9 Tips for Successful Community Event Planning
Community events are a great 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. Are you in charge of organizing an event for your community? Have no fear! Event planning can be challenging, but it can (and should!) also be fun. Follow the tips below to help make your event a success.
1. Start with the basics
Answer basic questions about your event before you start the planning process. Are you clear about the type and purpose of the event you want to host? Is your goal to provide residents with information or encourage new friendships and bring neighbors together? Consider the event's size and scope next. A child's craft party or other small gathering can be easy to plan, but larger events, like block parties, holiday celebrations or galas, require more effort and a bigger budget. Do you have your finger on the pulse of what type of events residents would attend? Consider sending out a survey to your residents to make sure you’re on the right track. And, of course, before doing anything, the board should confirm with counsel that the governing documents permit the event and that the association has insurance to cover it.
2. Determine your budget
Establish a budget after you decide what type of event you want to host. Establishing your event budget will help you manage your expenses and your expectations. “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
How many attendees are expected? Who should be invited? Where will you host it? Will it be exclusive to residents, or will outside guests be allowed? Consider space restrictions, rules, and policies if your event is going to take place in your building or community. List your needs and tasks, and identify who is responsible for what. On the day of the event, board members, vendors, and guests should know where and when to go and what to do.
4. Consider an events 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 would be a good time to create one. An experienced property management company can provide you with proven strategies to help maximize the effectiveness of your committee.
“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.”
Recruit your committee members early in the planning process, assigning them responsibilities and making sure they are aware of each other's responsibilities. Doing this well in advance gives everyone ample time to express concerns or ask questions about their duties. Designate a person to act as the committee's point person once the committee is formed.
5. Choose a date and location
The next step is to 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. Also, the earlier you plan, the more likely you are to get 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. Partner with the right vendors
It is important that your vendor understands your community's vision and will deliver quality service within your budget. Choosing a vendor should not be based solely on price – if you choose a vendor solely based on the lowest estimate, you may end up paying more in the long run. Make sure your event vendors are within your budget, and that everything you've agreed to is in writing. Your attorney should be involved in preparing or reviewing any contracts, and your insurance agent should ensure you have the right 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 FirstService manages 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."
7. Promote your event
You need to spread the word effectively to get people to your event. If your event is only for residents and your community is relatively small, Anderson recommends posting signs around the property. But usually, 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 costs attached to them," she said.
8. Enjoy the event
Mix and mingle with your guests, ask them what they think of the event, and try to enjoy it!
9. Measure your success
After the event, you should evaluate the results of your efforts. As you set your goal from the start, determining whether the event was successful should be pretty straightforward. Ask guests and vendors for their feedback and use this information to plan future events. To determine what worked and what didn't, you should hold a wrap-up meeting with your committee.
Organizing a successful community event requires a great deal of planning, commitment, and effort. But once you see how your hard work and dedication can enhance the lifestyles of your residents and build a strong sense of community, you will realize that your efforts have been worthwhile.