Throwing an Impactful & Instagrammable Party
Although I’ve signed up for countless Melyssa Griffin, Lewis Howes, and other creative entrepreneur webinars (tbh, I only have the attention span to sit through 1 out of 10 of them [I heart you Jasmine Star please don’t take me off your email list!]), my business still isn’t at the 7 figure level yet (and no surprise why, haha, I need a webinar accountability partner, ya know what I’m saying?). But, despite the numbers, I used my story and resources to raise $27,000 for my favorite philanthropy, Compassion International through an Instagrammable party.
As a photographer and storyteller, I’ve had the fortune of accruing many stamps in my passport from around the world. The most meaningful trip was traveling to Uganda to visit Margaret, my sponsored child through Compassion International, an organization that focuses on getting children out of spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty.
Maggie was 3 years old when I met her in 2013. She was bashful, but energetic. Her little frame and incredible eyelashes hard to forget. We didn’t speak the same language, but with bright eyes and pointed fingers (Chicken! Brother! Bouncy house!), I knew her heart.
When Maggie lost her home in 2016 due to a fire, Compassion executed immediate response systems to provide shelter and safety for her and her family.
A different kind of fire ignited inside of me when I heard this news. I was both heartbroken and relieved. These emotions drove me to hallelujah-hands-emoji for this organization that did an incredible job caring for Margaret. I had already maxed out what I was able to give financially for the year (they put a cap on direct financial gifts so that the recipients don’t becoming financially dependent on sponsors. I this level of integrity and wisdom in a non-profit), but wanted to do more.
So, I did what I knew how to do best: I created something beautiful; I threw an Instagrammable party.
Giant balloon installations.
Bathtubs filled with ping pong balls.
A Boomerang booth.
A gratitude table.
Surprise ukulele performances.
A virtual reality experience.
And simply sharing my story, Maggie’s story.
These highlighted our event’s value of people.
Of relationships carrying us far.
It inspired our guests to start friendships with children 9,300 miles away.
Takeaways & Tips from our Instagrammable party
Being philanthropic is beyond money. Be unashamed to bring your gifts to life to make a difference. If you’re a painter, donate one of your pieces to an auction. If you’re a writer, write about why you care about this cause. If you’re a performer, put together a small performance and have a requested donation. If you’re a service provider, consider implementing a give back model into your proposals. For example, if your client donates $100 to a non-profit, you will give them $200 off their wedding package (shoutouts to @sandrachilep a fellow wedding photographer in Philadelphia for this model! She says 49 out of 50 people take her up on this offer). Giving back is truly one of the greatest gifts, and I find that we often gain so much more than we could ever give.
With pushing the Ethical Weddings movement, I believe wholeheartedly that the wedding celebration is a good day to do good. Even though I haven’t planned my own wedding yet, my background with hosting events gave me the confidence that it is possible to have your cake and create good, too. Last November, Claire and I threw a bash that was good for the ‘gram and good for the world. Plus, she wore black and I wore white so it was almost like a wedding, ya know? haha.
From that party, here are my 4 Secrets on How to Host an Instagrammable Party With Social Impact.
ONE – START WITH WHY
Are you a Simon Sinek-ian? Then you’ll understand the above title *wink.
A party for party’s sake is notable, but pivoting that power for good; now that’s powerful. My galpal/ roommate/soul-sister Claire and I met at a Thanksgiving party in 2011, and it’s been glitter since. Our friend Linda hosted a party where she invited us orphans who stayed in San Francisco for the holiday into her home as extended family. It was the perfect environment for Claire and me, then recent transplants to this city, to connect and begin a phenomenal friendship.
Out of gratitude and in celebration of our fifth friendship anniversary, we wanted to foster this same environment of hospitality and easy connection that Linda modeled for us, plus encourage our attendees to do the same.
Our why behind Friendsgiving Friendaversary was to celebrate the good that came in our lives through our friendship + to create an environment for new friendships to start + to cultivate excitement for our favorite international friendships by raising funds for Compassion International.
Finalizing our why came about while we were eating sweet potatoes at our kitchen table (obvs where most of our gossipy and deep and LOL convos happen). We knew we wanted a pretty event, but we also knew we didn’t want just a pretty event.
