Spotlight on the Pacesetters: The Washington, DC-Baltimore Chapter

by Kevin Cuddihy on 12 March 2014

The deadline for communities to apply for the Pacesetter Award is Tuesday, 25 March. The Pacesetter Award recognizes the successful implementation of a single beneficial innovation that may be implemented by other STC communities, as opposed to the overall evaluation that takes place for the Community Achievement Award. We’re highlighting a few of the communities that received the Pacesetter Award last year with a Q&A with community leaders. (See previous posts about the Chicago Chapter, Carolina Chapter, New York Metro Chapter, and the Rocky Mountain Chapter)

The Washington, DC-Baltimore Chapter received their Pacesetter Award “for jointly planning and executing Tech the Halls! Holiday Party in coordination with local communication organizations to celebrate the DC area’s status as a tech mecca while providing STC Washington, DC–Baltimore members with management experience, networking opportunities, and exposure to diverse groups of professional communicators.” Carolyn Kelley Klinger talked with us about the chapter earned the award and what it meant to the community. See the STC website for more information about the Pacesetter Award, and then apply for your community today!

Can you expand a bit more on what you received your Pacesetter Award for?

We received our 2013 Pacesetter Award for jointly planning and executing the Tech the Halls! Holiday Party in coordination with local communication organizations, which we held on 5 December 2012. The groups that we worked with were DC Web Women (DCWW), the User Experience Professionals Association, DC Chapter (UXPA-DC), Interaction Design Association, DC (IxDA-DC), Web Mavens, Content Strategy Meetup, Reaching Latinos Online, and I am Diversity in Tech (IamDTech). Our purpose was to meet, share ideas, network, and celebrate the fact that DC has arrived as a tech mecca. We provided our members and volunteers with management experience, networking opportunities, and exposure to diverse groups of professional communicators.

This was the first time that our chapter actively recruited sponsors for something other than event space.

What gave you the idea?

The dynamic president of DCWW, Sibyl Edwards, conceived of the idea and approached us. We have been offering joint events with DCWW for many years. DCWW is free to join and has over 3,000 members. The group started as an email discussion list, which is still very active, and quickly started adding local events. Many of our chapter’s members are also DCWW members, which despite the name, also includes Web men.

What kind of work and/or planning was involved?

Two of our chapter’s leaders, Carolyn Klinger and Viqui Dill, attended monthly planning calls that started in the summer of 2012. We helped scout out event locations, discuss finances, and most of all, educate each other on how to recruit corporate sponsors. Both DCWW and UXPA-DC provided leadership in attracting corporate sponsors but our chapter quickly proved up to their standard, as we almost immediately recruited two sponsors, Adobe and MadCap, who each donated a license of their flagship software product, TCS4 and MadPak Suite, respectively, for our raffle. MadCap was also a Silver Sponsor, donating $500. We created an EventBrite page just for sponsors and spread the message about the value they would receive by sponsoring us. We used the following language:

By sponsoring Tech the Halls!, you are supporting DC’s premier tech organizations and publicizing your brand to over 4,000 men and women between the average ages of 21–65 who are working in technology and STEM-based careers.

While 140 people attended the event, over 4,000 received the email and other social media promotions.

The other organizations we worked with also recruited sponsors and we ended up with $5,500 and many valuable items such as the software products mentioned above.

Besides planning corporate sponsorship, each group contributed towards the event in ways that highlighted their strengths. DCWW created signs and a slideshow highlighting our event’s beautiful logo and our chapter worked with Adobe on a virtual presentation by Maxwell Hoffman, among other activities. We all provided volunteers to help with setup, the welcome table, and the raffle.

How can other STC communities apply this idea to their community?

Other STC communities could replicate this event. They could consider the following high-level procedure.

  1. Approach local Meetups and related organizations to find out if they would be interested in planning an event with you.
  2. Determine your costs and decide whether the goal is to break even or earn a profit (each of our groups with a budget—note that Meetups often do not have budgets but can recruit corporate sponsors—paid approximately $150 in the end).
  3. Decide how much money or goods you need to collect to make this event a reality. We charged $25 to attend and increased the price to $45 after a certain date. We covered most of our costs, which included the club rental, food and alcohol package with the club, and promotional products, through sponsorship.
  4. Decide on sponsorship levels, using the ones listed in our sponsorship EventBrite as a guide. Using EventBrite makes it easy for sponsors to pay by credit card anytime, easing the logistics of sponsorship. Since Adobe is based in India, they could not use our EventBrite. They chose instead to request an invoice, issue a PO, and send us a check. While we had to wait quite a while for payment, we are now in their accounts payable system and the process should get easier this year.

Why do you think a community should apply for a Pacesetter Award?

STC communities often take for granted the heroic activities they accomplish on a regular basis. It only takes a new spin on a time-honored community activity to make it unique and worthy of a Pacesetter Award. All communities should strive to win recognition for their activities. Not only do awards celebrate the super powers of current volunteers but they inspire members and future members to become more involved and part of the community’s success.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Our chapter gratefully acknowledges Adobe’s sponsorship of our 12 December 2013 event. Adobe was the event’s exclusive Diamond Sponsor in 2013.

We had two EventBrite sites for our 2013 event.

Just for fun, here are our photos from our first Tech the Halls in 2012 and from Tech the Halls in 2013.

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