Planning a corporate event that entices attendees of all ages and salary brackets can be intimidating, but drawing out the philanthropist in everyone is beneficial for organizations and the community alike. Plan a fundraising event that is fresh, fun, and encourages giving at all levels.
Keri Kujala is the coordinator of special events and donor relations at Saint Mary's Healthcare. She is charged with coordinating events from black tie galas to themed groundbreakings. But no matter what the cause, Keri says it is important to keep the audience coming back for more.
Keri collects inspiration from everything she sees. She has a stack of magazines she uses as her reference library, and she draws from her own experiences to relate to others who will be attending the event, even if it means taking them outside their comfort zones.
"I don't always feel like getting dressed up and assigned to a seat with a plate of chicken," Keri says. "You want to be able to go out to a party, and have a good time."
Stereotypes assign charitable giving to older generations, and as such, women in their 20s and 30s are less likely to give. But Keri is discarding that myth by planning events that cater to a younger crowd.
“I think in general, philanthropy has that perception of ‘This is what my grandfather did, not necessarily what I do.’ I feel like we’ve cracked that code, and found a way to get younger generations involved by coming to some of these events”
Keri likes to stay ahead of the local curve and offer West Michigan area residents the opportunity to attend an event that mirrors the trending colors and hot food items at parties in Las Vegas or New York City. She employs cocktail sponsors, and live bands and encourages a more casual-chic dress code to entice younger crowds to participate. The tactic keeps her events contemporary and exciting. Even at traditional galas, Keri likes to mix things up.
"I'm constantly looking for different surprises. Last year we hosted an event that had a marching band come through and do a drum cadence. It just had a different feel to it," she says. "Different things leave a lasting impression, and for us, that's really important."
For organizations like Saint Mary’s Healthcare, every little bit helps. The key is to motivate people from all walks of life become involved in the community in which they live.
Written by: Erika Fifelski was born and raised in West Michigan, and after a brief stint on the sunrise side, she's home and loving it. Erika enjoys cooking, sewing, vacuuming, and discovering new ways to live sustainably and support local businesses. Photo: Saint Mary's Foundation