The Center for Architecture Foundation recently held a unique fundraiser, Guess-A-Sketch. It caught our eye as something many AAO members might emulate in their own communities, especially design education programs. We sat down with Jaime Endreny, the Foundation’s Executive Director, to discuss the success of the inaugural Guess-A-Sketch event.
AAO: What inspired the Foundation to produce Guess-A-Sketch? Is this something you’ve been meaning to try for some time? Was it a staff idea or did it come from your volunteers?
Jaime Endreny (JE): In 2011, we were fortunate to receive a grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies for capacity building. With this funding, we were able to engage in more long-term planning and complete a three-year development plan. The plan included strategies to make our fundraising more robust on many levels, and one of the main ideas was to host our own fundraising event. In years past, we had done smaller events or special events in partnership with AIA New York, but never fully on our own. The Guess-A-Sketch idea actually stemmed from a casual conversation among a few board and staff members after a board meeting. Everyone loved it! The fun, game-like quality spoke to our mission and our desire for a fundraising event that was different from a typical cocktail party or dinner. After we looked into some of the logistics and they worked out…we ran with the idea!
AAO: Was there a typical participant? Younger architects? Volunteers with your programs?
JE: Part of our reason for hosting this kind of event was to draw a younger architecture and design crowd as well as a non-professionals, such as teachers who participate in our in-school residency programs, parents, and the general public. While certainly a lot of young architects participated, the crowd was a great mix, and many colleagues came to cheer their team on.
AAO: Can you briefly describe how the activities were organized? Were multiple sketches happening at the same time? In different rooms? Was it organized like a tournament?
JE: We spent a lot of timing thinking about how the game would be organized. In fact, we held a practice night with our board and volunteers about two months in advance to iron out any kinks, test our paper and drawing materials, and figure out the guidelines. We were happy with what we decided. We had a total of nine teams (5 players on each team) and four honoree sketchers. We paired the honorees in teams of two and had them draw the same image – this was decided partially so that all the teams could see the sketches and also because we found during our practice night that multiple sketches of the same image added a fun dynamic. The event took place in one room on one main stage where all the action was. With nine teams, we created a tournament bracket. Each group played four rounds and the winner advanced to the final round. After four final rounds, the winner was crowned.
AAO: I’m picturing this as a casual atmosphere and a good match for promoting the Foundation’s educational values. Can you report how much you were able to raise from the activity?
JE: Yes, the event was more of a casual game night rather than a typical gala dinner or cocktail party. We netted over $60,000 from the event, which was beyond our expectations for year one. Next year, we will certainly have a silent auction with the sketches that were created that night – they were really beautiful!
AAO: Are you thinking this could be annualized? And, as a related follow-up: in your opinion, what did you find most rewarding and useful about this fundraiser?
JE: Definitely! We were all very pleased with the event and plan to make it our annual fundraiser for years to come. Because we had never done our own event before, one of the most rewarding aspects of the night was to realize that we could plan a successful benefit that met our goals. Looking out from the stage at 200 smiling faces was unbelievable! The organization had never done anything like that before, so it was great to be at the helm for this milestone. Equally rewarding was that we had a huge amount of board involvement. Part of our goal for having this event was to provide another vehicle for board members to achieve their give or get, and Guess-A-Sketch yielded 100% board participation! Not only did the board members fundraise, but they also were very active on the event planning committee and reaching out to help secure our honoree sketchers and teams. Having a venue for more involvement generated lots of enthusiasm this year and in the future, too!