Philanthropic activity is a cornerstone of every fraternity and sorority, and hosting a successful philanthropy can not only help a worthwhile cause, but improve your chapter’s public relations, and bring your members together. So, what makes a great event? Here are some tips to ensure your philanthropy avoids the flop and becomes a much-anticipated annual tradition.
Probably one of the easiest ways to ensure your philanthropy is a success, is making sure your members show up. Not only does it look good if a majority of your chapter attends, but high member attendance also ensures that you’ll have volunteers and extra hands for all those odd jobs that seem to come up. Although attendance at the philanthropy would seem like a given for your members, you’ll be surprised at how many arrive late or skip out early if not told to do otherwise. If your members seem especially lazy, consider charging fines for not attending the event, showing up late, or leaving early. Finally, when reminding your members to show up, also remember to ask for volunteers or dole out responsibilities for event setup and tear down. You can’t do everything yourself, and if you don’t ask for help (or assign it), your event might not go as well as planned.
As nice as it is to display that you “donate to X charity”, successful philanthropies usually go above and beyond a simple sign. Having a representative from the charity or organization can help drive home the message and encourage attendees to learn more about the cause. It also provides for a great photo op, and improves your chapter’s relation with the charity or organization. Getting someone from the charity or organization to come out to your event is not hard to do. Be sure to invite them ahead of time, and make sure they have a designated “spot” at the philanthropy: a nice table and chairs and maybe a canopy if its really sunny (set up ahead of time). When the representative arrives, make sure you or someone else is waiting for them and give them a small tour of the event. Additionally, encourage the representative to bring handouts or giveaways to the event. This is another easy way to promote the charity or organization, and get people to remember long after your event has finished.
Whether your philanthropy is targeted at your greek community, fellow students, or surrounding residents, overall attendance is paramount to the success of your event. An easy way to ensure attendance is to give people early notice. Don’t just plaster your campus with flyers the day before, but rather, tell people at least a month in advance. If you’re inviting people from other schools or cities, make sure to give at least two months notice, and provide travel information as well (directions, parking information, etc.). You want to make it so easy for people to come to your event that saying “no” would be more of a hassle then saying “yes”.
Finally, remember to send reminders! One email, one phone call, or one email may implant the idea; however, its always the followup that ensures attendance. To do this, use your networks: use your members to remind people on campus, use you alumni to remind each other, and use your connections in the community. You shouldn’t forget emails, text messages and phone calls, but don’t underestimate the power of networking and word of mouth.
Most philanthropies will have third party vendors. Whether its a catering service for lunch, a DJ, a photographer, or a clothing company selling shirts that benefit the charity, remember that these vendors are just as important to your event as your attendees. If a philanthropy is the cake, then vendors are the icing on the cake. Keep in contact with your vendors all throughout the planning process, and on the day of the event, be sure that they know what to do, where to go, and when they should get there. Also, make sure you have everything they need: an electric outlet for the DJ, a display area for the clothes, and a service entrance for the caterers.
Vendors are a very important, very time-consuming part of a philanthropy and, if disorganized, they can be the ruin of your event. Consider assigning a member as Vendor Coordinator to give yourself more breathing room and to give the vendors a single contact for the event.
Depending on your philanthropy, picking your venue can be very difficult or very easy. Whether you’re looking for a five-star banquet hall or recreational sports fields, you need to be considerate of your venue host and their needs. Before you reserve the venue, make sure you provide the host with everything (literally, everything!) that will happen at your event. Don’t leave anything out or “forget” something just to get the venue, because this will come back to bite you in the behind (you could loose the venue, loose your deposit, and ruin your event). Additionally, if your venue host requires food, beverage or alcohol licenses, be sure to get these ahead of time. Nothing is worse then promising free food and not delivering on the day of the event.
So you have your members, your attendees, your vendors and the venue: now how do you keep them all there? Scheduling your philanthropy in an attendee-friendly manner is key to maintaining interest and keeping people there. The schedule of your event will completely depend on what your philanthropy is (i.e.: sport tournament, sit-down dinner, or talent show), but here are some general guidelines:
- Don’t schedule highlights of the philanthropy too early: people tend to show up “fashionably late” (especially in the greek community), so you don’t want to waste your headlining band or mind-blowing presentation when only half of the attendees are there
- Keep people at the venue for meals: if you have an all-day event, don’t encourage people to leave (and not return) by not serving food or offering meal options. If your budget doesn’t have room for free food, invite a vendor and have people buy food with part of their money going to the charity.
- Keep people interested during down time: in between games, performances or courses, provide something to keep people interested. Fill the time with an event host (one of your members), information about the charity, raffle drawings, or campus group performances.
- Don’t leave gaps in your schedule: keep your attendees going by scheduling event after event, rather than leaving unplanned time gaps. While you don’t need to plan every second of the day (because, lets face it, your event will never run on schedule), make sure you don’t have long, unfilled periods of time.
- Consider travel time: if you’ve invited out-of-town participants or guests, be sure to allow for their travel time in your schedule. Starting the philanthropy at 8AM when someone is coming from a city two hours away isn’t very smart (nor is it very considerate).
If your venue is humongous or if you need to be in constant contact with certain members, relying on your cell phone might not be the best idea. Although you can probably get through the night, if your budget and chapter allow, consider getting two-way radios. Your chapter can buy them so they remain chapter property, you won’t have to worry about cell service or noise drowning out your ringtone, and you’ll save time and confusion.
Additionally, if you have to make announcements throughout the event, give your vocal cords a break and bring in a PA or mic system. If you’ve hired a DJ, they might already have the equipment and may charge a little extra to set it up.
Odds and Ends
Although the odds and ends of your philanthropy seem like the most inconsequential aspects of the entire event, not planning for them can cost you time and be a downer for everyone. So what can you do? Like everything else, plan for these things ahead of time! If you’re hosting a sport tournament, be sure you’ve assigned referees and they all have whistles and flags and know what to wear. If its a talent show, make sure the mic equipment works and you have each performance’s music. These little things may seem insignificant, but when done right, they can bring the entire philanthropy together and ensure the whole event runs smoothly and successfully.
This post was generously provided by ChapterBoard.