Local gatherings are a critical component of the American ethos and can have a significant impact on the democratic process. Together, we can foster a national dialogue by hosting local events around the country on issues that matter to young Americans. By organizing a local event, you can educate your peers, organize fellow activists, and get your community involved. As you plan your event, keep in mind that the size of your event will not limit its impact! Many great American movements were sparked by a discussion around a kitchen table. It is our hope that this training guide will catapult your passion into action and aid you in your event planning and execution.
Tell us about it! The training does not stop here. Generation Opportunity can provide additional mentoring for your event. Let us know when your event is and if you would like someone from Generation Opportunity to join your event. Let us know about your success by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re always interested in learning more about successes across the country, so let us know how you did or send us photos, etc. Make sure that you take pictures during your event and follow up with the attendees afterwards.
Define your event’s purpose. Write down the purpose of your event in one to two sentences. Spend time to really craft the event’s purpose—think of it as a mission statement. Framing your event will guide you during the planning and execution process. Do you want to:
- Educate your friends about an issue of importance to you?
- Identify and organize community members that support your cause?
- Spread the word about Generation Opportunity and energize your peers to take action?
- Set goals for your event. Map out what you want to accomplish, not just how many seats you want to fill. As you go through this process, think about what you want attendees to get out of the event. Visualize what success looks like for your event. What will be the top three action items that you want your attendees to learn at the event or act on after the event? Do you want to host a dozen people in your home to register to vote? Organize 30 people to meet up in your city to discuss the actions they can take to get their voice heard with Generation Opportunity? Or partner with others to host an event for 100+ and discuss challenges facing your community? It’s up to you which impact you want to have.
- Establish a budget and find ways to keep costs down. Planning an event without spending a lot of money is easier than you may think. When setting your budget, consider the costs for location, food, and promotion materials and plan accordingly. You can avoid paying for a meeting space by hosting your event at a free location, such as your house, a local school, your church, or a picnic area. To keep food costs down, consider hosting a potluck and encourage attendees to bring their favorite dishes, or host a cook-off for who can bring the best dessert. Which ever strategy you choose, make sure to provide refreshments for your guests—water is free, and $10 can go a long way for drinks.
- Pick a time and place. Hint: location, location, location! The location and time can make or break your event. When choosing a date, location, and time of day, think about your audience. Picking a centralized, easily accessible location and a convenient time is critical to your event’s success. For example, if your target audience is stay-at-home moms in your neighborhood, you could host the event at your house during a weekday. You could also make the event kid-friendly or even consider providing a babysitter. Or if the goal is to attract young professionals, you could hold your event downtown after work hours.
- Check your community’s online calendar before locking in a date. Make sure there are no conflicts during the day and time of your event. To make sure that you get the maximum attendance, you will want to be aware of everything: community events, concerts, holidays, sports games, school breaks, exam periods, even very popular TV shows. The last thing you want to do is hold your event during the World Series or the season finale of “The Office.”
- Gauge interest. Make a few calls or text some of your potential attendees and run the place and time of the event by them. Make sure you ask whether they know of any conflicts before moving forward and what they anticipate the response from your target audience would be. If they are excited, move forward. If not, consider their feedback before taking the next steps.
- Promote your event. Invite people at least two weeks beforehand, and continue to remind them about your event a week out and the day before. Word of mouth, phone calls, and texting are great ways to invite the people that you already know. For bigger events, you may want to consider using Facebook Events, Evite.com, Eventbrite.com, or Meetup.com. How to use:
- E-mail: When using e-mail to invite people, craft the e-mail in a way that makes sense when it is forwarded. When sending e-mail, send it to yourself and always bcc friends.
- Facebook Events: Creating a Facebook event is a great way to let your friends know about your event. Nearly half of Americans use Facebook, and the average Facebook user under 30 has hundreds of Facebook friends. To start an event on Facebook, click the tab on the left-hand side of your newsfeed that says “Events.” You must have a Facebook account to create a Facebook event. You will need to know the date, time, and location when creating a Facebook event (but this information can be updated at any time).
