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Californians love to have a good time. And when you live in an HOA, that can mean putting on a lot of events. No doubt, your residents look forward to these association functions.
“Events can really add to the spirit of your community,” says Jill Falkner, Lifestyle Manager at FirstService Residential in California. “They bring neighbors together and help to build lasting relationships.” In addition, she explains, “they can set your community apart by enhancing the lifestyle of residents.”
As much as your community may enjoy them, events take a lot of time to properly plan and implement. If you are the chairperson, give yourself at least six months to put your event together. A well-established community management company that offers lifestyle resources can be a big help. You can also have more fun organizing a party, parade, or other function by following these simple guidelines.

1. Determine the purpose.

All events should have an objective, even if your goal is just to give residents an opportunity to socialize. You also want to establish a way to evaluate whether the event was a success.

2. Enlist community volunteers.

Don’t try to handle everything yourself. Organize (or create) your event committee (and subcommittees, if you need them), and assign specific duties along with timelines for getting them done.

3. Choose a date.

Be sure to consider factors such as school calendars, timing of local events, vacation schedules, and religious holidays. After all, what’s the point of having an event if very few of your residents can attend?

4. Choose a theme.

Establishing a theme (or “branding”) is what makes your function unique. Give it a catchy and descriptive name, and have fun with an attention-grabbing tagline.

5. Create a budget.

Estimate your costs by using past events as your benchmark. Remember to include any items you will need to rent. To save money, consider creative ways to finance your function. For example, there may be a way to make your event part of a larger community or national activity. Another possibility is that a restaurant, winery, or brewery may be willing to partner with you. Or you could include a small bazaar and invite local vendors to participate.

6. Get approval from your HOA board.

Once you have completed Steps 1-5, put it all in writing and present it to your board. The board will need to approve the location (if it is being held in a common area within your community), dates, extra janitorial support, sponsorships, and the use of association funds. Enlist the help of your community management company to get your plan ready for board approval. Once your board okays your event, you can start on the nuts and bolts of it.

7. Line up caterers and vendors.

Falkner points out that it’s crucial that vendors and caterers carry qualified insurance to limit your HOA’s liability. Book your preferred caterers and vendors early on, and don’t be shy about negotiating costs. If your HOA management company has a strong local and/or national presence, it may be able to use its buying power to help you get lower prices. Contact vendors a week before the event to reconfirm responsibilities and expected arrival time. Also, partner with local police and fire departments to make sure that you are addressing safety issues.

8. Promote your event.

Publicizing your event should involve as many forms of communication as possible. Email, social networks, and online newsletters are inexpensive ways of getting the word out. You could also post flyers or send postcards to your residents. And if your HOA allows it, put up marquis or other signage well in advance. Remember that all publicity materials need to include the title, date, time, location, age restrictions (if any), cost, and contact information.

9. Get ready to party!

There are a few things you’ll want to do a day or two before your event, such as setting up and shopping for perishables. At the event itself, be sure to:
  • Arrive ahead of time. This allows you to get committee members and vendors on task and to resolve any problems before your guests show up.
  • Have a great time! You’ve worked hard to create a memorable event, so enjoy it. Mingle with your guests and accept the pats on the back gracefully.

10. Attend to post-event tasks.

Once the event is over, your work isn’t quite done. You still need to:
  • Determine if your event met its goals. You may have your own ideas about this, but it’s a good idea to get input from attendees, too. Distribute a follow-up survey to attendees asking them what they liked, what could be improved, and what they thought of the timing and location. Provide plenty of space for comments. And don’t forget to survey your vendors, too. There are free online survey tools such as SurveyMonkey you might want to consider.
  • Provide a recap. Let the board know about your event’s success. Do a write-up in your community newsletter, and post photos online or on a common bulletin board reminding attendees of the fun they had.
  • Show your gratitude with thank-you notes. Remember to thank your vendors and volunteers with a note, preferably handwritten and sent by postal mail to make it more personal. Also include a message in your community newsletter thanking your guests for attending.
Having a successful event doesn’t have to be difficult if you keep these guidelines at your fingertips. And if you’d like help with your events or other programs, turn to FirstService Residential. We offer a range of customized activities designed to enhance the lifestyles of your residents, including recreational programs, clubs, and tutoring.
For more information about how to create a memorable community event, contact FirstService Residential, California’s leading community management company.
Thursday July 21, 2016