Thank you for your interest in Event Planning For Dummies.
I would like visitors to be aware that while you are welcome to use my suggestions for planning your own event, I wrote this article with non-profit organisations, particularly Scouts Canada and Girl Guides of Canada, in mind. When I offer to post events on my web site, I am referring to Scouting and Guiding events only, specifically for Venturers, Rovers, and Senior Branches. I will not post events that are not related to these sections.
You are welcome to send me questions if you wish, and I will offer any ideas that come to mind, but I am not a professional event planner, I am a volunteer with years of experience that I learned from through trial and error.
I wrote this article in 1999 for two small-circulation Scouting magazines, and without advertising it myself I have received over 20000 hits. This exceeds the traffic of all the other pages of my site combined. Thank you for your support!
On this page, you will find the original, unedited article as it was published in the Canadian Rover Eh! magazine and the South Lake Simcoe Scoop.
Good luck with your event!
So, you've decided to hold an event. This could be anything, a camp, dance, party, fund raiser, anything. You want people to come, but it seems so hard to reach everybody.
I've added this section because I've seen a lot of enthusiastic people with great ideas work really hard to run an event, only to be discouraged when nobody shows up. In my opinion, this happens WAY too often! In this section I'm going to let you in on the things I've learned about advertising in Scouting.
Part 1: The Bright Idea
First of all, you need an idea. Hopefully, this idea will have a theme of some sort that will help people to remember who you are. For example, we held a very successful dance recently. It was called Rubber Duckie. Simple, unusual name, tells the theme, allows for easy filing in the brain along with fond childhood memories. When you set the date, make sure you have AT LEAST 2 months, if not more, time to get the word out for a dance; 6 months for a camp. This will allow time for word of mouth, webmasters that post stuff on their sites [;-)], and adults that offer rides to sort themselves out. It is very difficult to get to an out-of-town dance when you don't have your own car! Also, make sure that the date you choose does not directly conflict with any other event in your area. I've seen would-be good parties fail due to a lack of research on the part of the second group to take over that date. The long planning time for the event will also help reduce stress that comes from organising the event by preventing the last-minute runaround.
Part 2: The Flier
To go with those fond childhood memories of Sesame Street, we made a cute flier with an adorable picture of a rubber duckie on it. This was to be the main method of advertising our dance. The picture reinforced the image of fun and enjoyment is people's minds, and they were eager to attend. We offered two prices, $6 in advance, and $7 at the door. To further encourage people to pre-register, we promised that everyone who did so would get a free rubber duckie at the door. (Hint: If you promise something on your flier, make sure you can deliver on it. You don't want 200 angry people chasing after you. It kinda ruins the party!) I managed to acquire rubber duckies cheaply by buying 144 of them from a toy dealer. We ended up with 137 pre-registered by 9:30 PM the day before, and calls were still coming in!
There are several very important things that all good fliers have. Of course, you need the name of the event, but I have seen fliers handed out with no date for the event, and no location stated. Many people forget to add a contact name and PHONE NUMBER. Although it is a great idea to have an e-mail contact for your event, many people still don't have internet access and must rely on the "old-fashioned" phone system. If you have a web page about your event, it is also good to put that on, as well as the cost of admission and a list of any highlights of the event (i.e. - fashion show, stupid party games, door prizes, costumes, casino, etc.) so people say "Wow, that sounds like a lot of fun! Now I HAVE to be there!" Also, if you happen to have a map to the site of the event, it's usually a good idea to put it somewhere on the flier, perhaps on the back so it doesn't mess with your artwork. Remember to use a couple of pictures that go with your theme. You could use computer clip art, drawings, or something cut out of a magazine. It really doesn't matter, as long as it photocopies well and people smile when they see it.
Many people worry about the cost of producing the fliers. The trick is utilising your resources. Find someone who would be willing to make a deal with you. You would be amazed what resources you can find in Scouting. In Newmarket, there is a copy shop called Minuteman Press that is owned by a Scouter. He will make copies for anyone in Scouting or Guiding at 3 cents per sheet. If you can't find such a deal within Scouting, try approaching a copy shop in your uniform. Tell them that you're running an event for Scouting and that you're on a limited budget. You are almost guaranteed to get some sort of discount. The other way to get a lower price is to buy bulk copies. Many places sell copy cards that give you a reduced price. For instance, Mail Boxes normally charges 10 cents per sheet, but if you pay for 100 in advance, you only pay 5 cents per sheet. I've heard that some places will even sell cards for 1000 copies at 4 cents, which may be worthwhile if you are planning on running your event more than once.
