A sentiment I love to hear from residents in regard to planned community events is, “I look forward to this every year.” The best community events can be so well-run and useful that they come to define the community, or they may simply be great opportunities for engagement and interaction. Whether a Memorial Day pool party, a community shred day, a garage sale, or end-of-summer doggie swim, one key to a successful event is creating a strong to-do checklist.
Checklists should address aspects such as group coordination, event logistics, communication, and event follow-up.
Committee Work: There are many good things in life, and the best of those are committees—at least from a manager’s perspective. If you are lucky enough to be able to assign event planning to a committee, then your job becomes much easier! It is said that although the earth still moves if you don’t touch it, it’s much better if you touch it. This is an apt metaphor for guiding committee work. It’s important to keep your committee members engaged and on task, and one way to accomplish this is to show appreciation for their work throughout the process. Be prepared to purchase a pizza or two for the planning committee. Pizza solves a lot of problems. Place “Planning Committee Pizza Appreciation Party” committee on your checklist.
Event Logistics: Selecting and booking a venue to host your event, preparing and disseminating notices, meeting with caterers and other vendors, gathering necessary supplies, event setup, clean up, and sending out thank you notes are just some logistics that may have to be taken care of and could be included in an event checklist. Logistics can seem complex but are easier to tackle when broken down into their component parts. Whether your role is to advise a committee in creating a checklist for logistics, or writing the list yourself, identifying and specifying your logistical needs is a high priority. If available, it’s a good idea to review the logistical aspects of the checklists used for prior events to make sure you do not forget anything essential. No need to reinvent the wheel (I love that cliché).
Communication: To keep all the wheels of a well-planned event turning, communication is the grease. Make sure your checklist includes planning for communications with all event stakeholders, most importantly the members of your community. Believe me, you don’t want to hear a resident report, “there I was in my pajamas getting my newspaper, only to discover it was community yard sale day.” Remember to tell the community in as many ways possible with enough advance warning. This could include social media posts, email blasts, signage, mailers, and word of mouth as part of other community gatherings.
Event Follow Up: The best time to review and make suggestions for improvement for similar future events is soon after the event has concluded, and again, a checklist can be created at this point to facilitate planning and discussion. Don’t wait too long to debrief. Expect to receive many requests and questions from the residents at the event. Make a note of these questions and suggestions, and flag them for follow up. This is a great opportunity to shine if you are able to communicate answers or actions as soon as possible. So, place a “follow-up” category on the checklist. Other aspects of follow up may also be logistical. For instance, if a common amenity is used for the event, make sure to have everything cleaned, repaired, and ready for the next event as soon as possible. Always make sure your invoices are submitted immediately and send thank you notes to the vendors and volunteers.
In closing, community events can contribute to a feeling of group cohesiveness. So, planning for a job well done is highly important. A comprehensive checklist can help ensure that your event is more than just good intentions, but a smooth and successful operation.
By Jill Allen, CMCA, AMS, PCAM
Jill is a manager with Community Management Corporation, an Associa Company and has been in the community association industry since 2008. Jill’s ten years of management experience is comprised of managing very large upscale communities consisting of over 1,900 units. She is currently the general manager of Belmont Community Association and is an active member of WMCCAI’s Virginia Legislative Committee.