How to save a life ♪
October 31, 2010 3:26 PM   Subscribe

How can I get permission to throw a charity event at a local (NYC) museum/attraction?

I'm a student in NYC doing a project for my marketing class. We're working with the NY Organ Donor Network to get people to register to become organ donors. We need to have 3 events minimum. We already have one completely planned that will take place near the end of the semester. One is planned for early-mid November. Both are taking place at school, but I want to do something awesome and unique because its part of a competition!

I want to totally blow this project out of the water so I thought that we should set up a table at the Bodies Exhibit at the South Street Seaport. NYODN is a great, worthy cause that ties in with the Bodies exhibit. We'll basically just try to get people seeing the exhibit to sign up and provide snacks and possibly raffles for free stuff (we'd like to get The Body Shop or Bath & Body Works to donate things and put their names on the event but we have a budget that we can use to buy things to raffle off). We were thinking that in return, we would have Bodies brochures and things at our other school events, but are open to other suggestions.

But... I've never planned an event! I asked my professor who I should get in touch with and she said the marketing director. I searched the Bodies website but couldn't find the name of a marketing director. Who should I contact? Should I just call Bodies? If so, what do I say? I don't want to divulge too much information over the phone because I feel it will be too easy for them to say no. I want to meet with someone face to face, because its harder to say no in general that way and also because one of my group members is awesome at convincing people to do things. Is it possible to get an appointment to meet with someone without having to disclose everything? Should I show up in person and ask to speak to someone there? Also, I don't feel that just having brochures at our table will be enough to entice them. What would be a good thing to offer them in return for letting us set up a table at their exhibit? Do you have any other helpful advice for us to make this event awesome and get lots of sign-ups? If for some reason Bodies says no (which would be terrible because its very close to my school so its involving the outside school community and its convenient for all my group members to reach), where else could we set up a table? I'm thinking something big like a famous museum or other well-known venue, relating to health. Preferably one downtown, near the financial district because that would involve the outside school community. But suggestions for anywhere else would be appreciated.

I'm getting stressed because I just found out that the person approving our events will be going on vacation this week so I need to get a date set ASAP. If I can't get a date set for Bodies (or somewhere else) by this week, we have to do the event at our school and I can't see us winning the competition without doing something unique and outside school. I also want to do really well on this project/event and win if possible because we can potentially win money! I'm also interested in working in public relations and could also put it on my resume if we win. Also, sometimes my professor hires students after graduation so I want to make a great impression on her!

I'm planning to call/visit Bodies tomorrow and any other places you suggest. Please help make this event fabulous so we can save lives!
posted by lovelygirl to Human Relations (13 answers total)
I work (over the pond) at a place that occasionally deals with similar enquiries. I don't take the enquiries, but I'm in the room with the guy who does.

Call up, talk to them nicely, be polite. Don't just show up, they'll be busy, you'll look like a weirdo and it'll just be bad. Schedule a meeting if you want to do it in person. If they say no, ask who you could speak to who'd have the authority to discuss it further. It sounds like a worthy cause, it's on topic and just talk to them clearly and sound passionate. It would also help to be able to sum up what you want really quickly and clearly. Try to roll it into a sentence - "Hi, I'm calling from the New York Organ Donor Network, and we'd like to set up a table for organ donor signups at your exhibition." Then they'll know where you stand and you can take it from there.

Btw, Bodies is apparently run by Premier Exhibitions.

Good luck, sounds like a worthy cause.
posted by Magnakai at 4:10 PM on October 31, 2010

Try their public relations department. I searched and found this number: (404) 842-2600. Good luck!
posted by studioaudience at 4:24 PM on October 31, 2010

The Seaport itself has information about hosing events on-site along with various requirements, including insurance coverage, that are detailed on this page (scroll down).
posted by carmicha at 5:06 PM on October 31, 2010

I want to totally blow this project out of the water so I thought that we should set up a table at the Bodies Exhibit at the South Street Seaport.

One major thing to consider is the fact that Bodies is not, as far as I know, a nonprofit. Also, they don't operate a venue that can be rented out for events - in fact they, themselves, rent their venue from whoever owns/maintains that particular space in South Street Seaport. This may make it more difficult to hold an event on that physical site, and it might mean that they don't have a routine of setting up this sort of thing in the way that, say, the Natural History Museum might.

I'm sure that Bodies, or Premier Exhibitions, has a PR person. Often on a website like that you'll see a contact number listed with a phrase like "for media or promotional inquiries, contact XXX-XXX-XXXX". Honestly, if you are OK on the phone you could probably call any number affiliated with them and talk your way to the right person.

Magnakai has it about right as to the approach. If it were me, I'd call studioaudience's number and start by saying, "I'd like to find out about the possibility of hosting an organ donor registration event at your New York site for the Bodies exhibition." "Hosting" and "event" sound professional and non-crazy, and who doesn't like organ donors? Definitely be sure to specify which exhibition and where, because it sounds like they do lots of different stuff and are not based in exclusively in New York.

I would avoid starting with "I'm a college student..." - if you act like a professional, they will take you as a professional.
posted by Sara C. at 6:41 PM on October 31, 2010

Thanks so much for the advice thus far! This will be really helpful for calling Bodies tomorrow. I would appreciate any other venue suggestions though, in the event that Bodies just will not allow an event to take place there.

