No ‘Easy Button’ for Chamber programs and events

Private nonprofit organizations like professional societies, trade associations and chambers of commerce depend on several resources to produce events like we did on St. Patrick’s Day – our “ShamRockin the Bakken Taste of Williston.”


Bill Falcon and the Good Medicine Band entertain Williston’s ShamRockin’ the Bakken on St. Patrick’s Day.

Some organizations are large enough to have an events planning staff. One or more paid staff members to plan, budget and execute community and organizational events.An event that requires three to six months worth of planning doesn’t happen just because it worked last year. It is not uncommon to find a professional meeting planner in one of these staff positions, one who holds the credentials of “CMP” or Certified Meeting Planner.

Another option is to partner with an events planning professional or company. There are companies and individuals whose sole business mission is to plan, organize and execute events. This option takes resources (read: money), but does free up staff to conduct other business to meet the organization’s missions. Managing the planning and execution of an event, while working with an event planner, can yield benefits for both the group hosting the event, and the contracted event planner.

Whether there is a full time staff charged with events, or a contracted events planner, a nonprofit organization still relies on two major things: both of which are required for successful community activities and events – volunteers and sponsors. Both of these critical components to a successful event have something in common.

Accept the fact that we have to treat almost anybody as a volunteer.
– Peter Drucker

Why doesn’t your church committee or school play have more volunteers? There are lots of great companies in this town who should be sponsoring or helping with our event, why is it so difficult? The answer is the same…

It’s all about the fit.

Is time precious for everyone today? Yes. Are companies and corporations financially stretched? Yes. However, nonprofits and organizations for centuries have been missing the point in looking for quality, committed volunteers and sponsors. They mistakenly send out blanket news releases and emails and posts that sound like: ‘Looking for committee members;’ or ‘Sponsorships available.’ What are those messages missing? SPECIFICS!

What’s the difference in these two approaches?

Q:  Would you like to serve on the events committee?
Q:   I need your skills for six months to help make our annual meeting a success, and this is why. Can I count on you?
The key to the second question is you gave the volunteer a definitive timeline and explained why you need their skills. The same goes for a sponsorship request.

Q:   Would you like to sponsor our meeting again?
Q:   Mr. Smith, I know you like the downtown businesses, and your company sells to many of them. Our monthly lunch meeting has an opening for a sponsor at $250. We’d love to partner with you on this event.
Again, the difference is specifics and best fit.

Speaking of good fits, I have to give a shout out to the Chamber’s Staff and our volunteers who made the ShamRockin’ the Bakken Taste of Williston a fantastic success on St. Patrick’s day. Our major sponsors came through in the clutch and helped the community be Irish at least for a day! We’re testing out a new online project management system called “” So far, everyone seems to enjoy using it to keep in touch with our event planning.

One happy Leprechaun!

One happy Leprechaun!

A quick ‘by the numbers’ summary of the event: We had 17 food vendors, more than 350 people through the door, a couple of Leprechaun-sponsors (Pat and Jackie!), and one shaved head (thanks Ken and the donation to St. Baldrick’s charity!).

A big Chamber of Commerce thank you goes out to:
Murphy Motors, The Grand Williston Hotel & Conference Center, American Petroleum Institute-Williston Chapter, Williston Convention & Visitors Bureau, KUMV-TV, Cherry Creek Radio, American State Bank & Trust (for the Dublin Boys Choir) and Mail Box Solutions Plus.

The next time your group, organization is looking for volunteers or sponsors, the more specific you can be with your request, the better chance you may have with landing that next superstar volunteer or title sponsor for your event.

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One thought on “No ‘Easy Button’ for Chamber programs and events

  1. Tom Rolfstad says:

    Really good article Scott!


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