If you have access to a copy machine, you're doing even better. You can buy a pack of 500 sheets of any colour paper at Business Depot for $13 and copy your flier from the white paper onto that. Be sure to choose a colour that goes with your theme. For Rubber Duckie, we used bright yellow. Five hundred copies goes a long way. It will take you through most of the camps in 6 months, even if you are a highly active social camper.
Remember when handing out fliers, a full sheet of paper is not always necessary. If the design allows, you could shrink the flier down to half or quarter-page size. They are easier to pack, save paper, and fit in a pocket without folding them to death. Some people have recently started handing out business cards for their events. This is a good idea as long as the information on it is complete enough, but they are still easily lost because they are so small. If the trend catches on, I will have to get a camp Rolodex!
To distribute your fliers, make a real effort. Try to have fliers available at every event between now and the Big Day. If you can't make it to an event, give fliers to a friend that is attending. Every flier handed out will help plant that image in someone's mind. One person who really wants to go will tell his or her friends, and pretty soon your 500 fliers become 2000. Very economical indeed!
Part 3: The Internet Is Our Friend
The internet is an excellent way of distributing your advertisement. Scan your flier into your computer and e-mail it to me, and I will post it on my site for you. If you can't send a flier, just send me the info, and I'll put that in. Use the internet to its full potential. E-mail friends (Once or twice each, NOT 100 times!), send ICQ messages, post on bulletin boards, use Sixdegrees and Planetall. DON'T send ads to people who haven't actually GIVEN their address to you, or they will get very angry that a stranger is e-mailing them for no reason.
If you visit the Onelist Home Page, you can add yourself to mailing lists for Rovers. Do a search for the lists "CanRovers" and "Rovers". While many of the Rovers on these lists do not live in Canada, most of them do (especially in the CanRovers list) and would be glad to receive information about your event. Please make sure you don't abuse the system, though. ONE message about your event is sufficient.
While we're on the topic of e-mail, I'd like to remind everyone about the little box in your e-mail program labelled "BCC:". It seems that very few people know what this is actually for. BCC stands for Blind Carbon Copy, and any addresses you put in there will receive the message, but will be invisible to every other person that receives the message. This should be used as a courtesy to people who wish to keep their e-mail addresses private. I have had lots of people send me chain letters I didn't want, only to have other people (total strangers) pick it up off that e-mail and use it to send me those dumb "send this to 5000 of your closest friends or you will die" chain letters. PLEASE DO NOT ENCOURAGE SPAMMING OR E-MAIL ABUSE. YOU WILL ONLY DISCOURAGE PEOPLE FROM COMING TO YOUR EVENT.
Part 4: Exploiting The Media
You can also send out your event information by placing ads in the Magazines, newsletters, and e-mail lists I've listed on my Rover Resource List. The Canadian Rover Eh! Magazine and The KYBO Magazine both have large readerships among Rovers, Rangers, and Venturers in Ontario and beyond. For $10 a page, you can advertise your event in either magazine in the issue of your choice. This is the other reason for planning ahead - it allows time to be published. Other good advertising venues include your local Scout shop/hall, local Scouter newsletters, and anything that gets mailed out. When I was involved in running a District Venturer camp, we collected fliers from other people who were running events and stuffed them in the registration packages. If you know someone who is running an event before yours, you could ask for such a favour, perhaps in return for free admission to your event.
Part 5: Approaching The Community At Large
To get prizes or supplies for your event, the best approach is just to ask. Be prepared by writing a business-like letter that states who you are (your group, I mean), what you're doing, when you're doing it, and what you need. Be sure to mention SCOUTS CANADA, as many people will bend over backwards to help us out. At the end of your letter, make sure you thank the company in advance, and put in at least one contact name, address, and phone number. Decide what items you want, and go into the stores that have it and just ask politely. Going in uniform helps a lot. Leave a letter, and thank the person for their time. SMILE! You will get phone calls in a very short time. Stores such as Sobey's, Dominion, Loblaws, ..It Store, and Zellers have been very generous to us. Video and CD stores are also eager to donate prizes to encourage people to come into their businesses. Click here to see a sample letter of request.
Remember to recognise people that help you out. Make a sign that lists all your sponsors, and perhaps when you hand out prizes mention who donated them. It is also a good idea to write a letter of thanks to the sponsors as well.
Part 6: The Big Day
The final piece of advertising help is from the event itself. If you plan to hold it again, try to get a contact name, address, phone number, e-mail, etc. from each group that attends. This can be used to help publicise your next event. Also remember to tell everyone that you hope to see them all next year/next time at your event. If your event was well-planned, popular, and above all, FUN, people will tell their friends to come with them to the next one.
I hope this guide will be helpful to you. Good luck on your event planning, and I'll see you there!