After this post I got emails and comments asking for advice or help (sure!) in doing a Wine to Water event other places around the country. I took a few days to decompress to make sure I had clarity on the night so I'd be better suited to give you tips, or what have you. If you have any other specific questions always feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org). Would love to help, I'm all about doing whatever we can to make a huge dent in the water crisis.
I need to first say this: if anyone got any impression from my post that I did the whole event on my own, that was my mistake. My first bit of advice for any kind of event is to gather a little team around you. My team consisted of people who did lots of big and little things (some I mentioned, some I did not) to people who did some little things (they were mostly not mentioned-only because the list was too long!). So that's the first tip. My team consisted of family who I could ask to do all the super shitty boring stuff to really good friends who wouldn't make me ask but just did and/or offered. There was also a handful of people who are just passionate about water and wanted to make it a really successful event, so those counted too. So that's number one, gather your team.
Number two was space for us. Last year when Leslie and I sat down to hash out the event we knew what we wanted for space. We didn't want a hotel or anything that was going to charge us for renting the place and probably for having their food/drink. We wanted to celebrate the local, if you'll remember. And we both have eclectic tastes. We like things that look like they've been through hell and back a little rustic. When we were thinking of empty spaces in the downtown Davenport area I thought of the space we now use. It is owned by my old boss. I asked, and he said we could have it as long as we left it clean. So that was it, space. We wanted cheap and atmosphere, we got them both in spades. This brings me to...
Number three would be take advantage of who you know. My husband works with a printer through his job. Last year I decided to just ask this printer if he would print off our programs for a good rate...he did it for free. I pitched the idea, might have even cried a bit, and he went for it. This year I asked again and he said he was in for as long as I hold the event. I work for the Y, as does most of my in-law family, and so I "used" that connection to reserve tables and chairs free of charge for the event. I asked everyone I knew to bring Christmas trees, tablecloths and white Christmas lights. Oh, and did I mention extension cords? We borrowed mostly everything. Last year I did end up buying some centerpieces from craft stores knowing this would be an annual thing. This year I just used those centerpieces again and voila! We also got 4 dinners donated by one of our favorite local restaurants which ended up bringing in over $2000. If you learn nothing from this post, learn this, don't be afraid to ask! Most people want to help when they hear what you're doing, but asking can be scary. Just do it (or have your friends do it for you ;)).
Number four (though I just realized these are probably in no particular order necessarily) would be get the event funded. Overall, the event cost around $1000 to put on. Most of that money is used for the purchase of the local wine (more expensive than say, Trader Joe's Charles Shaw, but it's worth it to support a local winery in my mind!). So how I fund the event...I send out an email to my family and friends asking them to become a "Sponsor", I think is how I phrase it. They get to be that simply by donating $100 towards the cost of the party (they write the check to me). I have friends/family who donate more than that, and Zach and myself add more than that, but that's how I fund the party. This part, I hate. It's the worst part, asking for money. But it's a necessary evil. I wanted every cent that we raised the night of to go towards water, that's how you do it...get the party paid for. You want to be a host of an event, you have to do the shit work too, and that definitely counts as such.
Other than that, the devil is in the details. That's the thing about hosting, the details. Most of these details only you will know, they can't possibly be divided out amongst people. It's things like making sure the elevator is going to the third floor the night of (I almost forgot that, and only realized it about 4 hours before the event. I was literally calling around town frantically...and then I had to go change my shorts. It was touch and go for awhile). Things also like getting garbage and recycling things from the local center, calling the fire station and letting them know there might be a call from the 3rd floor space and to not treat it as a prank, there really is someone up there right now! So many things like that. Stuff no one probably notices, but would notice if it weren't there. Millions of little things to think about, but after you do it once it's easier the second time, I promise!
Truth be told, I think the first thing you need is a passion for it. Planning the event is not actually a whole lot of fun if I'm being quite honest. But I hate that there is a water crisis. I hate hearing some of the stories my boys tell me that deal directly with water. So it's all about perspective. It's so worth it in the end. To see the community give to something like this, it's all worth it. That's why I do it, that's why the people who help me do it. It's always for the water. If you're passionate about water (or anything else, really) this can work, I can promise that. Because it's not about me, it's never about me. It's about water and God. God and water. Bringing water to people who don't have it so they might be able to see God for the very first time as well. Simple equations.
So just do it. And I'm serious about helping in whatever capacity I can from my small little iMac in Iowa. :)