Having our why as a solid foundation allowed us to dream fantastically for our Instagrammable party.
TWO – LEAD WITH LIGHT
Knowing that most of our guests would be Instagramming/Snap-chatting/Facebook Live-ing Millennials (actually, let’s be real, a big reason is that I am an Instagramming/Snap-chatting/Facebook Live-ing Millennial) we had to be mindful of how the environment would photograph. Even though as photographers we use heavy white balance, being mindful of how light affects mood is K E Y. Simply testing the environment on your phone camera is a handy trick.
We looked through a lot of venues before we decided on The Clementina. It was inviting and warm, but not too distracting; a canvas for our ideas to live in. We browsed Airbnb and Peerspace and stumbled on this gem of a venue. With its minimal white walls, vintage bar, and mid-century furniture, we were sold. It was all the Brooklyn vibes we wanted while in the heart of super-accessible SOMA in San Francisco.
We pitched the owners Kyleigh Kuhn (a #girlboss social entrepreneur) and Ryan (a Michelin trained chef/ DJ/all-around cool guy) our vision for the Friendsgiving Friendaversary during our site visit and they loved it since they host events that are fueled by passion.
And, since we knew much of our party would be documented, we knew that its white walls and ceilings would bounce light well. In the dark entrance room, we loved the contrast that we knew our giant white balloons would bring there, too.
THREE – GATHER YOUR SQUAD
We called in a lot of favors: from bouncers to media gurus; from gratitude hosts to mulled wine creators. The friendships we’ve been building in the city over the past 5 years were shimmery as confetti that night and totally necessary to pull this party off.
We had friends who were great at engaging with people help at our gratitude table (write your own thank you cards), those who were great at spinning many plates, lead the event and food coordination, those who knew the non-profit we were raising funds for share about their child sponsorship experience at our Compassion table, colleagues who do video & photography create art with our photo experiences and boomerang bar, and our eloquent and engaging Airbnb guest slash creative soul sister Farrah, emcee our event.
It’s hard to pull off something like this with just two. I can’t thank our crew enough for saying yes to our asks!
FOUR – ENGAGE THE SENSES
The more you can immerse your guests, the more you can leave an impact. Brainstorm ways can you engage the senses to give your guests an experience to remember.
SIGHT: We wanted to tell people of the little girls Maggie and Joanada that we have befriended in Uganda through our sponsorship with Compassion International. The best way we found to do that was through VR technology to have people understand the life of these kiddos in East Africa. We found incredible 360 YouTube videos and created an East Africa playlist.
SOUND: We did a collaborative Spotify playlist and my friend Brenda and I also performed a little ukulele number.
TOUCH: Claire knocked it out of the park with her balloon installations and ping pong ball bathtub. Thank you, Amazon Prime.
TASTE: Mulled wine in November? All the feelings of home, yes! Compartes Chocolate, GIVE ME.
Four of our guests were moved to sponsor children in Uganda that night. And, here’s my math on it. Mind you I’m an artist, not a mathematician, so these are approximations: Sponsor a child at $38 a month = $456 annually x 15 years [I’ll be sponsoring Maggie until she is 18 years old] = $6,840 x four people sponsoring = $27,360. That’s was more $ than my first year in business!) On top of that, many other of our friends donated directly to the organization itself.
Throwing an Instagrammable party was one of the most gratifying win-win-win evenings in my adult life. Knowing that new friendships were started, more kiddos sponsored through Compassion, and that Claire and I celebrated this incredible friendship was a sense of contentment that Visa cannot buy.
Bathtub Photo Experience: Joseph Ilustrisimo | http://www.josephgabriel.net/ Black & White Booth: Krysta Sinclair | http://www.krystasinclair.com/ Boomerang Bar: Brenda Aguilar | http://www.aguilardesign.com/
Catering: Sal De Vida | http://www.saldevidagourmet.com
Florals: Ampersand | http://www.ampersandsf.com
Master of Ceremonies: Farrah Taher | https://www.instagram.com/farrahtaherofficial/
Venue: The Clementina | http://www.theclementina.com
Photography: Carly Mask | http://www.carlymask.com
Photo Experience Design: Claire Xue | http://www.clairexue.style
Video: Joe Na | http://www.joenagraphy.com/