Did You Know? How to Plan an Event By Darci Larsen, Political Coordinator, Heart of America featured image placeholder

Did You Know? How to Plan an Event By Darci Larsen, Political Coordinator, Heart of America

Events are an important facet of all campaigns. The following general guideline can be used by campaigns hosting their own events, supporters hosting events on behalf of the candidate, for house parties, large fundraisers, or small fundraisers.

1.   Establish a timeline for planning the event.
Things to keep in mind:

  • The larger the event, the more time you should give yourself to organize it.
  • Promises will fall through; plans will go awry.
  • Always have a contingency plan.
  • Consider the calendar: are there any community events, party events, or holidays on the night/day you choose that will interfere with your guests’ availability?

2.   Decide on a budget.
Things to keep in mind:

  • How much is to be spent on venue overhead?
  • How much is to be spent on food?
  • How much is to be spent on entertainment?
  • What other associated costs do you have?
  • How much, if any, of this can you get donated (financial laws permitting)?

3.   Put together the guest list.
Things to keep in mind:

  • Determine the size and scope of the event – lots of people, or fewer people?
  • Small dollar or large dollar?
  • Are the ticket prices set at a level your guests can afford?
  • Are your high-dollar asks a sufficient amount?
  • Bodies are a good thing! Always keep friends and family on hand to fill a table or room, should your RSVPs fall short.

4.   Find an appropriate venue.
Things to keep in mind:

  • Is the cost of this particular chosen venue a worthwhile expense?
  • Is the size of the venue adequate for the number of guests expected to show up?
  • Is the venue ambience appropriate for the type of event you’re holding? For example, a local bar may be a great venue for a small-dollar donation event with many people, but perhaps not the best choice for a high-dollar fundraiser with fewer donors.
  • Is the venue in a location easily accessible to most of your guests?
  • Is parking readily available? Or is the venue accessible by public transportation?
  • Consider sending maps out with your invitations.

5.   Use ActBlue’s Event Management tool to set ticket prices, send invitations, and manage RSVPs. See Christine’s article in the April 2008 newsletter for a step-by-step guide on how to use this feature.

6.   Finalize the details.
Things to keep in mind:

  • Finalize your plans well in advance of the event, and run through the details right before the event.
  • Double-check with the venue and/or the hosts, and/or the entertainment, and/or the food provider(s).
  • Check your RSVPs and prepare for both possibilities of smaller or larger crowds.
  • Double-check with your staff and volunteers: does everyone know where to be, when to be there, how to get there, what they’re doing, what to bring, how to dress?

7.   Arrive at the venue early.
Things to keep in mind:

  • Your staff, volunteers, and/or you should arrive typically at least a couple of hours in advance, depending on the size of the event.
  • Do you have your guest list, your various campaign checklists (newsletter request list, volunteer willingness list, etc.), campaign literature and yard signs, extra pens/markers, and a place to store donations given at the door?
  • Will you want to use name tags? Will you pre-print them from the guest list or have guests to fill out their own?
  • Are guides (human or paper) necessary to get your guests to the location of the event?

8.   Host your event.
Things to keep in mind:

  • Are you and your staff familiar with the names and faces of all VIPs who are attending?
  • Master the art of small talk!

9.   Debrief.
What was your turnout like?

  • Did you stay within the budget?
  • Was your contribution total above, below, or at the expected level?
  • Where could you have trimmed the cost of overhead?
  • How could you better streamline the event planning process for next time?
  • Was the effort expended worth your return, in the end?
  • If you addressed the crowd, how were your remarks received?

10. Send thank you notes to venue owners, hosts, donors, guests, and volunteers. ActBlue’s Event Management Tool is a great way to do this electronically.

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