@Sara C.- Does it make a difference whether or not a venue is associated with/belongs to a non-profit? I was under the impression that Bodies was a for-profit company but figured that their company's pr person/general manager at that location would just say, 'hey this seems like some good community outreach and makes us look socially responsible so let's go for it!'. Does that ever happen with a for-profit company?
posted by lovelygirl at 6:49 PM on October 31, 2010

I don't know. I know that most of the museums around the city that are registered nonprofits usually have avenues for handling this sort of thing. You can literally rent out galleries at the Met and throw a fundraising event, for instance. And they're used to doing a lot of community outreach, working with other charity/fundraising/advocacy situations, etc. And it might be that, because of its status as more of an exhibition and less of an organization, Bodies might not be quite as equipped for that sort of thing. Which doesn't mean they would say no. Just that they might not have a person whose job it is to facilitate this stuff. Which might make it a little harder to figure out.

I think you should at least call them up and try!
posted by Sara C. at 6:57 PM on October 31, 2010

Wait, hang on, are you thinking of actually hiring out a venue for an event, or just having a table at something that's going to be open anyway? Because they're two vastly different things, and you're almost certainly not going to get the former pro-bono. Nowhere's going to entrust you to run their building by themselves, and staff cost money. Someone's going to have to at least cover the cost of a manager's time, let alone compensating for any lost income due to the place not being open. This is a fact.

You also should contemplate something that you can at least offer them which is going to be good for them financially. Something like "We'll be bringing 100 people guaranteed, who will likely be buying food and drinks" or whatever the equivalent is. You might get someone awesome, but it's likely you'll get someone who has to think about these things.

Non-profits and for-profits giving up their time/money (because one is apparently the other...) is a huge and hugely complicated industry. Before you start working in the non-profit arena it's not apparent how much money is actually floating around and how business-minded most successful non-profits are. It's just that their mission statement is (usually(hopefully)) in the right place. That's not to say they don't rely on ordinary people's help in order to enact that mission statement, it's just that they will try and do things above board instead of hustling it all out with some cardboard and duct tape.

Which is a really long and roundabout way of saying that any major fundraising event will normally have had some kind of venue hire costs paid, have staff paid, have an AV company paid, etc etc... It's just that they know they'll sell all the tickets and they've priced them to turn a tidy profit. Difference is, it goes to a good cause.

What I'm trying hard to say (but failing apparently) is that you'll be best off just taking a sideline at something relevant, rather than taking over a place, mainly because you'll likely not be able to afford anywhere prestigious.

A side thought - if you do want a table there, but they want to charge you, then maybe get some stats on footfall (the exhibition will have these) and, if they're good enough, go to some Organ Donor Trust or Foundation of some kind and ask them to cover it. It's frontline work.

Also, based on what other people are saying, I'd at least have a shortlist of other venues.

tl;dr: Think of something they can get out of it. They won't give you the venue as a hire for free. If they want to charge you to set up a table, try a relevant funding source for help. Good luck!
posted by Magnakai at 7:30 PM on October 31, 2010

I just want to have a table somewhere. Sorry I wish there was an edit thing here so I could clarify.

We are required to plan events. They can be anything we want. I'm looking for well-known organizations/venues that will just let us set up a table w/our brochures and signs somewhere well-known with lots of foot traffic, etc. It's not fundraising because we're not collecting money. We want to get people to sign up and raise awareness for NYODN.

We have a budget of $200 for supplies and whatever we want, but can get more if we really need it.

Sorry if it was unclear!
posted by lovelygirl at 7:36 PM on October 31, 2010

Aaah! I keep thinking of things to say after I've already posted a response.

For the purposes of this assignment, having a table somewhere counts as an event. So I just want permission to set up a table at a venue that would already be open, like a museum/exhibit/or just somewhere that would attract a lot of sign-ups for organ donors. I just thought of Bodies because after going there, someone will generally leave with the mindset of 'wow, my body is amazing! I want to help someone and put my organs to good use!'. Where do potential organ donors hang out? Whole Foods? A gym?

Anyways, so Magnakai, what other venues would you suggest? Also, please let me know you're alright with me me-mailing you to ask more questions!
posted by lovelygirl at 7:45 PM on October 31, 2010

Just be sure you have as clear an idea as possible of exactly what you're asking for when you call, because they'll be far less likely to consider an event if it sounds like they're basically going to have to do all the coordinating FOR you.

If I was doing this, I'd call and ask who I needed to speak to about setting up a table at the event during (x) possible dates at (x) times for (x) project. Try to sound as though this is a perfectly commonplace request you're making. Ask them whether they think indoors or outdoors would be more appropriate. Get them thinking about how to facilitate your idea before the question of whether to kicks in all the way.

And don't be discouraged if you get the brush-off. You never know until you try!
posted by hermitosis at 7:51 PM on October 31, 2010

Well, setting up a table will probably be free, and sounds totally feasible. I'd just go ahead and call them. I thought you wanted to hire out the venue, so disregard most of my epic second comment there.
posted by Magnakai at 6:15 AM on November 1, 2010

So apparently my idea is so good, someone else has thought of it already. I called the 404 # that studioaudience found and got transferred to the NY Bodies exhibit. NYODN has already set up their own event at Bodies, via their official marketing/communications director and both organizations have been working together for some time.

Any other suggestions for locations? I'm just feeling a little discouraged now.
posted by lovelygirl at 12:31 PM on November 1, 2010


Gyms would be interesting - "you don't have to waste all the effort you put into making your body awesome even after you die"...

You're in NY, perhaps ask the Streb Centre? A burlesque show (heh, make organ-shaped pasties to sell!)?
posted by divabat at 2:24 PM on November 1, 2010

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