How to Organize Events that Increase Engagement and Feed Your Community’s Spirit
Everyone loves a well-planned event, and the residents in your community association are no exception. Social gatherings not only give them something to look forward to but they are one of the best ways to foster community spirit.
“Community events and lifestyle programs provide great opportunities for residents to get to know each other and to share common interests,” says Melissa Ramsey, vice president of community and lifestyle services at FirstService Residential. “They also help increase residents’ sense of community and pride.”
To maximize the good feelings and camaraderie that result from memorable community events, Ramsey offers the following tips:
Hold a big, yearly event.
Organizing at least one annual event around a holiday or based on a particular theme can create anticipation and excitement. “We do some pretty elaborate events that attract a lot of residents, year after year,” says FirstService Residential’s Callie Froese, club manager for the Somerset master-planned community association in Reno, Nevada. One popular example is the “Touch a Truck” fall festival Somerset holds every October. Kids and grown-ups alike check out their favorite trucks and cars up close, go on hayrides and pick pumpkins in a nearby patch.
Froese also organizes several other large and small events for the community throughout the year. “Some of our so-called ‘small’ events include an Easter Eggstravaganza, potlucks, pool parties, a summer luau, golf events and a community Olympics event,” she says.
Give yourself plenty of planning time.
If your community is new to running events or doesn’t have the assistance of an event manager, Ramsey suggests carefully reviewing each step required to ensure your community event is successful “It’s a good idea to start planning as much as six months out,” she says. “This way, you’ll have enough time to determine your budget, get all your approvals and line up vendors and caterers.”
Form an event committee.
With or without the benefit of an event manager, having an event committee – as well as subcommittees, if necessary – will help disperse the workload. Assign specific tasks to each committee member, such as ordering food, purchasing supplies, decorating, and promoting.
Identify ways to measure success.
What’s your reason for having a particular event? Is it to do something positive for the larger community, like a park cleanup activity? Is it to raise awareness, like a health fair or Earth Day celebration? Or is it simply to bring neighbors together and encourage new friendships?
Set a specific goal, then evaluate whether you’ve accomplished it. “This combination gives you a concrete way to measure success,” says Ramsey. She recommends sending out surveys to attendees shortly after the event to help you determine if you’ve hit your mark. “Of course, there’s nothing like seeing residents laughing and smiling to know you’ve done a good job.”
Savor the moment.
Nurture the good feelings created at your event by providing a recap on your website, in your community newsletter and at your next board meeting. Post pictures on social media as well. You might even want to have an evening get-together event attendees can share their photos. This creates yet another way for residents to connect.
Don’t overlook lifestyle programs.
No matter what kind of community you live in or how much space you have, implementing lifestyle programs is possible. Use existing amenity space or local offsite facilities to bring smaller groups of residents together to share common interests. For example, use your clubhouse to hold game nights, movie nights or weekly classes. Start a walking, running or biking club using neighborhood trails. Or plan a community night-out at a local restaurant, theater, or comedy club.
One of the primary reasons many people buy homes in associations is because of the sense of community they expect to find. That’s more likely in a neighborhood that creates the right opportunities for residents to interact. Ramsey states, “A successful event creates conversation among owners and, potentially, the greater community. That can lead to an increase in home sales for an association.” By developing a robust calendar of events and lifestyle programs, you’ll be helping to ensure the success of your community.