The annual dinner is over. Long live the annual dinner!

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dinner

Thanks, Dave Greer, for the awesome pictures

In life, there are few things sweeter than that beautiful moment after a fundraising event is done (provided the event didn’t suck completely). It’s like living in a part of Alaska where it’s dark for six months at a time, and then finally seeing a sunrise and knowing that the darkness is abating. It reminds me of that time after my wedding reception. It was an awesome reception, complete with glowsticks and a live bunny and tons of booze, and we felt so much love and support and had more fun than we could remember. But that day that followed, that was magical. Sure, there were thank-you notes to write and other stuff to do, but slowly we started to feel a semblance of normality, like we had been lost in the woods and raised by wedding-planning wolves and now we were back to civilization.

Wedding-planning wolves, that’s hilarious. I am so sleep deprived. For the past couple of weeks, I have not been able to sleep. This is partially due to the baby, who wakes up every 30 minutes for the express purpose of wailing and spitting up on his father. But also because of this dinner, a 9-month ordeal very comparable to childbirth, including the screaming and crying and fetal positions, but without a cute baby at the end. For all the stress and night terrors and occasional fist fights, though, it actually turned out pretty well. We had an effective planning team team, led by our no-nonsense Development Director (slash Finance Director slash HR Director slash Office Manager) Rachel, who, like any good Development Director, inspires people even as she simultaneously strikes fear into the heart of everyone around her.

300 or so people came, including several political leaders, and the event started and ended on time. For days I was worried about my speech, the standard inspiring ED speech, having had no time or energy to work on it. I was supposed to practice for a couple of hours before the event, but then exhausted I promptly feel asleep, waking up an hour before the dinner started, panicking and hoping the Maya just miscalculated their calendar and that the Apocalypse was still going to happen before I had to speak.

Anyway, I didn’t screw up my speech, or at least I didn’t think I did; I couldn’t tell, since in my baby-induced exhaustion it seemed kind of like a day dream, except this time, I wasn’t an Iron Chef on the Food Network. I think we may reach our goal, and besides one person who emailed later to say he and his guests hated the food and the location and their sound system and their table position and my suit and said the decorations gave him cancer and who actually had gotten his table to get up up and walk out (!) of the event in protest, I think the guests overall had a good time.

Still, we could certainly improve for next year. Here are some lessons I learned:

  • Don’t seat politicians all together at the ED’s table. Politicians always leave early, since they run on political time, which is twice as fast as civilian time. Halfway through the dinner, I was left with my wife and baby and three other guests. I felt like a loser table captain who couldn’t fill his table. Next time, scatter the pols around, or seat the ones who plan to leave early in the back.
  • Using tablets to do floating registration is awesome. We had volunteers with tablets who just went around the room checking people in, which completely cut out the waiting-forever-in-line-at-the-registration-table curse that plagues many annual events. Technology is so cool. Eventually, we’ll just have volunteers wearing Google Glass go around blinking at people to check them in. That’s the future.
  • Check and double check the AV system, and spend money on a professional if necessary. There will always been AV issues. We had trouble with the microphones, which cut in and out, and all sorts of other stuff. The most painful part was during the heart-tugging video, which we had spent months on, and it turned out really well. But the 7-minute clip froze and buffered, ruining the momentum, and with each buffer my eye started twitching more and more, and I put my face in my hands to stop myself from openly weeping.
  • Try to get a good night’s sleep before being video-taped for the heart-tugging video. I had a rough night the previous evening, and it showed in the video, where I look like Steve Buscemi’s less attractive younger brother who has slightly better teeth. (This, however, may have spurred some people to donate more out of pity.)

All right, there’s a whole bunch of other lessons learned, but I have to sign these acknowledgement letters and write little handwritten notes on each one before Rachel strangles me with her Development Director hands, which are super strong from all that envelope stuffing she does for our mailing campaigns. I am tired, haven’t slept more than 3.5 consecutive hours in the past 15 days, and smelling like spit-up and diaper rash cream. And yet, I feel good, and this high will last for a month or two, before we start planning next year’s event.

Thank you so much, to all our friends and supporters, for helping VFA to lift up families and communities.

  • Toi Sing Woo

    Hi Vu,
    Enjoyed the dinner. Judy and I wanted to stop by your table and say hi but didn’t want to bother you, Marquita, and the baby Viet. Viet is so cute.
    Toi

    • Vu

      Thank you Toi Sing! You should have come over to say hi. Viet loves being held by different people. Come visit! We’re home all the time now. Just ignore the smell of compost.

  • Best food at a fundraising dinner ever! Council member Mike O’Brien was at my table and he stayed for the entire time even though we were by the door.

    • Vu

      Thanks, Leslie! Tamarind Tree is always awesome. And Mike is pretty cool to have stayed the whole time.

  • I’m glad your post event high keeps you from dread for a couple of months. Me, It’s usually just a couple of *weeks* after the event, and I think, “oh crap, I’m going to have to do it all over again in 11.5 months!”

    • Vu

      Claire, It’s coming back. I’m starting to freak out again…