Gesture is excited to announce our new Gesture – the Gesture TV Show! Each week we interview charity founders and directors who share their best advice on what it takes to run successful nonprofits.
Our special guest this week is Eileen Belokin who is the manager at the Marianjoy Foundation.
Want to be our next inspiring guest?
Submit your name, organization, mission and contact information to Monika.Rydz@Gesture.com
Find out how a golf charity fundraiser was able
to raise money in a thunderstorm.
Video Interview with Eileen Belokin, Manager at the Marianjoy Foundation.
Monika: Hi everyone welcome to Gesture TV I’m your host Monica Rydzewski and I have with me Eileen Belokin manager of the Marianjoy Foundation. Thank you for being here.
Eileen: Thank you for having me.
Monika: So tell us about the mission of your organization.
Eileen: Our mission we are a physical rehabilitation hospital so we accept patients that have physical disabilities and through therapy and patience we get them back to their lives and their lifestyles and regain their independence.
Monika: How did you get involved with the organization?
Eileen: Well I’ve been with the organization almost 6 years now. The organization has been around since 1972. In the 90s my father had a major stroke and he was a patient there and at the time I was working for another not for profit and when I went there and saw the care that he got and the progress he made it made me want to be there so I decided that if I ever switched jobs that would be a destination for me and I was just fortunate it happened and it came true.
Monika: You have been there how long?
Eileen: Six years.
Monika: Six years. Tell us, what are some of the responsibilities as a manager of the organization. What do you do?
Eileen: Well we are the fundraising arm. I work in the foundation and we do the fundraising. We are a not for profit organization and we run a lot of different programs to raise funds but we have two major fund raisers a year. We have a golf event and we have a gala and those are the major events that bring a lot of resources and a lot of new friends to the organization.
Monika: Tell us about your golfing event.
Eileen: Well our golf event we’ve had this will be our 26th year and we are having it in July and we have it at the same place every year. We have it at Cantigny Golf Course in Wheaton which is a beautiful it is a public course but it is as beautiful and challenging course as any private course in the area and we have a wonderful group of return people that are very loyal to us and they come every year. This year we are hoping to sell it out at 192 golfers and we have an amazing silent auction. Our silent auction is a big part of our event and our guests look forward to it every year.
Monika: Tell us with the golfing event I’m sure the weather doesn’t always permit. How has that always.
Eileen: Fortunately I haven’t been rained out completely but it is Illinois and the weather is always challenging. Sometimes we have rain delays and it is always hot because our event is always in July. We had one year three years ago when we had a big storm come through and completely knock out the electricity to the facility so they had no air conditioning, no refrigeration and even though the weather cleared and we were able to play the course itself was fine but the amenities were difficult. We had to really do makeshift planning in a very quick amount of time. Gesture really helped us because we were able to keep the bidding up and going all through the storm, all through the event, when we had no air conditioning and no refrigeration we still had the auction and it was wonderful because by the time the players came off the course we already had $11,000 in bids where the year before we had not used Gesture we were using hard copy. We would not have had any bids at all so our auction that year would have totally been a disaster had we not gone with Gesture. I figured it was a sign from God we needed to do it.
Monika: Have you noticed some challenges of people being kind of, oh this isn’t for me, this is technology stuff.
Eileen:A little bit, we didn’t get a lot of push back. We had a couple of people and as we move forward this is our third year that we’ve used it we get fewer and fewer and there are staff on hand that help and our golfers are more than willing to have one of the girls that are there to help them register and get ready and it becomes easier and easier every year so we are very, very pleased with it.
Monika: What advice would you give someone who is looking to passively host a golf outing?
Eileen: Boy there are lots of different things you have to think about. Your timing is important. It is always difficult with a weather situation so you are always taking a chance on that. You have to know your population. You have to know who is going to attend and cater to them. Some golfers are not as good at the sport itself so they want to play a different type of game. They want to play a scramble so you really have to know who is going to come to your event to design the contest to suit their levels and their abilities and make it fun so they come back year after year.
Monika: How do you get your auction items?
Eileen: We do a variety of things. We have a really good mailing list we’ve honed over the years that has a lot of different retailers in the area, restaurants, entertainment. What sells really good at our auction we have sporting events that sell, spirits or alcohol seems to sell really good. We have a wine and vodka auction and unique experiences; petting the Beluga whales at the Shedd Aquarium and things like that. Those can be difficult items to get but if you have a board member or committee member that has a connection that’s a lot easier to make. So we send out about 400 ask letters to different retailers and vendors in the area and then we rely on our committee members to make some personal asks and that is really where you get the really nice items.
Monika: Tell us last but not least how do your market an event.
Eileen: Well there’s lots of different ways you can market it and this is evolving because with the evolution of social media it has really, really helped. We used hard copy, we used US mail, snail mail to send out hard copy invitations but we also go on Facebook or on Twitter. We do email blasts to all of our return guests and we really try and communicate that way because it saves money. Postage is so expensive so anything we can do electronically we will because it is just a better medium and it certainly saves us money on printing and postage.
Monika: When is your next event coming up?
Monika: Sounds good. Well thank you so much for being here.
Eileen: Thank you.