Launched in 2013 by Che “Rhymefest” Smith and Donnie Smith, Donda’s House, Inc. provides unprecedented access and education from leading experts in the music, fashion, and entertainment industry to Chicago’s creative youth and young adults. Donda’s House has direct access to accomplished professionals, artists and curators in the industry and leverages these connections to provide training, incentives and employment opportunities for the programs participants who are 14 – 24 years old.
Our project was a presentation pitched to a DePaul student organization, the DePaul Music Business Organization. Our goal was to spread awareness about Donda’s House as well as recruit some potential volunteers that would be able to assist Donda’s House in the future. In addition, we also suggested to the student organization that Donda’s House could potentially be a great partner that could bring together great local artists and people who are interested in breaking into the music industry.
Decide on an initial project plan
We worked with the client to draft an initial plan for a donor reception (fundraising event) which would be followed by a Chicago Blues Festival Finalist Audition. We shortlisted a venue based on client partnership, time, and other attractions during the event such as silent auction, raffle, and presentation.
Create a contingency plan
We created a risk plan for the donor reception event and brainstormed ideas for a target audience and presentation for an awareness event if initial project plan falls through.
Initial project not possible, employ contingency plan
Three weeks to the event, client informed that venue partner would be able to honor the commitment and we must look at alternatives. Since we had a contingency in place, we quickly started mapping out specifics of awareness event collaborating with the DePaul Music Business Organization.
Coordinate with student organization and create presentation
We reached out to DePaul Music Business Organization and locked on a date to present to all the members of the student organization. We then finalized talking points, presentation, video introduction and variety of volunteer opportunities to be discussed at the event along with snacks for the attendees.
Present to DePaul Music Business Organization at its bi-weekly meeting
Coordinated arrival of the student organization and project team members to the event location with snacks for the attendees. Delivered the presentation and followed it up with space on student organization newsletter to augment our in-person presentation.
We conducted an awareness event for a student organization so there were minimal costs involved in our event. As snacks for the attendees, the project management team made an in-kind donation (cookies) worth $10.
Objectives & Outcomes
Establish awareness of Donda’s House
Raised awareness by giving an overview of the organization at the DMBO event as well as through channels DMBO shared the event as well as the volunteer link.
Establish relationship between Donda’s House and DePaul Music Business Organization
Made the connection between the two to start getting DMBO members involved with volunteering.
Receive positive feedback from event attendees
Received attendee engagement and questions during the event.
Received a follow up email from the organization contact expressing members’ interest in getting involved.
- Our original plan of doing the donor reception for Donda’s House at the Virgin Hotels was pushed back to mid-June, two weeks after Final’s week for DePaul after supposedly being finalized. Our team’s response due to a lack of time was to create an awareness event partnering with a student organization from DePaul. We picked the DePaul Music Business Group thinking the organization was an excellent fit because Donda’s House has connections to top professionals in the music, fashion, and entertainment industry, contains local roots, and can provide excellent resume booster experience for undergraduate students.
- After agreeing to speak at the meeting run by DePaul Music Business Group, our point-of-contact notified us the day before that nobody from their organization can go to speak at the event we were partnering up with due to scheduling an event of their own on the same day. We responded by quickly asking for the organization to send us a PowerPoint/video that we can prepare and present ourselves during the event.
- On the hour of our event, there was a clash between pro-Trump and anti-Trump protestors right by Lincoln Park’s Student Center where our event was taking place. Public safety officials and law enforcement officers did not let anyone with a DePaul student ID into the building, so we responded by postponing the start of the meeting with the Group to allow extra time for attendees to come in.
Overall, the initial event had to be completely replaced and there was a lack of stakeholder engagement. There were a variety of curveballs that our group had to face and find immediate, effective solutions for. Our response was multiple brainstorming sessions to make our solutions more creative as well as constantly adjusting our risk management plan to potentially stop any future problems from happening.
Examples of Effective / Ineffective Project Management Activities
- We could successfully come up with a backup plan under a tight time constraint after our initial proposal fell through.
- Our team met weekly to discuss updates on the project and what we needed to complete that week. This helped keep everyone on our team in the loop and have clear goals and initiatives in place.
- We were able to make a presentation conveying the ideals of Donda’s House and answer all of questions without a representative of the organization being there.
- We planned different contingency plans in case our initial project fell through, which proved to be very helpful.
- We had a communication discrepancy with the organization regarding the event space.
- We didn’t include a venue issue in our contingency plan, since we thought it was secured.
Even if your risk management plan is thorough, unforeseen obstacles may arise. The one logistic detail we thought was certain and was a determining factor of our entire event ended up falling through. It’s the project manager’s responsibility to keep the team positive and to take initiative of brainstorming backup solutions if they weren’t already on the plan.
When making a decision that needs to be done quickly, don’t rush it so fast that you don’t think strategically about what the effects could be. If we wouldn’t have taken the time to find a student organization that wasn’t aligned with our nonprofit then it wouldn’t have been a good use of our time/a meaningful event. The time spent up front finding an organization ended up saving time overall.
Advice for Future Teams
- Spend time researching and brainstorming to come up with multiple ideas as a team.
- Create a substantial risk management plan including all possible risks, as you may need to use it.