A Fundraising Maven’s Perspective on Working with STUDIO 4Forty

Blog Post by: Kim Perry

Our most successful STUDIO 4Forty event partners share a common denominator: they set goals and work to achieve them. One of our brightest stars – the Midland Rape Crisis and Children’s Advocacy Center – has truly been one of our most coachable and collaborative teams now celebrating their 10th Wine Women & Shoes Midland anniversary with over $2 million raised (net). 

I sat down with MRCCAC Board Member and Event Chair, Lauren Blackketter, to uncover what she has learned over the past decade and what wisdom she can impart for new teams wishing to mirror her organization’s success: 

S4F: How did WW&S fall onto your radar and what value did you see in bringing the event to the Midland community? 

LB: When I joined the MRCCAC board, we were looking for a signature fundraiser. Some board members had concerns that men didn’t want to talk about sexual assault. I remember thinking, “why are we asking men then?” and started looking for fundraising ideas that targeted women. I found Wine Women & Shoes through a Google search, reached out for additional info, and presented it to our board. Within a month we signed a contract and started planning! 

S4F: As one of our greatest WW&S success stories, what three best practices do you attribute to your phenomenal decade raising over $2 million {net} from the event? 


1. Checklists! From the planning timeline in the How To Guide to the day-of to do lists, checklists are one of the most valuable tools for ensuring you don’t miss something. They also allow you to easily move through the process with a large team, as everyone can see next steps and jump in if you get pulled in another direction.

2.  Yearly reviews with the S4F Project Management team. Early on, my goal was to have no “dings” after an event, but I’ve learned that this constructive feedback are not dings, and they help your team grow and learn from the strengths and weaknesses of the event. I keep several years’ worth of reviews and routinely check them when planning a new year until they become second nature for us.

3. Staying true to the event. It would be easy as we’ve grown to shift away from the model in some ways, but this event works because it’s the perfect hybrid.  It’s a mix of fundraising event / shopping trip / and girls’ night out. The type and volume of music, the lighting (our longest discussion EVERY YEAR is what level to set the lights), the mix of vendors and wineries to suit all tastes, and the layout to promote flow while having enough seating and tables. Women return year after year because we fine tune each detail. 

S4F:  Your team could have built your own event from scratch but instead chose to license WW&S – what have you found to be the most rewarding aspects of our licensed event model? Has WW&S exceeded your goals? 

LB: Building charity events from scratch takes a TON of work. Even just implementing an already proven model like WW&S is a lot of work in a new market. To be able to take a model that’s proven to work in other markets and tailor it for ours allowed us to focus our time on cultivating donors instead of conceptualizing event elements. I love that ideas are shared across all WW&S markets, like King of Sole or Buy a Spot boards, that allow all STUDIO 4Forty partners to benefit from new ideas. It’s also incredibly helpful to have a team of fundraising professionals to go to when you hit sticky issues, and to have someone on hand the day of our event who had done this so many times already. It feels like one big community, and that community definitely always has your back. 

WW&S has by far exceeded our goals! One of my favorite WW&S stories is from our first year: It had been a little rough launching the event, and when I picked Heather Frank up from the airport, I told her it wasn’t going to work for us. She told me she was absolutely sure it would, and she thought we would net over $100,000 with our first event. I laughed and told her there was absolutely no way, and she made me promise if it did, that I would chair it one more year. We made just over that $100K mark that first year, and now after nine years, we’ve grown from 325 guests to over 550 each year and have netted over $2 million total for the MRCCAC! 

S4F: What three pieces of advice would you give to any new STUDIO 4Forty partner? 

LB: First, I would say listen to the project management team. These ladies know what they are doing, and they work so hard to understand each individual market, team, and nonprofit. Second, surround yourself with the best possible team. This is a huge event to put on, and you’ll need good people beside you. Lastly, don’t get discouraged. You will have potential donors who don’t choose your nonprofit to support, and despite your best efforts, things will go wrong at the event. You can’t take these setbacks personally – you just have to learn and grow from them! 

Check out MRCCAC’s 10th annual Wine Women & Shoes event in Midland! Thank you to Lauren for her kind words and sharing this wisdom with us! You’re a true example of success and have absolutely changed the trajectory of your organization in the Midland community and beyond.