I failed, wonderfully, attempting to launch my nonprofit, AvianAssist at the Strange Folk Festival this weekend. “Failed wonderfully”, because I’ve tended to learn more when things go wrong, than when they go right.

Launching AvianAssist with a photo opportunity at the Strange Folk Festival was overly ambitious for several reasons:

  • We were promised an electrical outlet, which is needed to run photo printers on, and did not get one. We were told about the lack of electricity the night before, and this was whenever I should have drawn a hard line, cut losses, and backed out. I did not go back on Sunday.
  • My current job change. When I committed to this event, I was still freelancing full time and had a ton more time to devote. I had another freelance friend who was going to be able to help out more, whose work and life situation also changed in only two months.
  • The lack of experience in the team that I was working with. Out of us three or four “core” people, I was the only one who had ever actually done a photo opportunity with birds or exotics, or even worked at a fundraiser or large event. This caused problems with getting everyone else to see the potential that I saw, even when it turned out there would not be electricity available. I am very enthusiastic, and especially when combined with my stubborn commitment to a project, I can come across as overbearing and bossy. Sometimes I overcompensate by trying to “tone it down”, and end up, conversely, not speaking up when I should.
  • We should have come up with messaging points for talking and interacting with the public. It can be hard to stay clear and unflustered, and on message during the best of times!
  • We did not recruit other people, or backups even. This was partially my fault, since I do know better, but I also attribute this lack of getting others involved to a lack of true belief in the mission and possibility of making a ton of money at this event and having a ton of fun. As a result, when one person called in sick, there was a huge gap of time left to fill at the tent alone.
  • We didn’t have print collateral ready, or tables, or information ready. I think that with our busy schedules and changed life situations for 2 out of 3 of us, that the obvious material needs to throw this kind of event were overlooked. It’s also busy season at another’s work. Timing was just terrible for everyone of us, personally and professionally.
  • Surprisingly, my bird Misha did amazingly well despite 90 degree temperatures (we were in the shade under trees). The heat and being alone at a booth during the hottest part of the day from 10:30-3pm could have been a serious issue, if Misha had suffered heat stress or had behavior issues from the crowds and loud noises. As it happened, I didn’t eat enough breakfast and 2:30pm found me very close to tears, with a dead phone battery, famished, and heat-exhausted. A very kind Australian lady insisted that I take Misha and go sit in my car with the air conditioning on and charge my phone. I found a Cliff bar in my glove compartment and snacked on that, in the relative coolness of my car, for about 15 minutes. My friend who had helped set up in the morning came at 3pm, and when I got back to the booth, refreshed, the Australian lady was still there to make sure that I was really okay. I am incredibly grateful for the help that I got, and how my friend basically moved his life around so that he could help me load the huge cage prop in and tear it down, and came with his bird at the end to help out.
  • On a practical note, I ended up losing a decent chunk of money on my efforts this weekend: an unpaid day off work (haven’t been there long enough to take vacation days), money on material supplies, and dinners out. It’s not the end of the world, but I won’t get my money or my time back.

I thoroughly believe in the mission and the unique rehome assistance model that we came up with for AvianAssist, but right now I don’t think that there is the right team to make this to happen, and I don’t have the time nor the money to do or hire the people to do what needs to be done. It’s going on the backburner for now, to be tentatively re-examined in January and possibly dropped completely until timing and team is better.

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