Inspiration: Party Person - Sweet smell of success

Sarah Fitzer of The Confectioners Benevolent Fund is putting budgets to good use.

Hidden costs can be the bane of a corporate event planner's life, but when you organise parties for charities, which struggle with budgets at the best of times, this problem is often exacerbated. It is something that Sarah Fitzer, fundraising and events manager at The Confectioners Benevolent Fund, finds most frustrating. "As a charity we are not VAT registered but a lot of suppliers assume we are," she explains.

"In one case, a production company quoted for an event and didn't mention VAT until the final invoice; it would have meant a 17.5% increase in the budget, which we couldn't afford."

Such is the importance of cost to Fitzer that over the past 18 months she has taken all of the charity's events in-house. "We have reduced the cost of events by about 30%," she reveals. "For me the enjoyment is knowing I have done it all and not paid anyone else to do it, and that I have control over the whole process."

The internet and exhibitions such as the RSVP show make it easier to access quality suppliers, and if Fitzer needs help she can turn to experienced planners. "The great thing is I can talk to Cadburys' event organiser and find out which entertainers or suppliers they would recommend," she says.

With this in mind, Fitzer is putting together the charity's biggest annual event, the Candy Ball, which is now in its 60th year. "We plan to use old-fashioned confectionery memorabilia and represent the decades through various types of entertainment," she says.

Fitzer also has to co-ordinate her ideas with regional committees made up of volunteers and headed by senior industry figures. "I meet up with these heads, put across my ideas and provide reasons for why they would be beneficial to the company," she explains.

Ultimately, she wants to develop her role and create a team that would produce the charity's events as well as those of companies in her industry.

"The idea is we would receive a retainer for producing a confectioner's awards event, for example, and this money would go into the charity's fundraising pot," she says.

With her logical approach to organising events, coupled with an ability to multitask, there seems to be no reason why Fitzer cannot make her ideas a reality.


2000: Events executive for Leicester Student Union, organising various events

2001: Safeway marketing and events executive

2003: Corporate events co-ordinator for Gold Group International. Involved in creating awards ceremonies and catalogue launches for Ann Summers

2005: Fundraising and events manager for The Confectioners Benevolent Fund where she is charged with organising three high-profile events a year.

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