- Eventbrite: Eventbrite became popular in 2009 and has fostered over 35 million RSVPs. Eventbrite is free to use for free events. If you are charging for your event, be aware that Eventbrite charges 3% of every ticket sale, so it is best to use for free events. You need an account to promote your event at Eventbrite, but it’s free, easy to do, and well worth the effort. You can get started at www.eventbrite.com and click ”Sign up” in the upper right-hand corner. Eventbrite will also provide phone support: 888.541.9753. To familiarize yourself with Eventbrite, browse through the events that other people have posted to get ideas.
- Meetup: On Meetup.com you can start an event or find an event already going on. If you are not familiar with Meetup, the social network tool has 9.5 million members and claims 1.5 million RSVPs to 280,000 events promoted every month on its site. Searching for already planned events will be a good tool in helping you discover any conflicts with your event. To find information about events in your area, no account with Meetup is required. Go to www.Meetup.com and type in your ZIP code in the top right-hand corner under “Find a Meetup Group near you” to find events in your area. To promote your event on Meetup, an account is required (it’s free) in order to post your event on their website. To get started promoting your event with Meetup, go to www.Meetup.com and click “Start” in the upper right-hand corner to set up an account.
- Evite: Unlike Eventbrite, which can attract the general public, Evite is best used when you have contact information for a small list (10–100) of people that you would like to send an invitation to. Evite will allow you to enter the contact information about your potential attendees and will e-mail them an electronic invitation. Evite is most commonly used for game-day parties and social get-togethers. The advantage of Evite is that it has lots of templates that you can choose from to design your invitation; within a minute, you will have an invitation that looks as if a professional graphic designer put it together. To get started with Evite, you will need to register (it’s free) at www.evite.com.
- Make a checklist for the day of your event. Depending on the size of your event, think through what resources and supplies you will need the day of the event and whether it will require any volunteers. See the last page of this guide for a checklist template that you can use.
- Take advantage of technology. Having sign-in sheets to collect attendees’ contact information is critical. You want to make sure that you have the most up-to-date information to stay in touch with attendees. Facebook and Eventbrite both have free iPhone and iPad apps that allow you to see who has RSVP’d and contact them. Both Eventbrite and Facebook have social plug-ins that allow attendees to automatically share your event with others on Facebook. Eventbrite also allows you to check people in. Collecting data electronically will save you time deciphering handwriting, but make sure you print out a hard copy and back up the information by downloading the list to your computer.
- Take pictures and videotape your event (if possible). If you plan to use photography or video, make sure your attendees tell you that it’s fine with them if you take their photo and film the event. Photos and videos are important communication tools that can be used to document or increase the impact of your event.
- Have a flyer with action items that people can do after the event. What are the top three “go-do’s” for each one your attendees after your event? Did they pledge to sign a petition, read more on an issue, or meet again? Having a “takeaway” will help them remember to take action afterwards and increase the impact of your event.
- Follow up. Connect with attendees about a week after the event and see whether they have completed their action items. Also ask them for feedback on the event and ideas for next time.
- Thank your volunteers. Whether people brought food, recruited attendees, hung up flyers around town, gave you and your event a shout-out on Facebook, or stayed afterwards to help clean up—anyone that helped you through the process—make sure to thank them.
- Attend other events. Observe how other organizers have planned similar or other relevant events and note what worked and what didn’t work. Talk to the event organizers and let them know that you’ve been planning events too. Ask for their advice for your future efforts. They may agree with your cause and attend your next event.
- Do it again! Now that you’ve got one event under your belt, do it again! Hopefully, your event sparked action and inspired your attendees to get educated and more engaged in the process. Encourage them to share what they’ve learned and to bring a friend next time.
Check Out Generation Opportunity’s Checklist below:
BEFORE THE EVENT
- Tables and chairs
- Marketing materials
- Water/Soda (for attendees)
- Power strip
- Extension cord
- Supply box (tape, markers, scissors, pens)
- Business cards (if you have them, or paper with your contact information)
- Parking logistics and cost
DAY OF CHECKLIST
- Line by line (for you and volunteers)
- Volunteer contact list
- Volunteer T-shirts (if needed)
- Basic camera/video equipment and batteries
- Directions to venue
- Name tags
- Sign-in sheets
- Inside the venue directions to rooms (for walkthrough if not familiar with the space)
- Cell phones (check on cell service and “drop spots”)
- Phone chargers
- Laptop charger
- List of RSVPs for checkin
- Flyer regarding event take aways