How Referral Relationships Created A Carnival

A couple of months ago my husband was asked to serve on a carnival committee to help raise funds for a local school.  Although he participates in a variety of community activities through my work-related affiliations, he has rarely had time to be “hands-on” with events and has gone out of his way to avoid committee work because it is “inefficient.”

After spending several months in a local leadership program, he felt like he had the skills and insight to be able to make meaningful contributions to the carnival project, so when he was asked, he said yes.  He didn’t really have any more time than before, so he decided to be efficient with the time he did have and use referrals to shorten the timeline. Here’s how he did it.

  • Hear a Great Idea? Refer that person to the right people. My husband actually ended up on the committee as the result of a referral.  He was asked to share any ideas he might have to improve the carnival.  He suggested a “signature” food like tamales and the next thing he knew, he was asked to join the committee.
  • Who do you know who..? He knew he had to deliver on the tamales idea, so he contacted a couple of friends who were Hispanic and they, in turn, referred him to cooks, supply vendors and provided some ideas for creating large quantities of this savory delight.
  • Use your own network. The committee decided to move the carnival from the previous location on the school grounds to the local county 4-H Fairgrounds. After more than a month of not having phone calls or emails returned, the committee became concerned that they would not be able to get a contract signed in time. My husband used his personal connections with an auxiliary member of the fair board and asked him to refer the committee to the correct people.  The referral source took it a step farther and helped them secure the contract in under a week.
  • Know your network. One of the 4-H Fair Board’s major concerns about hosting the carnival was that the organization would have alcohol and gambling on site.  Having anticipated that concern, my husband made contact with a former employer who is the current president of the Shrine Club—conveniently located right outside the Fairgrounds—and struck a profit-sharing deal with the organization.  The Shrine is able to raise funds for the Shriners’s Hospital and still help the school.
  • Turn to your closest contacts. The new location offers a huge amount a space that can be utilized to help raise additional funds for the school. My husband started by asking me if I had any ideas.  It so happens that I know a local Hot Air Balloon pilot who told me that he had a tethered hot air balloon program that would allow non-profits to raise funds. I made an email introduction and they struck a deal.
  • Treat unsolicited referrals with respect. One of the 4-H Fair Board members was so impressed by the committee’s ideas that he referred them to a company that does zip line rides and would share the profits with the school.
  • Ask for help. But there was still a great deal of space that could still be utilized, so my husband solicited more ideas and a car show was suggested. Now, this committee is very small and anyone who has ever hosted or attended a car show knows that it takes lots of volunteers. So my husband began tapping into his network of friends with classic cars.  Within days he had the names and phone numbers of several top car club presidents and several offers of help.
  • Utilize OPN (Other People’s Networks). Marketing the carnival was a top priority, so the committee, which by now had started to catch on to the idea of using referrals to lighten their load, called a variety of other local groups and asked for their help in getting the word out.

Carnival Referral Prizes:

  • Build your network before you need it.
  • Pay attention to your friends’ and co-worker’s many activities and organizations.
  • When people give you a referral, act on it quickly and be sure to let the referrers know the outcome.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask everyone/anyone you know for help.
  • Listen to other people’s requests for help and be prepared to refer them to folks who can help. One of the best ways to get good referrals is to give them.


Filed under Non-Profits

3 responses to “How Referral Relationships Created A Carnival

  1. Don

    Nicely written, Jill ! (and I wonder what local leadership program he’d gone through? Hmmmm.)

  2. Fantastic article! I’m gonna share THIS to help educate my network.

  3. Great post! I tweeted & shared it with someone in my network who specializes in fundraising events for non-profits.

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