Interviewer: Maximillian Corwell
1. Tell us a little bit about how you got started with doing non-profit work. Was this something you always had a passion for?
I have always been somewhat involved in the nonprofit world, but I found that being a toy sorter back in 2005 at Atlanta’s Toy Party was truly inspiring. The magnitude of the event, and the effect that it had was just so monumental.
2. Atlanta Field Day is in its second year now, tell us a little bit about the organization and who it supports.
Atlanta Field Day was created to be a fun and entertaining morning of races that ultimately helps local nonprofits through fundraising…this year’s beneficiary is CHRIS Kids, a well-known Atlanta organization that helps children in need. I wasn’t always the most athletic child, and I always knew what field day was supposed to be and how much fun it was supposed to be, so Atlanta Field Day is a way to recapture and reinterpret that day. I have built Atlanta Field Day so that 100% of monies raised go directly to the beneficiary. If the website says we raised $30,000.00, I write a check for $30,000.00. Corporate donations cover the overhead expenses like hula-hoops, costumes, field rental, popsicles, etc.
3. Why CHRIS Kids?
CHRIS Kids seems to foot really well with the spirit of Atlanta Field Day. Did you know that the CHRIS part of their name is an acronym? It stands for: Creativity, Honor, Respect, Integrity, and Safety… who can’t get behind that?
4. Doing non-profit work is extremely hard work. Do you have another job outside of this? How do you find time to do it all?
It’s a lot, and I have my partner to thank for keeping me sane. I work from 9 to 5 at the Points of Light Institute in the IT department. Then I come home and work on Atlanta Field Day until about midnight. That being said, I love it. It isn’t really work when it is something I enjoy doing so much.
5. As you finish up the fundraising season, how much money do you hope to raise this year? How much was raised last year?
Last year, we raised just over $13,000.00, which was great in its first year and beat my goal of $10,000. This year, my goal was $20,000.00, but currently, our total online is over $22,000.00 and we still have ½ a month to go! I am so excited! I think we will be able to break $30,000.00. That’s a lot of money and will affect real change for an organization.
6. How are people able to get involved, and are there different ways for participate?
There are a number of ways to participate. The way Atlanta Field Day works is: You get friends together, you start a team, your teams raises at least $500.00, and then your team can compete in all the races! The more money you raise, however, the more entries you get! Atlanta Field Day is for everyone – there are races that range from the 50-yard dash to an airplane toss (where you build a paper plane). There are team relays, and there are partner events too, like the 3-legged race! If someone doesn’t want to compete, they can always come out to cheer their favorite team on, and donate to your favorite team as well! We are also always looking for volunteers.
7. When you aren’t working so hard, what do you manage to do in your free time?
Free time? I guess I should go the gym, my poor polyester pants I wear at the event have to work sooooo hard! But in my free time, I read, have coffee with friends, volunteer some. I don’t know, I imagine what most people do.
8. Do you think Atlanta is a hard city when it comes to fundraising and organizing events? What is the key to running a successful fundraiser?
Wow. I am only in my 2nd year, so I don’t have a pantheon of knowledge like many of the events that have been so very successful and effective here in Atlanta. I mean, for me, I started with friends. It all starts there. I am so lucky to have some of the most generous friends in the world, and not just financially generous, they are supportive, reliable, and generous with their time, talent, patience, and laughter. They help me run the day as volunteers or are involved in teams. The day is supposed to be fun and intimate and be a morning of laughter with friends. Our theme this year is Come to Play, and we mean it.
9. How long have you been in Atlanta now? What is your favorite “Best Kept Secret” in this city?
I am actually an Atlanta native and grew up in Tucker – OTP. I left to go to college and then lived all over for about 15 years, and then moved back in 2004. Atlanta’s best kept secret? The surprisingly beautiful East Palisades Park on the Chattahoochee River or Little Bangkok on Cheshire Bridge. Wait, don’t mention Little Bangkok, I already have to wait for a table.
10. Finding volunteers, asking people for money, getting places to donate supplies, and so on is not an easy task. How do you overcome these obstacles? Do you think people shy away from volunteering because they are afraid to approach people and places for free things?
I can’t even pretend to have the answers to this, I would love to find this out. For volunteers, it is hard to thank them enough for what they do and the time they give. I just try to make it fun for them. For sponsors, I try to give them as much exposure as possible without the day seeming like a commercial, and for donors, well the day is about 50% competition, 40% entertainment, and 10% ridiculous. We spend $20.00 just to sit in the dark and watch a movie. A morning of races and laughter with friends that ultimately helps some needy local organizations seems like a great way to spend some money.
11. Besides for your own non-profit, what is another organization in the city you are really proud of right now?
The people behind Joining Hearts have been so great and supportive during Atlanta Field Day’s fledgling stage. You know, I tend to gravitate towards organizations that have a direct and immediate effect like the Atlanta Food Bank or Project Open Hand or for causes that have affected me or my friends like The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training, Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS), Atlanta, or the Southeast Brain Tumor Foundation.
12. There are many children out there who are in neglected family situations, one of the things CHRIS Kids tries to fight against. Do you have a personal story that ties into your connection with this charity?
I don’t have a personal story, but that doesn’t detract from my commitment to affect real change for children who are currently in need.
13. Atlanta Field Day is a very unique event, how did you come up with the concept of this?
Well, I have a group of great friends who happen to be very competitive… I’m not. Not even a little. No way… In fact I would say I am the MOST uncompetitive of them all… of ANYONE, really! Atlanta Field Day is very different in terms of fundraisers, I mean, there are rules, and referees, and tickets, and T Shirts, and races, and points and awards… it is a lot of organization. I spend a lot of time developing it, and planning it out, and bouncing ideas off of people.
14. Anything else you wish to throw in?
I would like to thank David Magazine for their support – this is the 2nd year you have been a Media Sponsor and I so appreciate it… now I got to go! I have 50 hula-hoops to make, I need to find 60 cowboy hats, and do you know how hard it is to find green polyester bike coach shorts.