Through group discussions, informal/formal surveys, and other means of gathering information and feedback, find out what your target audience (e.g. the campus community, your members) desires and how your organization can deliver on those desires. Basing your programs on hard facts about people’s interests, rather than intuitions, traditions, or personal preferences, will greatly increase your chances for implementing successful organizational programs.
Designing a Program
When choosing a program, focus on your overall goals and how it relates to your group’s larger purposes. If you and your fellow members are unable to identify a direct relationship, you must honestly consider whether the program is worth pursuing or if your time would be better spent on other projects.
Planning and Budgeting
First, identify the available resources for the event, including funding within your organization, possible co-sponsors (on and off-campus), individuals who can assist in finding speakers, entertainment, and supplies, and finally, potential locations for the event. Then, finalize the structure of the planning committee and delegate clearly communicated responsibilities and follow-up deadlines. Be certain to obtain all necessary financial approvals from your governing board, group executive board, and adviser.
It may be worth considering co-sponsoring the event with either another student group and/or a University office. Co-sponsorship can assist you in raising more funds, mobilizing more volunteers, and reaching a wider audience. Make sure, in advance, to put all agreements--most importantly financial agreements--in writing and to submit a copies to your adviser Community Development. If possible, transfer funds from outside accounts to your organization's account and obtain checks from outside organizations in advance. Additionally, all funding for Barnard's student groups should be obtained by check in advance.
If you are considering serving alcoholic beverages at your event, be sure to adhere to all provisions of the Columbia University alcohol policy and obtain a temporary beer and wine license application through the University Event Management website. Planning for events in which alcohol will be served should begin at least one month prior to the scheduled date of the event.
Schedule Time(s) and Location(s)
Be sure to check the academic calendar and avoid holidays and scheduling conflicts with other groups or Columbia University programs. Reservations for building spaces, classrooms, residence hall lounges, lawns and plazas, or other facilities may be made through University Events Management. Arrange set-up, technical, and security services as far in advance as possible. You may need to finalize the specifics at a later date but make every effort do so at least two weeks prior to the scheduled date of the event.
Find and Book Speakers or Entertainment
Consult with your adviser and other resources to find potential entertainment or speakers for your event. Then begin the process of comparing prices, deciding on a performer or speaker, and working with your adviser to contract with the necessary parties. Please plan well in advance for external speakers and event entertainment and consult with your adviser to understsand the Columbia policies and procedures for contracting with these individuals. Be certain to meet all of the terms of the contract and its rider, keeping in mind that you are representing both your organization and Columbia University as a whole.
Publicize the Event
Use the desktop publishing center (located on the 5th Floor of Lerner Hall in the Student Group Resource Area) to create and print flyers either on campus or with approved covendors. Delegate responsibilities for posting and distributing these flyers and plan enough time to execute an effective advertising campaign. Also, listing your upcoming event in campus publications will increase the chances of this information reaching your target audience. Please keep environmental considerations in mind when planning and executing your publicity strategy. Columbia University strongly encourages the use of recycled and recyclable paper and student governing boards may have specific policies requiring their use.
Buy Supplies, Decorations, and Food
Avoid handling large amounts of cash by using:
- Vendors with which Columbia University has accounts
- Purchase orders with organizations that accept them
- University-issued check
Make certain that all plans are set and in order during the week preceding the event. This includes reviewing members’ assignments on the day of the event, assigning any additional responsibilities, and walking through the program step-by-step in an attempt to anticipate any potential problems. Meet with adviser and of with the staff of the facility in which you decide to host the event to review all of the details. Confirm with all service providers and/or performers that you have enlisted, including their expected arrival times and any other relevant information.
Host the Event
Running the event should be the easiest step, assuming that a comprehensive plan was established in advance. On the day preceding the event, be sure gather or prepare all necessary checks to pay for performances and/or services keeping in mind Student Engagement and Community Development office hours. Arrange for a group member to meet the performers and any other individuals providing services for your event. Lastly, make sure to arrive at the event site early in order to oversee the event from set-up through clean-up.
Evaluate and Follow Up
Evaluations are extremely helpful for planning future events and should be conducted whenever possible. They also help ensure that all expenditures and income are fully accounted for. Lastly, do not forget to write thank-you notes, which are not only courteous but also a good way to maintain relationships and establish contacts and referrals for future events.