A chat with Rebecca White: The Circus before the Carnival

The Circus before the Carnival

With just under a month to go until the Coorparoo State School Carnival, many people would be tearing out their hair due to the stresses involved with organising such a big event. But to Rebecca White, Carnival Convenor for this year’s carnival, it’s business as usual.

She’s calm, collected, always smiling and even appears to be enjoying the circus-like activity that comes with the role.

So what’s her secret?

Rebecca and I met for a coffee earlier this week where she shared her tips for staying sane.

TIP #1- Think Strategically:

Rebecca’s first tip is to treat a carnival, or any fundraising activity, like you would any other business.

The whole point of a fundraiser is to make profits,” she said. “A strategic approach can mean the difference between a fundraiser that raises $50,000 and one that raises $70,000”.

Having a clear fundraising goal, a clear plan for achieving it, and a committed team of volunteers who are clear about their responsibilities, will make hitting your financial goal far easier.

TIP #2 – Keep things organised and accountable:

Make sure you have good handover notes,” were the first words out of her mouth as she reflected on the challenges she’s faced previously. “You want to make sure everyone is keeping good records of inventory and of all the money going in and out of each stall. Otherwise you’ll have to wade through all the sketchy records of last year to work out where the money should be.”

Rebecca’s rule: “The carnival isn’t over until you’ve written the report.

TIP #3 – Keep things centralised:

It might be easy for the coffee stall to duck down to Woolworths and buy serviettes and cups as they need them,” she said, “but when you have the hot chip stall, the sausage sizzle and every other stall doing the same, all that time and money adds up. It’s much cheaper if you get lists of what everyone at the carnival needs and buy in bulk from one supplier, all at once.”

TIP #4 – Involve the Wider Community:

School carnivals and fetes are about connecting the school with the wider community and the event is always more successful when the local community and businesses are engaged. Don’t be apprehensive about approaching local businesses offering sponsorship opportunities and appealing for any help they can offer.

The worst that will happen is they’ll say no, and most people are very polite about it. Just taking the time to ask people can mean sponsorship either in cash or in-kind, which increases profitability and creates a deeper sense of community at the event.”

By taking the time to ask, Rebecca and other members of the Carnival Committee have managed to negotiate free meat for the barbeque courtesy of the local butcher, as well as secured local politician Cameron Dick and radio personality Campo for the Dunk Tank.

TIP #5 – Know Your Audience:

According to Rebecca, the key to any good fete is to realise that children’s enthusiasm rubs off on parents in a big way, so it’s important to get the kids excited. This mean rides. It can mean dropping the principal in the Dunk Tank. It can mean fun little sideshows like “Kiss the Pig”, a sort of coercive donation scheme where the teacher whose class raises the most money has to kiss a pig (or pay the $5 opt-out fee).

These things are not always the biggest money spinners,” she said, “but at the end of the day, the carnival is for the kids. They have to be having fun for the carnival to succeed.”

You only need to spend a few minutes talking to Rebecca to understand that she gets a real kick out of volunteering her time to fundraise within her community. Her passion and energy for fundraising is infectious, and the tips she has shared have been learned from years of experience!

Originally publiched 16 September, 2011

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