6 Steps to Stellar Event Planning for Your Community

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My job is pretty awesome. I have organized food drives, beach cleanups, park beautifications, and painting parties for Title I schools. Event planning can be stressful, but with a solid mission, a committed team, and committed partners (plus lots of coffee), it’s something that everyone can do. Maybe you’ve been dreaming of planning a service event, have a large fundraising party around the corner, or are curious about this line of work. Below are some great tips, culled from experience, to make sure your next event is beyond awesome.

1. Find your purpose

Every project, idea, business, and event serves a greater purpose. It’s crucial to identify the goal of your event (hint: this will help you with Step 6). Is it to raise awareness? Participate in volunteer work? Fundraise for a charity or for a specific project? Get specific, as this specificity will help you create activities, gain buy-in from decision-makers and volunteers, craft your message, and build relationships that will support your event’s goal.

2. Pick your day

When selecting the date for your event, many considerations should be taken with regard to great impact and large turn-out. Most likely, it will start by working with your selected non-profit organization. From there, be sure to consult your community’s calendar and the calendars of the key individuals whose participation is critical, whether it is the leaders of your organization or the volunteers who will truly progress the project. The key is to plan ahead. I recommend starting at least 3-6 months before your official event date, depending on the scale of the project.

3. Pinpoint your needs

I’ve fallen madly in love with lists. I house all of my ‘to-dos’ in an Excel spreadsheet that I continually update. Once I’ve received approval for a proposed event, and selected the beneficiary, I start my list, asking myself a multitude of questions, such as:

  • What is the budget?
  • What types of volunteers do we need (sign-in, set-up, take down, actual service volunteer)?
  • How long will our event be?
  • Where will attendees park?
  • How should we promote the event?

Thoroughly answering these questions (and many more) will make sure that no “t” is left uncrossed, no “i” un-dotted.

4. Spread the word

To gain the most participation, have the most impact, and meet your event’s goals, you must have a great strategy to inform others of your event. The possibilities on this are seemingly endless: social media campaigns, email communications, posters, web banners, etc. Get creative! Be sure to also send multiple reminders to attendees leading up to the event.

5. Remember your “Why”

Whenever you get stressed (which, I’ll admit, can happen on occasion), it’s important to remind yourself why you’re doing this work. I’m a big fan of Simon Sinek, who shares this methodology in his book, Start With Why. Sinek defines Why as, “The purpose, cause, or belief that inspires you to do what you do.” Your Why is what will inspire you to keep planning and ensure that no stone is left unturned. It will also help you communicate to potential attendees why their service and contributions matter.

6. Evaluate the outcomes

Remember when you identified your event goals in Step 1? It’s time to reflect on those goals and whether they were met. What did you achieve? What were your top accomplishments and overall social impact? These items can be measured in a number of ways, such as surveys, money raised, or volunteer hours provided.

These steps, paired with a smart phone and coffee on tap (really, like a lot of coffee) will lead to a successful event. Are you looking to give back to your community? Check out a few of these wonderful organizations: Junior Achievement, Boys & Girls Clubs, United Way, Armed Services YMCA. They work hard to make our communities better and could always use a helping hand!

 

Written by Sarah Bacerra
Sarah is a Community Relations Specialist for Ashford University.

Photo credit: "Volunteer Librarians at Work (173963448)" by ALA TechSource from Chicago, USA - "Volunteer Librarians at Work." Uploaded by palnatoke. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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