I wouldn’t be half as good at my job without the relationships with my vendors.

Jaclyn Zendrian

Vice President - Events

Location: New York, NY

CurePSP is a nonprofit organization working to improve awareness, education, care and cure for prime
of life neurodegenerative diseases. These include progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), corticobasal
degeneration (CBD), multiple system atrophy (MSA), and others. 

They often strike when people have careers, family responsibilities, and active lives. Their symptoms are
incapacitating and there are no known causes, treatments, or cures.
Research has shown that there are important links between prime of life diseases and more common
neurodegenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Support for CurePSP
helps advance research, provide resources for families and caregivers of patients, and better educate
the healthcare community.

Jaclyn was drawn to the new position of Vice-President of Events at CurePSP because of her familiarity
with nonprofits and neurology specifically. Plus, she is able to travel across the country, connecting with
patients and families affected by neurodegenerative diseases. At CurePSP, Jaclyn manages the
educational programs and events and oversees special events with volunteers handling everything from
concepts to the venue and speaker selection, as well as the special events encouraging people to support
CurePSP in their own way.

What are some tips for creating an elegant and memorable event on a tight budget?

Just about everything is negotiable. Especially if you work for a nonprofit. Let them know just how small or tight the budget is and see what can be done for that amount. Talk to people and see if they have any personal connection and if you can bring them in as an in-kind sponsor for a discount on what you need.

Leverage your relationships. Because of the volunteer work I have done with the International Live Events Association (ILEA) and the Council of Protocol Executives (COPE) in NYC, I’m able to connect the people I want to work with using those associations as incentive. It’s about building relationships and making contacts in the industry to help each out.

If you had unlimited resources, what would your dream client and event look like?

I’m an in-house planner so I don’t have clients. However, I’m currently working on what could be a dream event in San Francisco for the spring. We are working to rebuild our brain donation fund and are going to do it in Menlo Park. I had to figure out how to attract people to an event around the topic of essentially organ donation, reimbursement for it, and the benefits of brain research. I want people to come because they want to be there not because they felt obligated to because an event committee member asked them to be there.

I decided to craft a fundraising cocktail reception around the intersection of neuroscience, technology, and illusion with a cirque theme since it’s in Silicon Valley. We’re going to bring in an illusionist to talk about how technology tricks the brain into thinking things may not be what they seem. This magician will use tech in the room and some they bring to demonstrate this concept.

If I get the proper funding for it – I want it to be beautifully rich, with textured ceiling drapes and engaging interactive entertainment with a living Zoltar machine, aerial champagne pours, fortune tellers, to start. I want the food to look like other food to add to the illusion element and drinks that are smoky and have layers of viscous liquid to look slightly like science experiments. With any luck, we’ll have great auction items and donors to back the underwriting costs for all of this.

How important are your relationships with vendors and what are some ways that you successfully cultivate and ensure good rapport?

I wouldn’t be half as good at my job without the relationships with my vendors. Many times, they become my friends. We’re able to direct business to each other, give each other advice, and make recommendations about new and creative ideas. It’s incredibly important to surround yourself with people you trust. I met all my vendors through ILEA and because we volunteer together, we get to know each other in that capacity since there is no formal client/vendor relationship to me it allows me to see how they are with the ILEA volunteer client lead onsite and while working with them beforehand.

What advice would you give someone who needs to plan a fundraiser but isn’t sure where to start?

Start by going to the organization’s website to see if they have any source material to help you on your way. We have several event planning kits to help people get started with timelines, budgets, and pieces of advice. After that reach out to the organization and let them know this is what you want to do and see if they can support you in any way. Often, they can assist with free tee-shirts, to brochures, to helping promote the event.

What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for you personally or professionally?

I’m the President-Elect of the NY Metro Chapter of the International Live Events Association (ILEA)! Next year is going to be very exciting!

What’s the most surprising or unusual request you have ever received from a client and were you able to fulfill it?

When I worked at the Johns Hopkins University in Neurology Development, they wanted an enormous brain-shaped cake with sailboats under it for the honoree. This thing had to be easily 200lbs and was multicolored. We then had several neurosurgeons cut into it at the event.

Anything else you’d like to comment on while we have you?

To clarify – I work for a nonprofit organization, I do not own a company.

Jaclyn Zendrian
Author: Jaclyn Zendrian

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