Danielle Goldfinger is an event coordinator and project director at the not-for-profit Not Far From The Tree. Currently she is working on an upcoming adult summer camp event: Two Islands Weekend. Based out of Toronto, Danielle enjoys a good jeans and T-shirt combo, throwing some of the city’s best events, and getting dinner on the table.
Shedoesthecity: How did you land you first job within event coordinating?
Danielle Goldfinger: My background is actually in international development. After working a bit in that field, I wanted to do the same work but locally. I started volunteering at The Stop. I loved it. A job opened up on the fundraising team—it was a short term contract—that didn’t have anything to do with event planning. I ended up applying for it and I got the job. Then just as my contract was ending, the event coordinator was leaving. So I was filling in for her until they found a replacement and just by happenstance, I ended up filling in that role permanently.
SDTC: How did you decide on putting together an event like Two Islands Weekend?
DG: I went to camp as a kid and those were the best summers of my life. More recently, I’ve been thinking longingly about camp as I’ve grown into an adult and summers are no longer summers. They’re just like the rest of year; you miss the day sitting in an office. I have a three-year-old, so I’m pretty busy. I think about camp and realize how lucky I was to have had that experience, opportunity, and freedom to just run around and be independent with my friends. I thought to myself, “You know what? I’m an event coordinator. I can totally recreate the camp experience myself."
SDTC: As you gear up for Two Islands Weekend, what are your day-to-day tasks like?
DG: Mostly I’ve just been communicating with the different sponsors. I’ve been connecting with the chefs, figuring out what everyone is going to make. We’re crafting the menu. Then also speaking with guests, making sure everyone has given me their registration forms and I know who they want to bunk with. Registration closed on Friday, so now I’m actually going to figure out what the bunks are and do the final programming pieces.
SDTC: What do you think are the qualities that an event coordinator needs to have?
DG: You need to be organized and creative and willing to stay up for long periods of time without sleep. Anybody can do it.
SDTC: What kind of advice would you give to someone who wanted to be an event coordinator one day?
DG: My advice would be: Don’t go to school for it—just start looking out. Find out what kinds of events excite you and you feel passionate about, and start helping out. Volunteer, get involved, meet people, get a sense of whether this makes you passionate or you are actually kind of bored by it. Once you get that hands-on experience, you’ll be able to put that on your resume and you’ll meet people down the line. Opportunities will come up and they’ll connect with you.
SDTC: Did you have any mentors along the way?
DG: To be honest, no. I wish that I had a story of someone that nurtured me, but I’ve never had an event mentor. I’ve had mentors at The Stop that weren’t specifically mentoring me in events but mentoring me in how to be a great leader. To prepare for a large-scale event, you obviously need lots of people to be a part of it. You can’t really do everything yourself, as much as some of us would like to! But you can’t and you shouldn’t. So you have to be able to lead a team of people who want to help you.
SDTC: Did you have a moment when you realized that this was the path for you?
DG: I’ve definitely had those moments. I can’t say definitively that I’m going to specifically be an event planner forever. But I definitely think that that the skills you learn from planning an event from beginning to end are basic project management skills. You can apply those skills to so many other projects. I like that element, and I think I am good at it: taking an idea and making sure that you’re honing in on those details, but also stepping back and looking at the big picture. I think project management is the path that I will continue to take, whether that is in the field of events or otherwise.
SDTC: What would you say is your favourite part of the job?
DG: I feel like there are a lot of things that I really love about it. I love working with groups of people and I love when a bunch of people come together and everyone’s excitement and enthusiasm bounces off each other. All these ideas come together. I love that process of creativity that comes out of working with different groups of people. And I love that feeling when you’re in the middle of an event. When you’re at the event, there’s nothing to do anymore, right? There’s no work, you’ve done everything that you can do. And there’s this momentum, at this point it’s off on its own and it’s just going. I love that moment of stepping back for a second and watching it all around you, just being like, “Wow. I did this.”
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