By Uptin Saiidi
What's one way to combat violence and misunderstanding in war-torn countries around the world? A comedy show.
Every fall, a group of diverse comedians take the stage for "Stand Up For Peace” which benefits Seeds of Peace. The nonprofit organization works to bring teenagers from regions of conflict together to learn about other cultures and help foster peace, with the belief that peace is made by people, not by governments.
Seeds of Peace has its own Young Leadership Committee, which is a group of young professionals in New York City that come together throughout the year for benefits, happy hours and discussions with thought-provoking leaders.
The 10th Annual Stand Up event was held on Monday, October 21 in New York City and featured a stellar lineup including comedians Kristen Schaal, Judah Friedlander, Sherrod Small, Mehran Khaghani, Todd Barry and Mike Yard.
Photo: Comedian Kristen Schaal bringing it at the Stand Up For Peace fundraiser. (Seeds of Peace)
The event hosted nearly 600 guests (A packed house!!) and raised more than $40,000.
I was honored when I was asked to co-chair the event with a fellow board member Sam Bloom, but with the pressure of organizing an event that's been going on for nine years...how could we really make it bigger and better than the previous one?
It wasn’t all easy, especially considering we were juggling the planning with our full-time jobs. In the end, the event was a success because of the support from the organization’s staff and a few lessons learned:
1. Work smarter, not harder. Sure, one way to find our talent could have been to go to comedy clubs around the city and approach comedians as they walk off stage, but instead we started networking with a club owner who already had established relationships with many big names. Once we got him on board with our mission, it became much easier to ask someone to perform for free.
2. Get creative with ticket sales. Most of our audience turned out to be people who already knew about Seeds of Peace and their friends and their friends and the friends of their friends. We rallied up a "Host Committee" of about 40 people who were interested in getting more involved with the organization and were tasked with each selling 4-5 tickets a person.
3. Spread The Word. Everywhere. We tapped into two host committee members who work in public relations and empowered them to run the marketing for the event. This utilized their existing expertise while giving them an opportunity to expand their skills. We live in a digital world where thousands of sites are hungry for content, so check for places that will post your event and go after each and every one of them.
4. Keep it short. We sent multiple emails every week for two months leading up to the event. The key is to keep them short with bullet points and links so that someone can skim the email while in line at a Starbucks, and still act on the information you're getting across.
5. Price your event right. Last year, tickets for General Admission were $55 and the event sold out. This year, we had to decide if we should raise the price. Given the nature of supply and demand, we raised it to $65, which ultimately helped increase the amount of money generated. Of course, it’s important to have multiple events throughout the year that are either free or range in price to make sure it’s open to anyone who wants to get involved in different capacities.
6. Keep it simple. It would have been easy to say to ourselves since we're hosting a benefit, we have to throw in a silent auction and a raffle, right? But the truth is people are already spending a lot to attend the event, let them enjoy the show without trying to overboard on raising money in every corner of the room. After all, you want them to have a good time and come back next year, right?
7. Have fun! It doesn't have to be all work. In the process, I got to know many full-time staff members of the organization and the night of the event was truly rewarding. Even though we were busy, it never felt like work.
8. It's just the beginning. When it's all said and done -- send thank you notes, calls for feedback of the event, and most importantly a quick note on how people can become more involved. Take advantage of the fact that you have a lot of people so interested in your organization that they were willing to give up time and money to support it. If you stay in touch with them, chances are, it'll just be the beginning.