The Power of Storytelling in Nonprofit Events

Infographic for Beat the Streets Los Angeles - design by Brian Guerrero

It’s Event ‘Design’, not Event ‘Planning’

As April wraps up, it’s with great satisfaction that we look in review at the 2nd Annual Benefit for Beat the Streets Los Angeles, a nonprofit where I direct a lot of my creative energy at.

For the last blog post of the month, Beat the Streets LA published this infographic (above) titled ‘By the Numbers’.  As the dust settled after the April 10th Event and figures were calculated we were affirmed that non only was the Benefit successful as a quality event in telling our organization’s story, but it was equally successful in dollars raised.  The best of both worlds.  So with much pride, I enjoyed designing the infographic.  Looking at the ‘Numbers’, two things are certain… first, evidenced by so many generous donations people really believe in the Beat the Streets mission… and second, people love ice cream sandwiches! :)

Creating a successful fundraiser is as much about design and storytelling as it’s about event planning.  While there is a venue to book, vendors to hire and invitations to send out this is only a fraction of what goes into a nonprofit event.  In fact, while those first three boxes-to-check so to speak seem routine, each offer an opportunity to tell the story about an organization.  Our choice of venue in this case was no exception.  The Holding Co., an old mechanic’s shop northwest of downtown LA turned-event-space was a fantastic match for the Beat the Streets LA brand.

 

Guests of the 2nd Annual Benefit arrive through an alleyway and enter through an industrial steel door. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

Guests of the 2nd Annual Benefit arrive through an alleyway and enter through an industrial steel door. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

As guests entered the space they were introduced to the first interactive component of the Benefit, a birch wood faced wall comprised of 70 individual wood plaques with CNC inscribed numbers representing dollar values. This wasn’t just a backdrop for our evening’s stage, this was a donor opportunity, The Camp Scholarship Wall.  A call-to-action which prompted guests to pledge dollar values displayed on the wood panels pursuant of one unified goal for the evening, to fund 50 Summer camp scholarships for our organization’s youth.  A tall order, but guests answered the call within 3 hours we raised $25,500.  Every panel turned over.

The Camp Scholarship Wall with a few early pledges. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

The Camp Scholarship Wall with a few early pledges. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

Panels with CNC cut pledge values. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

Panels with CNC cut pledge values. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

Founder and President of the Board Andy Barth (pictured left), congratulates fellow Board Member Jeff Newman on a very generous pledge. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

Founder and President of the Board Andy Barth (pictured left), congratulates fellow Board Member Jeff Newman on a very generous pledge. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

The Camp Scholarship Wall was a focal point throughout the evening and stood as center stage. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

The Camp Scholarship Wall was a focal point throughout the evening and stood at center stage. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

With all 70 panels turned over, and that particular goal reached, a message affirming the achievement which will provide a life experience to boys and girls of Beat the Streets LA in the coming summer.  This shows the power of a live call-to-action made interactive.

The evening's MC, DJ Bino congratulates attendees on turning over every panel on the board, a total pledge of $25,500. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

The evening’s MC, DJ Bino congratulates attendees on turning over every panel on the board, a total pledge of $25,500. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

Moving to the indoor space of the venue we curated a gallery of moments and portraits of our youth.  A moment in the evening where people can pause and immerse in some highlights of the past year.

Photo gallery featuring young leaders of Beat the Streets Los Angeles. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

Photo gallery featuring young leaders of Beat the Streets Los Angeles. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

A forward about the gallery of photos.  Photo by Dana Barsuhn

A forward about the gallery of photos. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

The series is a collection of photographs I took over the course of this past season and in the forward, displayed above as a vinyl decal I wrote, “Individual portraits featured here include Leaderships Award recipients recognizing student athletes who exhibit traits of commitment, accountability, perseverance and respect.”

Like the vinyl decal for the Gallery description, we used the vinyl medium as an opportunity to communicate our message and identity throughout the Holding Co’s industrial space.

The Beat the Streets Los Angeles tagline "Building Tomorrow's Leaders" displayed across the mezzanine wall in vinyl, black.  Photo by Dana Barsuhn

The Beat the Streets Los Angeles tagline “Building Tomorrow’s Leaders” displayed across the mezzanine wall in vinyl, black. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

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The quote from a young student athlete of Beat the Streets LA. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

Using a common tool of fundraising events, we took the opportunity of a live & silent auctions to place touches of the organization’s identity and style into both the items and the setup.

The silent auction table in the foreground with the photo gallery in the background.  Photo by Dana Barsuhn

The silent auction table in the foreground with the photo gallery in the background. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

Just in the Beat the Streets LA branded apparel alone we raised $1000.

Beat the Streets LA apparel custom made for the auction.

Beat the Streets LA apparel custom made for the auction.

For the fourth and final featured component of the evening, we presented our latest short film Move Your Feet.  

A story about an adolescent girl who through her mother’s guidance and the sport of wrestling overcomes her largest challenge, her past.

This four and a half minute short which I wrote and produced, and was directed by Shawn Frederick, fit perfectly into the evening’s program as it followed the opening short speeches and preceded the live auction.  You can watch the short below and read more about it in our portfolio section Short Film – ‘Move Your Feet’.

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That’s me, Brian Guerrero, standing on the right, getting ready to introduce the film. Photo by Dana Barsuhn.

Lightly applied throughout the venue we had info available about the organization to compliment speeches letting our guests know why we’ve all come together on that Friday evening in Los Angeles.

