NOTE: This post was written by Business Administration senior Britney Flora.
Last semester my business management classmates and I were challenged with the task of creating and executing our own semester long projects. My two teammates and I felt the need to not only complete a project, meeting requirements and accomplishing tasks in order to get an A, but also hoped to take part in an experience that would not only learn from, but would also benefit someone else.
With this in mind, we found ourselves at the front desk of the Pregnancy Resource Center here in Lincoln, Illinois. We asked them what their largest needs were and they responded, “Awareness, volunteers, and fundraising.” After a few minutes of brainstorming and conversation, we decided that we would plan, organize, and host a fundraising dinner.
We’d recruit a few organizations in town to donate funds for the dinner and silent gift basket raffle, send out invitations, and BANG, we have an event and money raised for the Center.
We began by finding a venue, setting a date, and finding a caterer. Initially we were planning on having at least 100 people attend and turned our attention to the guest list. We asked for a list of previous donors and ordered 100 postcards to send out a few weeks before the event.
Our next objective was to raise money to pay the caterer and to ask for donations for the gift basket raffle. We went into the community, asking business’ to give us money and donations for a fundraiser. Some businesses were generous, writing us check, handing us cash, or giving items to be raffled off. Others turned us away saying that they could not help, or had already supported the center that year and would not give again. I naively anticipated larger and numerous donations, and was caught off guard by small donations here and there. While I was thankful for the generosity shown, I became worried that we would not raise what we needed.
With over 200 people invited to the fundraiser, we awaited for RSVPs online to start pouring in. Five days before the event, though, we had only ten RSVPs. Panic!
We very quickly faced a concept I have avoided, dreaded, and even rejected for my entire educational career…failure. According to Oxford Dictionaries, failure is the “lack of success.” We realized our efforts might very well leave us out of reach of our anticipated goals. We had not raised as much money or been given as many raffle items as hoped for, and our RSVP list was lacking in numbers.
We needed more money, we needed guests, but most of all, we needed to readjust our perspective. Our expectations for how others would react to our cause far outreached another’s desire to help an organization that they either did not know about, or had already donated to in the past. We were asking people to care, a concept that is easily attainable when one has reason to be passionate, but hard to translate into undesiring hearts. To us this project was no longer about a passing or failing grade, it was about doing what we could to increase awareness for the Resource Center in the community, and to raise what money we could in the short amount of time we had left.
As the day of the event had arrived, we set up tables, covering them with tablecloths embellished with dinner wear and decorations. We prepared the gift basket raffle, started brewing the coffee, and prepared for our guests to arrive. The event that we had so nervously anticipated, that we had worked on for weeks, had finally arrived. What was on our minds was not whether we would pass or fail, but rather if we had done the best we could for the Pregnancy Resource Center.
We failed successfully. Looking back we realized that we did so many things right, yet so many more things wrong, and what we had done well, could have been done better. For example, we could have marketed better by using more sources: the newspaper, social networking, etc. We could have sent out more inventions and better explained why we were hosting this event.
Looking back, though, this was one of the best learning experiences I have ever had. We had never organized anything like this before, and while we realized ways that we had failed, how we could have done better, in the end we saw all the ways we had succeeded.
Although there were lots of ways we could have done better, we were left with a state of gratitude, satisfaction, and joy. While we realized that we would do things differently if we did another event, we walked away that night with positive comments, proud supporters, and enough money to make us more profitable than we expected! The experience we had was not only priceless but could not have come at a better time.
As the three of us approach our final moments on this campus, we are going to be faced with opportunities to succeed, and even more chances to fail. It is what we do with these failures that enriches our character. Failure humbles us, transforms us, and strengthens us to move onto our next endeavor with new insight, confidence, and a desire to make a difference. Success does not derive from perfection, it is acquired from the repercussions and pruning of our failures.