I made the transition from a prominent national non-profit organization to establishing my own event consulting business, with an emphasis on assisting local non-profits and events that held great significance to me personally. My master plan was to conquer time itself, becoming the undisputed ruler of my schedule, but paradoxically, I found myself still investing substantial hours to ensure the financial success of these organizations.

After considerable contemplation and the realization of approaching retirement age, my better half and I made the huge leap to take a sabbatical from our respective careers. While most envision a sabbatical as a time to unwind on the porch, taking in the beauty of sunrises and sunsets while contemplating the next chapter of life, we chose a different path. For us, a sabbatical was an opportunity to accept the challenge of a thrilling new adventure. A challenge by purchasing a cruising sailboat, traveling thousands of miles and spending the winter months in the tropical Bahamas. This included overcoming our limited experience, but we finally left the dock after thorough planning, an extensive seaworthy education, and three years of summer sailing practice. We departed from Vermont’s picturesque Lake Champlain, setting sail southwards along the Atlantic coast, and eventually making our way towards the tropical paradise that is the Bahamas.

As our sailing journey took shape, I quickly realized that my career experiences organizing events easily transitioned to the challenges of living and traveling on a sailing boat. Extensive planning and preparation were essential; three years of planning to be exact. Similar to event management, precise timing was crucial. We plotted our sailing routes, made advanced reservations at designated marinas, and carefully scheduled our travel based on the latest weather forecasts. Possessing the appropriate equipment and tools was also vital to ensure a safe voyage, and like an event, managing our trip budget was a crucial piece of the sailing puzzle. It’s astonishing how the execution of an event resembled our sailing voyage, and I can’t wait to share these aspects in an upcoming post. And yes, just like an event, things went “south” at times requiring a cool head and quick thinking to “right the ship” so the journey could stay on course to our next destination.

Undoubtedly, there was one striking contrast between the experience of an event day and our sailing journey. After a long event day, you find yourself exhausted, sweaty, and covered in the day’s grime from an early setup to finishing loading trucks in a parking lot, yearning for a much-needed hot shower. However, during our sailing adventure in the Bahamas, after a similarly long day, we were able to relax on the boat drink in hand, savoring a cool breeze while witnessing the breathtaking sunset, and indulging in a refreshing swim in the warm, crystal-clear aqua-colored waters. Now if I can only figure out how to merge the two and end up on a boat in the Bahamas at the end of an event. Overall, each had its challenges and rewards, offering us contrasting but equally enriching experiences.

Now, back on solid ground, the boat in storage, I have a renewed energy and new ideas to enhance an organization’s fundraising activities and events. A year on the high seas gave me time to reflect on my years in the event business and excited to bring new ideas as well as strategies addressing the current challenges that hinder fundraising growth. The pandemic was a catastrophic blow to all events and with its passing, the time is ripe to replace lost revenue and rebuild activities that support the mission of nonprofit organizations. 

Making a comeback can feel like sailing against strong headwinds, especially when your current events have taken a colossal hit. But hey, don’t let discouragement be your first mate! (OK, I’m still using the cliché sailing references.)  Fear not, for there are a variety of options to revamp your programs and swiftly boost revenue. So, batten down the hatches, and embark on this thrilling journey with me over the next few months. Together, we’ll navigate the treacherous waters, carefully dissecting what went awry, and masterfully rebuild a rock-solid foundation for your events. Get ready to hoist the flag of success and set sail for a triumphant return!