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Don’t go it alone

One of the biggest things I’ve done in the last month had little to do with my professional code slinging skills and much more to do with my mad event skills, hype skills (I don’t know if there’s a name for this), and general bulldog tenacity. I also used these skills this month to help with the public launch of Sirius, a distributed systems project you should go check out.

Earlier this month, I organized a release party for the Philly Veg Guide, which is made by The Humane League (THL) and distributed around Philadelphia for free to help people find vegetarian and vegan friendly options, so they can make kinder dining choices. I adore The Humane League, and am happy to have a home in Philly for my activist muscles.

Over 100 people attended the event over the course of the night. Five restaurants donated samples of their vegan and vegetarian options. The event raised over $250 in donations at the door and $300+ in proceeds from a share of food and beverage sales. However, because the venue was so amazing (please go have all of your events at Tattooed Mom, kthx), they tripled their donation to a total of $1000, leaving the event at $1250+ raised.

How did this event come about? I suggested that we (THL) do it, and I agreed to run with the ball. I am not a staff member of THL, I received no compensation for organizing this event, I just … did it.

How it was done

We found a venue and a date (thanks to Rachel, the director of The Humane League arranging a meeting with Robert of Tmom’s). I called restaurants to ask for donations of food (that was terrifying). When I needed more traction, I visited a couple in person. I asked a friend to volunteer to make more phone calls. I recruited people to volunteer day of, so I had people on hand that I could trust in case there was need. Said people were around to go buy emergency plates for samples (thanks Jimi and Kate!) and to hustle the door for donations (thanks Leo!). I asked a friend of mine of to blog about the event. The Twitter and Facebook volunteers for THL pushed the event around. Tattooed Mom (13k fans on Facebook) pushed the event around.

There were hiccups, of course, some worse than others. Another organizer asked that I send her the restaurants I was approaching for pre-approval because she didn’t want to double approach them for an event happening later this year. Kind of a pain. Some of the commitments we got were shaky, and they didn’t end up confirmed, but maybe they’ll do a later event. Some who said they’d help got too busy to do so, another had some family emergencies come up.

My favorite hiccup was when Slice sent all vegetarian pizza, when I had hyped that they were showing off their vegan options. This was the best, because not only did that first wave send more pizza, period, than I expected, the delivery person apparently relayed my shock and or panic reaction to the manager, and they then sent three more vegan pizzas. Please use Slice for all your events, and save me a vegan slice!

Who did it?

Many of my friends, seeing the work I put in for this say “wow you did so much!” and I both want to take credit (because women are less likely to take credit for their work, and I’m aware of that statistic), but my first reaction is to name all the people who helped. Yes, it wouldn’t have happened without me, but it couldn’t have gone well without them.

(For all the thank yous and run down related to the veg guide event, check out what I wrote for THL to post on their Facebook page, and like their page while you’re there)

Nothing worth doing is done alone.

I’m trying to synthesize this idea, how people sometimes tell me in awe how they’re impressed with my events, how I generally have my shit together compared to other organizers they work with, how I can make it look easy (maybe).

I do it because well, one, I shouldn’t discount my sheer willpower, but also largely because I ask other people for help. I generally assume someone who did something awesome did it with help, not the other way around, because that’s how it works in my world.

The JavaScript group is running a survey about what kinds of events people want to see (please fill out if you’re a member! if you aren’t a member, join here) and one of the things I told James, my co-organizer, when he wrote the survey and sent it to me for thumbs-upsmanship, was “Make sure you include the part where people can say they’ll help make this stuff happen.”

I think when people are planning things (anything really, events, projects, etc.) they discount the gift they give other people when they ask them to help. People like to feel wanted and useful and talented (because they ARE!). Asking someone to help you is a kindness you do them as much as it is a help to yourself; doing all the work yourself verges on selfish, and at worst, martyrdom.

So thank you to all the people who help me do all this crazy stuff, because I really can’t do it without you (/ end Oscar speech 😉 )

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