9 Tips for Successful Community Event Planning
Community events are an excellent way for associations to bring residents together. Whether it's to help them feel more connected or to educate them about a new service or topic, events help your residents feel like they're an integral part of their community. Have you been tasked with organizing an event for your community? Have no fear! Event planning can be challenging, but it can also be fun. Follow the tips below to help make your event a success.
1. Start with the basics
Answering basic questions about your event goals is next. Have you determined the purpose and type of event you want to host? Is your goal to provide residents with information or encourage new friendships and bring neighbors together? Next, think about the size and scope of the event. Children's craft events and other small gatherings can be easy to plan, but larger events, like block parties, holiday celebrations or galas, require more effort, time and bigger budgets. If you are unsure about the type of event that would work best to help you achieve your goals, consider sending out a survey to your residents to determine what event they would be interested in attending. And, of course, before planning an event for your community, the board should confirm with counsel that the governing documents permit it and that the association has insurance to cover it.
2. Determine your budget
Once you have decided on the type of event you want to have, set a budget. Establishing your event budget will help you manage your expenses and your expectations. Use your budget as a guide to determine the event's size and scope, which will help determine if additional resources are necessary. “Setting your budget well in advance helps ensure you have enough money to cover your expenses,” said Mindy Anderson, director of lifestyle for FirstService Residential. “And, if you find yourself with a smaller budget than anticipated, outside sponsorships are a great way to help you achieve the type of event you need.”
3. Make a plan
Who should be invited? How many attendees are expected? Where will you host it? Will it be exclusive to residents, or will outside guests be allowed? The answer to some of these questions may depend on your specific community. If your event will take place in your building or community, remember to consider details like space restrictions and rules or policies that could affect your gathering. Make a list of your needs and tasks, and indicate who is responsible for what. Board members, vendors and guests should all know where and when to go and what to do on the day of the event.
4. Form a committee
Committees are key to helping association boards plan a winning event. They can assist with everything from creating a guest list to working with vendors. If your board doesn’t already have an events committee, now is a great time to create one. If you aren't sure what steps to take to build a successful committee, a professional property management company can guide you with proven strategies to help maximize committee effectiveness.
“We know that committees can be a community association board’s lifeline,” said Anderson. "From an events perspective, my team supports on-property lifestyle directors and events committees to facilitate the event planning process. Boards don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time they’re planning an event for their residents. We assist with everything from event ideas to vetted vendors and partners to make the event successful.”
When assembling your committee, recruit members early in the planning process and assign responsibilities to each, ensuring they understand their role. By doing this well in advance, everyone has ample time to express concerns or ask questions about their duties. Once your committee is in place, designate a leader who will serve as the committee’s point person for everything related to the event.
5. Choose a date and location
Next, you should secure a date and location for your event. If you've chosen a theme, selecting the date may be as simple as choosing one that ties into it, such as an Independence Day pool party. Be sure to plan ahead to increase the chances of getting the space you want on the date you need. "Choose your location within the community well in advance, ensuring that there are no construction projects or renovations scheduled during that time," said Anderson.
6. Choose the right vendors
A good vendor understands your community's vision and will deliver quality service within your budget. When searching for a particular vendor, do not solely focus on price. Choosing a vendor based on the lowest estimate can sometimes prove to be more expensive in the long run. Be sure that your event vendors are within your budget before committing, and that everything you've agreed to is clearly spelled out. It’s always a good practice to involve your attorney in preparing or reviewing any contracts, and your insurance agent to ensure you have the proper coverage. A professional property management company can provide guidance to ensure that all the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed.
"Because we manage so many properties, we collect best practices and share our resources to ensure that boards have access to the best vendors,” said Anderson. “We select vendors with the right experience, a proven track record, and can best meet the community's needs."
Learn the keys to maintaining great vendor relationships. Read: Vendor Communication Do’s and Don’ts: 4 Helpful Tips
7. Promote your event
To get people to your event, you need to spread the word effectively. According to Anderson, if your event is for residents only and your community is relatively small, posting event signage around the property and spreading awareness about the event through word of mouth are great options. But email and social media are among the best ways to promote an event. "Virtual and social platforms are great because they are cost-effective. Most don't have any fees attached to them," she said.
8. Enjoy the event
Make time to mix and mingle with your guests, ask them what they think about the event, and try to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
9. Measure your success
You'll want to evaluate the results of your efforts after the event. Since you set your goal at the outset, assessing whether or not the event was successful should be a straightforward process. Send a short survey to guests and vendors asking their thoughts and use this information to plan future events. You should also hold a wrap-up meeting with your committee to get feedback and determine what worked well and what didn't.
A successful community event requires a great deal of planning, a commitment to achieving your goal, and a lot of work. But once you see how your hard work and dedication can enhance the lifestyles of your residents and built a strong sense of community, you will realize that your efforts have been worthwhile.