Hosting events is a great way to keep current members engaged and attract potential new ones. Here, Erin Holt, the Kids Central and family programming manager at the Madison Area YMCA, breaks down the best practices for hosting a successful event:
Once you have an event in mind, how do you decide on the date, time and location?
EH: We always keep in mind what is going on within our facility in terms of other program areas, such as gymnastics meets, basketball games and other enrichment activities. We also research to see if there are similar events happening within the communities we serve. As an example, we throw an annual event for Halloween called “Spooktacular.” It always falls on the same Saturday the town has its trick or treating event. We schedule ours to begin when theirs ends, and that has been successful for us, since the community ends their day with us.
What are your best practices for staying within budget?
EH: Planning, planning, planning. We work as a team in our facility and when we throw a community event, all program areas participate. We are all responsible for our own activities and thus responsible for budgeting our supplies. We solicit for sponsors in the community, and look for donations from vendors. This helps cut down on our overhead costs.
How soon do you recommend marketing and what are your best strategies?
EH: Our marketing department is very adept on how and when to roll out information to our community and members. We use print and social media, as well as mailing when appropriate. We have screens in our building that have information of upcoming events. We use Constant Contact and have found that greatly successful. With that, we receive email clicks that our directors personally follow up on with members.
What follow up practices do you implement after events?
EH: We send out surveys to members who have participated in programs to solicit feedback, as well as use an online feedback source called OpenLine. We have found this to be highly useful.
What final tips do you have for hosting a successful event?
EH: The best advice I have is to have a great team and people around you that you can trust. No one can pull off a big event alone. There are many moving parts and one has to be able to delegate responsibilities to people whom they trust will get the job done. Teamwork is essential in creating a successful event.