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OC Human Relations

Awards 34 (Case Study)

oc-awards-34As Development Director for Orange County Human Relations Council, it was my job to raise awareness and funds to support human relations programs for schools, mediation, and the community at large. Fundraising components included annual campaign, grants, events, and corporate sponsors. After attending three, non-revenue award events in each of the three program areas, I proposed the idea of one major annual awards event to generate new fundraising opportunity.

Identified Problems

  • Long-time volunteers and staff very emotionally tied to “business as usual with awards programs.
  • Executive director resistant to “another rubber chicken dinner with three-hour program.”
  • Concern that people would “pay” for something that had been available for free.


  • Proposed converting the three non-revenue program award events into one annual, high profile event held at a well-known venue. Think “Oscars” of human relations.
  • Educated staff and volunteers about potential and set up meetings for brainstorming from all departments to gain buy-in and foster enthusiasm.
  • Preserved the 33-year history of the community human relations awards by calling it Awards 34. The event is approaching its Awards 45 in May 2016.
  • Sponsors and individual donors were required to commit additional contributions rather than rolling over previous annual donations. Referred to in fundraising as “new revenue.”
  • Following dinner, the awards program was less than an hour. How? With pre-taped interviews edited into two-minute clips while recipient walked onto the stage. Thank you’s were limited to thirty seconds.

Outcome: After 18-month hiatus to retool, event garnered a net of $100K and was featured by local media. Today, considered a premiere event in Orange County, celebrities support it with PSA’s and other notable participation.