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Planning a Special Event? Here is how…Part 1 of 2
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Planning a Special Event? Here is how…Part 1 of 2

By Misty Cato Vice President, Diversified Nonprofit Services, LLC

Special Events, you either love them or you hate them…either way as a non-profit organization it is likely that you conduct various events throughout the year. The events may be for fund raising, public relations, or simply an event for your program participants. Regardless of the reason for the event there are some basic tools and principles that can make conducting an event a less painful and more enjoyable experience.

This is the first in a series of articles on event planning. This article focuses on creating an effective plan.

A central theme through this series will be keeping your events lively and upbeat. The most important item to remember is that ALL special events should be fun, exciting and motivating. Whether you are having a formal gala, a fund raising breakfast, or a carnival in the park, the participants must have an enjoyable experience for the event to be truly successful.

In event planning, a helpful tool is an Animation Plan. The Animation Plan is the programmer’s/planner’s vision of the event in terms of how participants will experience and move through the program/event.

The Animation Plan should include the following 15 components:

  1. Name of Event- a clever and catchy name should be developed for the event
  2. Date
  3. Time
  4. Location
  5. Description and Goal of Event- at the end of the event what are the desired outcomes?
  6. Timeline for task completion- all task should be listed
    Reserve Community Park May 1, 2009 John Smith
    Secure Clown Troup May 15, 2009 Sally Johnson
  7. Schedule of Events- begin with set-up and end with the clean-up
  8. Leader/Volunteer Responsibilities and Orientation
  9. Behavior Control/Crowd Control
  10. Description of Attendees- donors, volunteers, general public, organization participants
  11. Possible Problems- anticipate any potential problems in event execution
  12. Closing
  13. Clean-up
  14. Detailed Description of Activities- list each activity that will take place during the event and provide a detailed description of how the activity will occur and be managed (e.g., silent auctions, registration, cocktail hour, etc.)
  15. Risk Management Plan
  • Facility
  • Equipment
  • Activities
  • Policies/Procedures
  • Facility
  • Layout

In addition to the above items a flowchart should be created for the event. The flowchart needs to reflect the major milestones for planning the event in concert with an annual calendar. See the sample flowchart below for a carnival.

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The Animation Plan should be thorough and comprehensive. Imagine that you have been the only person planning an event and you are sick or bed-ridden on the event day. A person unfamiliar with the event should be able to read your Animation Plan, then understand AND deliver the event. It should be extremely detailed! Scenario by scenario…Step-by-step! Do not assume what people might know or understand.

This Animation Plan:

  • provides direction for staff and volunteers
  • forces the planner to anticipate and plan
  • identifies problems
  • allows for continuity (makes event reproducible)
  • serves as an evaluation tool
  • provides documentation of the event which, in the worst case, can reduce legal liability.

Once a solid plan is in place for the execution of the event the planner can begin to focus on those things that will make their event truly a “special” event.

These are only a few tips and ideas that will make your event successful. Having a comprehensive well thought out plan will assist in delivery and execution of the event. The plan will also reduce stress for planners and volunteers.