Archive for March 2009

What’s your event IQ?

March 16, 2009

We dine and dance, bid and buy, walk and run for causes. We don sunscreen, rain gear and mittens to take in outdoor festivals and community activities. We attend workshops, seminars, conferences, meetings and parties on any given day. We host neighbourhood, national and international events.
Success hinges on organization… whether you’re appealing to patrons for a major fundraising drive or notifying colleagues of a business meeting. Administering and managing events, coordinating suppliers and volunteers can be mind-boggling, time-consuming and nerve-wracking. Even professional event planners need tools to streamline the process.
Trust the organized mind-set of a chartered accountant with an appreciation for the capacity of customized software to provide user-friendly packages to ease the burden.
Meet Dave Bodnarchuk, a BComm. grad from the University of Alberta who received his CA designation in 1993. He acquired years of technology experience with industry leaders like Apple and Oracle, and with KPMG as a computer audit specialist.
He recalls, “I was always the guy from KPMG that was called in to help out the not-for-profit boards [to track pledges] because they were doing a fun-run.” Bodnarchuk adds that when KPMG worked with organizations like Edmonton Crime-Stoppers, he would be put to task to implement computerized fund-raising systems to manage those aspects of its telethons.
As the dot-com era emerged, Bodnarchuk saw an opportunity to bring a reasonably priced, easy to use product for not-for-profits to issue invitations, track RSVPs and do on-line registrations. But, while most events required some administering, not every event needed or could afford a heavy-hitter like Bodnarchuk. He readily admits most organizations “…don’t need a guy like me or tech guru to get things up and running.”
A community-oriented person, he has always had a soft spot for not for profits, having served on many boards including the 12×12 Runners Challenge, Edmonton Grads Association, Crime Stoppers Association, Alberta Foundation for Diabetes Research Fun Run, GO Community Centre. He currently sits on the Caritas Hospitals Foundation Board.
Bodnarchuk knew that using technology would save time, reduce manpower and increase accuracy. “It also allows for more time to promote the event… making it easier for people to sign up rather than getting bogged down on the admin.”
Thus, eventIQinc was born. Bodnarchuk is the founder, president and CEO—Chief Event Officer. The firm develops and provides software solutions for notification, signup, payment, printing and other services for events of any size and for the people that organize them.
However, from the outset, the real challenge was to sustain a viable long-term business model, given the limited resources of not-for-profits. Entrepreneur Bodnarchuk quickly realized the real untapped market was office admin professionals: They might have to manage events, but didn’t want or have to become event planners. Moreover, not even event planners would need to be too tech savvy.
“Our vision had morphed. We wanted to develop an easy to use content-centric system, taking the best of event content, technology, and forms design and put them into a single wrapper or box.”
Bodnarchuk enhanced the product and the user experience by listening to users and a number of professional event planners and rolled the feedback into the product that provided content or generic features they could share.
The re-branding exercise resulted in InviteRight, the company’s flagship product. The comprehensive web application works with e-mail, at 30 percent of the cost of the competition, while offering more flexibility by not forcing the user to conform to rigid forms.
Users can look at a sample event or template and add their own details. A simple click makes it easy to change text, and fields can be relocated with a simple drag-and-drop. Users can add specific questions like, “Are you bringing a guest?” The system also offers prompts like asking about dietary needs.
In addition to sending invitations and tracking RSVPs, it’s easy to schedule meetings, recruit speakers, volunteers and exhibitors and even accept payment by credit card.
The results look professional and make the planners look good. It keeps them organized, helps them reach more people with less work—at not much more than the cost of postage per invitee.
“They can get up and running very easily, flexible and they feel like they’re pretty smart. An office event planner wants to get it up and running and ‘get out of Dodge’, while the planning professional can still do what they want to do themselves.”
Mike House is assistant dean of development at the University of Alberta School of Business and president-elect of the Edmonton chapter of the Association for Fundraising Professionals. He chaired Philanthropy Day in Edmonton which utilized eventIQ’s products. “It allows non-profits to maximize what they are good at, and leave the technology and registration to the software.”
House adds that it also made his wife Kathy’s job easy in her role as treasurer for the Homes for the Holidays, a fundraiser for the Junior League of Edmonton.
The buzz Bodnarchuk has created now goes beyond the not-for profits. Some of his clients include ATB Financial, Workers’ Compensation Board, Alberta Research Council and the University of Alberta, as well as organizations.
Bodnarchuk’s offerings do not stop there. In addition to InviteRight, other core professional products have been developed: PlanRight for planning and organizing events; contactCentral for maintaining a database, managing membership and sending out newsletters; and eventXtras for creating anything ancillary to the event such as name tags, lanyards and print material. Together, these components are packaged as eventIQ Xpert.
For smaller, personal get-togethers, eventIQ offers a lighter version called skOOchie. It’s free if users agree to have a sponsor’s ad accompany their invitation. A nominal charge applies if no sponsor is selected.
Bodnarchuk chuckles when he talks about the name “skOOchie”. He felt it was a cute word that could stand for “schedule and organize events”. However, subsequently, the same word appeared in an urban slang dictionary as a less than flattering synonym for a particular woman of ill repute.
Bodnarchuk admits he learns from all his experiences including his mistakes. He’s successful, with nine employees and seven consecutive profitable quarters. He’s come a long way since his first tech experience in the real world which launched him to where he is today.
It was a summer job in the 1980s at Coronet Trust as a mortgage administration clerk. Growing weary quickly by the repetitive tasks of typing forms and letters, he brought his own Macintosh to work to automate the process. Despite the company’s policy against using personal computers, Bodnarchuk was able to demonstrate its value. He successfully negotiated with the CFO to rewrite one system on an IBM PC in return for a part time job that fall—and got permission to wear Topsider brand shoes without socks to work. Certainly a foreshadowing of a free spirit in a profession dominated by checks and balances.
The Topsiders are long gone, but Bodnarchuk has that first Macintosh proudly displayed in his office at LeMarchand Mansion. √
By Greg Gazin


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