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Planning for Communitywide Special Events:
Part 2

A North Central Regional Extension Publication

Writing Objectives

An important step in planning a successful communitywide event is to write objectives or goals for the project. The list of objectives should basically outline what is going to be done, who is going to do it, who will benefit, and what specific results are desired.

Having a written list of objectives will aid planners in keeping within the boundaries of their goals and will help in recruiting individuals and groups who identify with the planners' specific aims. The list of objectives also proves to be an important evaluation tool -- a yardstick by which to measure the event's success.

The following objectives were written for a Musket Days Festival but can be used as guidelines for writing objectives for other events. Objectives such as these provide a focus for the entire planning process and thus should be determined before moving ahead with the project.

Objectives of the Musket Days Festival:

  1. To interpret the unique Civil War history of the community through pageantry, displays of craftsmanship, and serving of authentic food.

  2. To utilize the full resources and cooperation of local governmental, civic, and church groups for voluntary help, facilities, and financial backing.

  3. To provide fun and entertainment for children and adults of all ages.

  4. To attract at least 3,000 visitors to the community from surrounding rural areas and towns.

  5. To raise at least $5,000 (net profit) for installation of a children's playground and other equipment in the community park.

Involving the Whole Community

Special events should be planned not only for the whole community, but also by the whole community. For this reason, event planners should strive to interest and involve a large number and variety to people and to utilize their time and talents.

The planning group should consider the main tasks that need to be completed and then recruit those people who can best aid in getting the jobs done. A variety of individuals and groups can be approached to help with the planning and operation of the event -- people with special skills, groups who have expressed interest in the activities to be held, and representatives of agencies that can contribute facilities or funds. All organizations in the area should be asked to help -- 4-H clubs, church groups, county Extension personnel, local service chapters, and others.

Workers can be recruited through personal phone calls, talks to various local clubs, discussions with elected officials, or appeals at public meetings.

People should be challenged with opportunities and tasks that best fit their interests and capabilities. For example, the newspaper editor could be asked to head publicity for the event, the fire and police benevolent associations could handle safety and parking, and the owner of a local restaurant could be asked to oversee refreshments.

Having clearly defined, written objectives will aid in the recruitment of willing workers; however, these objectives must be expressed to people in terms of the roles they as individuals or groups might assume.

The most common way to organize event planning is to form committees with each group in charge of a specific function. An overall event chairperson should be appointed or elected to coordinate all planning and operations. This individual should be responsible for appointing committee chairpeople who in turn must recruit sufficient help to ensure that their committees are successful in completing their assigned tasks.

The number of workers and committees needed will depend largely on the nature of the event; however, several committees are needed for almost every event -- publicity, program, finances, facilities, clean-up, evaluation, and special activities. Some events might also require committees for refreshments, parking and safety, decorations and props, or other special functions.

Subcommittees may be needed for large events involving many different activities. For example, the finance committee may be responsible for pre-event donations, tickets sales, and the audit of all event receipts and may elect to divide the tasks among several smaller subcommittees. The publicity committee may have one subcommittee which works ofnposters and banners and another one which schedules promotional talks in neighboring communities.

The number of committees and subcommittees formed will depend on the amount and variety of tasks that must be accomplished. A skillful chairperson will designate enough committees so that a lot of people are involved in meaningful efforts and can realistically accomplish their goals in the time available.

Communication is important to the overall success of an event. All members of the planning team should be kept informed about what various committees are doing and should have a voice in overall planning. No individual or group should speak for the planning team as a whole unless a total group decision has been made regarding actions or directions to be taken.

Some efficient event-planning teams decide before the event or after one year's success to form ongoing organizations to evaluate the past event and plan for future ones. Such organizations usually take the form of nonprofit corporations, chartered by the state, with officers and standing committees who can raise funds and enter into formal agreements with other groups and agencies. Formation of nonprofit corporations may be desirable, but with full citizen participation a main objective of communitywide events, care should be taken that a "closed corporation" does not result.

Planning for Special Populations

A communitywide event provides an opportunity for everyone to celebrate and become involved. Thoughtful consideration should be given to including those who may find it especially difficult to fully participate without assistance because of age or physical or mental handicaps. The overall aim of such assistance should be to enable each individual to enjoy the event with as much independence and self-reliance as possible. Special provisions may need to be made for these people but not to the extent that they are likely to receive excessive visibility or attention.

Every community has other individuals with special needs -- elderly persons who are homebound, residents of local care facilities, the blind and the deaf, the able-bodied persons who must remain at home to care for the ill and handicapped or for their own elderly parents or infant children. All of these people should be identified by the planning committee according to the degree of needed assistance, and specific plans should be made to include them in the event.

Special populations are often intentionally or unintentionally excluded from community recreational activities and events because event planners fail to give attention to their needs. The event-planning team has an opportunity to make progress in this area. The following actions should be considered when planning a communitywide event.

  1. Accommodate special populations: Provide ramps at curbs or steps. Make sure restrooms and other facilities are easily accessible and equipped with extra-wide doorways. Provide clearly designated, convenient, and usable parking spaces.

  2. Anticipate the needs of people with disabilities for easy seating, viewing, and participating in activities. Depending on the type of activity, consider providing interpreters for the hearing impaired.

  3. Invite residents of care homes, day care centers, and other agencies and institutions to participate and inquire about their special needs.

  4. Organize a volunteer respite service for caregivers so that they can participate in the event.

  5. Provide or arrange for transportation to help disabled individuals travel to and from the event.

  6. Setup a nursery program so that parents of young children may take part in the festivities.

  7. At all times try to reduce barriers and enhance access for members of special populations. Try to integrate them as much as possible into all events.

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About the Author:

This publication is a revision of the 1976 circular by Robert P. Humke and Anne Murray Stenolen. This edition was prepared by Robert D. Espeseth, recreation resource specialist, Office of Recreation and Park Resources, Department of Leisure Studies and the Illinois Cooperative Extension Service. It is designed especially for groups planning their first communitywide events; however, the material will also be of value to those evaluating existing events in the hope of making them more successful.

North Central Region Extension Publications are subject to peer review and prepared as part of the Cooperative Extension activities of the thirteen land-grand universities of the 12 North Central states, in cooperation with the Extension service - U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington D.C. The following states cooperated in making this publication available.

University of Illinois (publishing state)
Kansas State University
University of Wisconsin

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