March is typically one of the most jam-packed months for fundraiser events in the Coachella Valley as non-profits often bank their entire year on that single blockbuster gathering. But when social gatherings were shutdown across the state as part of a response to the coronavirus pandemic, that opportunity was lost. Or was it? Frank Goldstin of Momentous in Palm Springs says those same groups have a way to recoup some of those lost donations even as the pandemic threatens to stretch into 2021.
“Someone was asking me the other day, ‘How do you take this glamorous four-hour gala that you've been doing with all the things that you do and turn it into something that's interesting?’,” says Goldstin, whose 2020 projects included the opening night party at Modernism Week and the Living Desert 50th anniversary gala prior to the shutdown.
Goldstin has been working with some valley organizations on virtual events that last 35-45 minutes [“Because after that people are like, ‘All right, already’.”], involve prerecorded talent, and a live emcee.
“I think that it's not the most ideal," he says. "It's not the most fun and glamorous, but it will help some of these organizations that are willing to work in this capacity to not only remain in front of their donors and be engaged with them, but to put some critical funds into their bank accounts and continue to prosper through these really ever-changing times.”
Goldstin moved to the desert full-time in 2012, and within six years his Momentous company has captured the lion’s share of the event-planning market. Goldstin shares more with Palm Springs Life on what events are going to look like in a post-coronavirus setting.
What was it like to see the events schedule wiped clean by COVID-19?
I had never seen anything like this. The only thing close to this was 9/11. And I came from the corporate space producing events for many corporations. And what I can tell you is that at least with that, there was a beginning and there was an end. And all we dealt with at that point were the repercussions and the aftermath. Right now we have no end.
How quickly did you shift gears after things went silent?
I wish I could sound like some super hero and be like, "Oh, I'm so on it." I really didn't. I'm like, "Oh God, what?" We were all paralyzed. I was watching television constantly. I watched news until my partner was like, "You can't watch the news and drive listening to the news, constantly. You have to pick either one or the other, and you have to get out of bed." So I did a lot of television watching and one of the things that was really interesting to me was I saw what FIND Food Bank did with a telethon online that they did on KESQ. And I'm like, "Whoa, isn't that great."
What was the silver lining to this situation?
Many of the organizations that we work with, or I work with specifically, finished their events, postponed them, or rescheduled them for 2021. Thankfully for the valley, our events season is pretty much over. The gala season is over and it really doesn't start ramping up until late fall. And so, we don't really have to do this huge pivot that many other organizations are having to do that are not in our market, where they have their events in spring and summer.
United Way of the Desert gala by Momentous.
The upside is that we are going into the summer. I spend the entire summer planning events. I work every day with clients throughout the summer and get ready for the fall season ahead. So I think what's really hard right now is, anything that's in the fall, anything that is in October, November, and December is really kind of, we don't know.
What options are you giving your clients?
What I'm getting from clients right now is, one, for example, wants to go straight into a virtual event and take the time to do it, because they don't feel confident that a vaccine is going to be ready in time. And another one is looking at creating a new signature event that they have not already done, because they love the virtual concept and they recognize that you don't have all the expenses that you would normally have with catering, decor, and big entertainment. And it gives them the ability to be engaged and make money.
Once we get back to actually doing an event versus virtual, how do you still maintain the health aspect that people are looking for?
Things are going to change. And truthfully, I think the basics are going to change. I think we're going to see a lot less handshaking, hugging, and kissing, okay? I think that's really where it's going to start. And I think that's a part that everybody just naturally does, but if that can be somehow curtailed just a little bit, that's going to keep everybody a little bit safer. And then secondly, we may see a decline in some of those great vast events with so many people. We might see numbers decrease. I think that it's going to be our responsibility, that when we're laying out events, we're going to have to make sure that there is a little bit more awareness of how are those tables placed? What is the distance in between? How is that going to work? The other thing is making sure that we have ways of entertaining people without having a big dance party where there's a lot of close people on the dance floor.
What about the food?
I think what we're going to see is not a lot of buffets and food stations with handling of utensils and the types of things that a lot of people are touching. And I think that all catering and hotel, off premise catering companies that are here in town and how hotels are doing their food service, everything's going to have to be looked at in a very specific fashion to ensure the health and safety of all guests.
What event will you be watching to set the tone for the 2021 season?
We kick 2021 with the Palm Springs International Film Festival. And I think that the film festival is going to be a very big example of what happens with how we proceed and how we move forward.
For more information, visit gomomentous.com.