Krawczak: Events don’t happen by accident

The Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner was last week. It was our largest annual dinner to date with more than 500 people in attendance. We work on this event for about a year. We estimate that it took more than 300 staff hours to pull this together.

On the day of the actual event, our staff spent a combined total of 34 hours on the event. The day after was another two dozen hours. The event also takes lots of volunteers.

On the day of the event, there are award presenters, a setup crew, a tear down crew, a registration team, ticket sellers, greeters and other miscellaneous helpers. There is a decoration team that meets prior to the event, and volunteers who help with other pieces of planning and sponsor recruitment.

But that’s not all. There is also staff from the location who assist with various tasks. And then there is the caterer and staff. This list goes on and on. And then there’s our budget for this day. It’s a considerable number. There is the cost of catering, facility rental, the awards, and plenty of other miscellaneous expenses to consider.

For an event that lasts just about four hours for just over 500 people, it takes an awful lot of work and costs a considerable amount of money. Anyone who has ever planned a large wedding has a pretty good idea of the amount of work I’m talking about.

Imagine what an event for 1,000 or more people takes, or what about a multi-day event for thousands of people? The coordination, the man hours, and the resources it takes are pretty incredible.

We have paid staff to work on these projects. We are very fortunate to have a solid number of amazing volunteers to help us. And we have outstanding members who stand behind us and support us as well.

It seems that every year I’m asked to meet with different groups in our community who are planning events. Events that are much bigger and more complicated than our dinner and that are being planned without the benefit of having paid staff to do the work. The groups want to meet to get feedback and input on their plans. But ultimately what they are usually reaching out to ask for is help that goes beyond just giving feedback on their ideas. They want more volunteers. And although most need volunteers to help the day of the event, more are interested in finding volunteers who will help with the planning process and the hard work that goes into making the actual event a successful reality.

Think about what kind of work needs to go into something like the air show, one of our many community festivals, or a fundraising event for a local nonprofit. These things all take hundreds of hours of time and an immense number of resources. These things don’t happen by accident. And they don’t happen in just one afternoon over coffee.

It’s easy to attend these events, have a great time, and not think about all of the work that goes on before and after that very moment. But many, if not most, of these volunteer-run events can use help.

At the Chamber, I don’t know where we would be without our volunteers. Even with our paid staff, it still takes the work of many volunteers to pull off our events. I am so thankful for our volunteers. But knowing how much work goes into our events makes me appreciate even more the volunteers who are giving hundreds of hours to make their events possible (and therefore make our community better).

But I can tell you, they need help. Can you help them in their efforts to make our community a better place? The volunteers who give to something bigger than themselves are amazing people. What would our community be like without them?

Next time you are at a community event, appreciate it for what it is, but take a moment to consider and appreciate the effort that must have come before it, and the effort that will come after it. And if you are interested in getting more involved but don’t know how, we can help connect you. Just ask.

Jackie Krawczak is the executive director of the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce. Her column runs bi-weekly on Tuesdays. Follow Jackie on Twitter @jkrawczak.