Printed program for the 2nd Annual Benefit. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

Printed program for the 2nd Annual Benefit. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

Beat the Streets Los Angeles door prizes for guests compliments of sponsor Elevee Lifestyle. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

Beat the Streets Los Angeles door prizes for guests compliments of sponsor Elevee. Photo by Dana Barsuhn

Who doesn’t like swag? At the end of the evening, in addition to many thank you’s we provided some parting gifts.  Special thanks to élevée for sponsoring these door prizes and some of the fantastic auction items. And a special thanks to our event photographer Dana Barsuhn.

In Retrospect

From an architectural background, I think of how someone moves through a space and what that experience is.  As a storyteller I think of the narrative.  Event design is a convergence of the two and an opportunity to tell an organization’s story.

With a scholarship donation wall, a photo gallery, an auction and a film we had all the tools we needed to tell the story and captivate our audience.  They came as guests and left as ambassadors.

Beat the Streets LA, My Favorite Intersection

This month marked the start of the Third Season for Beat the Streets Los Angeles, a sports-based youth development non-profit that I volunteer for.  For me it’s been a convergence of two things that are very near and dear; the sport of wrestling and being a creative.  Perhaps two things that I never imagined would intersect in my personal life.

Walking away from the sport, as a competitor, in 1998 due to injury was very difficult for me.  In many ways it was more challenging than the injury itself.  Doing something day-in and day-out, year-around from age 8 to 19… it’s something that becomes part of your identity.

I was fortunate to find architecture, and transfer into it as a Major for college.  And in some sense get lost in it.  Becoming immersed in architecture, particularly architecture school isn’t something that happened overnight but slowly over a couple years began to shape me, not unlike my years wrestling.   As in sport, the outcomes planned are not always reached but what might be gained along the way are intangibles; resolve, adaptability, an open mind.  These traits that cultivate growth through sports also foster creativity.  It was the kind of transition I needed after wrestling.  Unbeknownst to me, it was also something that would bring me back to the sport.

After college I headed to the East Coast eventually landing in New York at an architectural facade consulting firm in Lower Manhattan.  Over the Thanksgiving weekend of 2007, my wife Kat and I drove up to Albany to have lunch with my cousin Eric who was coaching (Assistant Coach) his university’s wrestling team, Oklahoma State, at the Journeyman Duals.  Still a fan of the sport, but not an active member in the wrestling community, I’d occasionally meet up with Eric to watch his team compete live, but mainly it was to just visit with him, as cousins do.  During our visit that weekend I chatted briefly with the head coach, John Smith, who I had gotten to know over the years while Eric was competing for Oklahoma State.  John asked me about work, about living in New York City and asked “Are you staying involved in wrestling?” to which I hesitantly answered ‘no’.  Without pause he suggested I get involved with a youth wrestling program in the City. He gave me a name and urged me to call.  He said they needed coaches.  The program was Beat the Streets.

I eventually followed up.  I contacted the director and he invited me to come check out the program.  It so happened to be in the neighborhood of my office.  The biggest school district in America and arguably the largest market of architectural firms in the world, and this one little school gymnasium for Beat the Street’s headquarters and my then office were 3 blocks from each other!  Fortuitous?

What started as ‘maybe I’ll stop by from time to time and help their coaches with the kids’ turned into two years as the Volunteer Coach for their training center, traveling to competitions throughout New York, Pennsylvania, Georgia and North Dakota.  That time with Beat the Streets New York, the original program in this now nationwide grassroots wrestling movement had a profound impact on me.  It was a chance to give back to the sport that gave so much to me.  And in 2010, when a job opportunity came around that would relocate Kat and I to Los Angeles, it was one of the hardest parts about leaving New York.  I was leaving behind friends and coaching relationships forged in the fire of the sport.  I felt, reservedly, like I was leaving wrestling again.

About eight months after arriving in LA, I was contacted by Andy Barth, a business man and former wrestler whose supported wrestling from the Youth to Olympic level across the country.  Andy was planning to launch a Beat the Streets program in Los Angeles, and was looking for ardent like-minded people to help bring the program to fruition.  I was in.

Today, three and a half years later, I feel honored to be part of such an outstanding organization and was blessed to have been there for it’s genesis in LA.  Who would have known that the lessons learned about the creative process in school would have fostered an appetite for photography and storytelling?  What’s more, who would have known that I’d be able to apply it to wrestling?


If you’d like to learn more about Beat the Streets Los Angeles and our mission visit our website.  And to see the full coverage with more photos of the Season Kickoff check out the article HERE.

BTSLA wrestlers warmup during the first tournament of the season.

BTSLA wrestlers warmup during the first tournament of the season.

Wrestlers from San Fernando and San Pedro hop through their warmup drills.

Wrestlers from San Fernando and San Pedro hop through their warmup drills.

BTSLA Board Member Tyler Baier gives a technique clinic to kickoff the Season Opener.

BTSLA Board Member Tyler Baier gives a technique clinic to kickoff the Season Opener.

Bright Star student Nathaniel Botello begins his 3rd Season with Beat the Streets LA.

Bright Star student Nathaniel Botello begins his 3rd Season with BTSLA.

Attack Bandz match between two rookie Beat the Streets LA wrestlers.

Attack Bandz match between two rookie BTSLA wrestlers.

Newest members of the San Pedro BTSLA program enjoy their first wrestling tournament.

Newest members of the San Pedro BTSLA program enjoy their first wrestling tournament.

 

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