10 Steps to Plan a Successful Community Event

People getting food at a comunity party - FirstService ResidentialNo matter what kind of association or building you live in – from a condo or co-op to a homeowners association (HOA) – community events can be a lot of fun for residents and a great way to bring everyone together and build community spirit. However, if you’re the one responsible for planning that holiday party, celebration or picnic, you might not exactly think the planning will be…well, a picnic.

Before you go into a panic, take a breath. Believe it or not, planning a successful community event can actually be fun if you take it a step at a time.
 
  1. Check your association’s governing documents and budget.
    Before you do anything else, review your community association’s governing documents. It’s important to verify that you’re allowed to use association funds for social events and, if so, that there is money in the budget for them. After all, you don’t want to start your planning and get residents excited only to have to cancel the event because funding isn’t available.
  2. Establish the basics.
    Consider your goal and the type of event you want to have, then:
    • Give it a name.
    • Decide on a date and time to hold it.
    • Estimate the expected number of guests.
    • Project your costs so you can create a budget and determine if you will need to charge guests.
    • Come up with a communication strategy using multiple channels, such as your community newsletter and website, emails, flyers, signage, social media and word of mouth.
  3. Line up your vendors.
    Identify vendors you want to use (such as caterers), and confirm their availability and price. Once you’re sure their pricing fits into your budget, secure contracts with them. A week before your event, reconfirm your suppliers’ arrival times and responsibilities. 
  4. Enlist help.
    You can’t do it all yourself, so put out the call for volunteers early on. Ideally, your board should build a volunteer pool by making an appeal regularly.  Use their time productively by assigning specific tasks to each person.
  5. Make a list of everything you’ll need.
    Compare what your vendors and volunteers are doing to a list of your set-up needs. What have you overlooked? Make arrangements to fill any gaps you find.
  6. Do as much as you can beforehand.
    You can relieve a lot of pressure by taking care of some of your tasks several days or even a week ahead. There will already be enough to do for your final prep, so don’t wait until the day of the event to take care of everything.
  7. Just before your event, do last-minute shopping.
    Some items, such as perishable food, do need to be purchased right before the event. Make a list of these, and schedule your shopping for efficiency.

    At this point, it’s natural to be feeling a bit of an adrenaline surge. If you’re like some professional party planners, you might even find it all a bit exhilarating. Just remember, you’ve done a great job staying organized, so you’ve got this! Just keep checking off each task as you complete it.
  8. Arrive well before everyone.
    You’re the one who has spearheaded this entire affair, so you should be the first to get there. This will allow you to feel more in control so you can keep all your volunteers on track and address any unexpected issues.
  9. It’s finally here, so go have fun!
    You’ve worked hard for this very moment, so enjoy it. All too often, the event planner is the one who has the hardest time enjoying it. Mingle with your neighbors, and take pride in what you’ve created.
  10. Follow up with a survey and thank you notes.
    Yes, the hard part is over, but you aren’t quite done yet. You can learn a lot about what everyone liked best and what you might want to do differently next time by sending out surveys to attendees and vendors. And don’t forget to express your gratitude to vendors, volunteers and donors. Do it the old-fashioned way with a handwritten note sent by postal mail. The personal touch will feel more genuine and help foster ongoing relationships.

Planning a community event can be a bit of work, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be an enjoyable experience. By managing it in small bites and sharing the load, you’ll not only make it a fun and memorable event for your fellow residents, but for you as well.