Here at the Chamber we take our nonprofit status very seriously. That is not to say that we go out of our way to lose money – none of our major events are allowed to go in the red – but at the end of the day my job as President is not to get as much money out of each business that I can or to make as much money as possible for the organization. It is to provide opportunity, to create and strengthen ties of fellowship, and to preserve and grow the health of a business community. Unfortunately much of that does not fall into a quantifiable metric. I can’t assign a statistic to “provide opportunity” and compare it against last year.
Money however is measurable and comparable, and for that reason it is easy to focus far too sharply on the finances of a project or event. The temptation is to look at an event and say “How much money did it make/cost?” and cast judgement by that alone. Every time we do so, without asking ourselves what were the purposes of the event or project (and there’s always more than one purpose or it’s not worth doing), we lose sight of the fact that we are a service organization made up of members supporting each other and their community. We are not, cannot, and should not be a business driven by profit.
Our annual Crawfish Festival is our largest fundraiser that typically brings in 20% or more of our annual gross income. And this year we had a good one. It is featured in this issue, so I’ll let you read the article but it was an unmitigated success. The vendors loved it, the crowd loved it, the schools loved it – it was an amazing day. And yes, we made money.
But more importantly we provided a venue for almost 90 businesses to interact directly with the residents of the Heights. We showed the community that the Chamber is an active participant, and showed that our sponsors care about the Greater Heights. We showcased local schools and gave the Greater Heights the chance to see that our schools are talented, driven, and strong. We gave families a comfortable atmosphere to make memories. I saw friends reconnect, kids run and laugh, smiles between strangers, and a united populace on display. This is why we have our Crawfish Festival. We could have a different fundraiser, perhaps one that makes more money. But it would not serve the Chamber’s purpose for being the same way.
Something I heard frequently though as I zipped around the festival (addressing things like I do), was “Whew! Much better than last year!” and “Bet you’re glad this isn’t like last year!” And yes, I’m glad it didn’t rain. And yes, the festival was “better” than last year in terms of attendance, perception, and money. It behooves me to point out something though.
A lot of work went into to last year’s festival. It was well planned, well supported, and well run. Most of the same committee came back to put together this year’s event. Most of last year’s vendors looked around –were impressed with how we handled everything, including the rain – and decided to return. Most of our sponsors renewed their support, and in some cases increased it. Much of the planning and strategy from last year carried forward. Last year was a good festival – even if it didn’t make us much money. And it served as the foundation for this year’s success. We owe respect and gratitude to last year’s festival team, not disappointment and disdain.
So I hope you enjoyed this year’s festival. It was a blast and we are all riding high on the success. But let us never lose sight of why we do what we do. It’s what make our Chamber great.
Your Chamber President