Behind the Scenes of the Fur Ball
Stella’s volunteering career began when a pregnant feral cat chose her backyard as the birthplace for its kittens. Soon, she found herself bottle-feeding babies so tiny they fit in the palm of her hand. She brought the kittens inside, giving up the space she dedicated to her hobby—stained glass-making—to the homeless litter. Now, one grown-up kitten—Pickles—still roams her house along with four feline friends.
Since then, Stella’s volunteering has morphed into a specialized but much needed area: event registration, event data entry, and post-event reconciliation.
What brought her to this aspect of volunteering? Stella says, “I love the cause itself, seeing some of the same patrons and volunteers year over year, checking out the items being auctioned, and seeing how many fellow animal lovers and supporters there are in our community makes me feel better about the world in general.”
Data entry isn’t what jumps to mind when you think of volunteering for an animal shelter. But Stella and her dynamite crew of entry aficionados—Rachel, Jennifer, Michelle, Sheila, and Peg—keep Homeward Pet’s biggest fundraiser of the year, the Fur Ball Auction & Dinner, running smoothly and successfully despite the massive amount of data generated throughout the evening.
Homeward Pet Event Manager Lindsay Roe says that you can’t overstate the team’s importance. Some nonprofits are forced to spend thousands on a data entry team for their events: “Data entry at an auction with 500 guests is a huge undertaking. Bid numbers, contact information, credit card details, and winning bid amounts have to be entered, checked, and double-checked to ensure we are not charging any attendees incorrectly and that everyone is going home with the items they successfully bid on. We are really lucky to have Stella and her team handling this portion of the event.”
That monumental task list isn’t exhaustive. After checking in 500 guests at the beginning of the evening, Stella and her team are just getting started. While the wine is being poured and food served, the ladies are entering the winning bid numbers and amounts into the data management program. The silent auction consists of around 100 individual items—not to mention 150 raffle tickets, 125 spirits roulette entries, 300 heads or tails entries, and numerous other bid amounts all before the live auction even begins.
All that needs to be entered one by one.
It’s thanks to the quick work of Stella and her team that we are able to announce the total raised at the end of each auction and send off the night on a triumphant note. Stella’s tenth anniversary handling this important aspect of the Fur Ball is coming up this May. Her second year, when Jennifer joined her for the first time, they spent the auction squirreled away in the Marriot coat closet. Stella assured us, however, that this was actually a good thing—it meant her team wouldn’t be distracted while entering data. (Since then, the coat closet has been upgraded to a curtained-off area.)
All the members of Stella’s team work in IT and database management. She says she loves this underrepresented “social side” of IT. It’s not all number-crunching and silence; it’s also chatting and laughter and the gratification from helping Homeward Pet continue to save homeless animals through the biggest event we hold each year. “We really do have a blast throughout the night,” she says. “It’s like a roller coaster with excitement, fancy clothes, fabulous prizes, and happy donors.”
What did it take for her and her team to become one of the most valuable parts of the Fur Ball? All she did was ask.