How To Plan Successful Community Events That Work For Your Residents And Budget
Updated: Aug 21, 2019
By Heather Russel, Director, Association Services, Rizzetta & Company
Every residential community is unique, each with its own budget and type of residents. There are several things that all HOA and CDD board members can keep in mind as they plan worthwhile events for residents.
Start by building a calendar of events for the year, looking at big holidays and learning from past successful events as well as those that were not well attended.
Certainly there are always challenges, such as budget constraints or the potential of low resident participation. So think carefully about each event you plan, so the community won’t spend more money than needed, and you increase the likelihood of having a successful, well-attended event.
Look at big holidays or events, and then fill in the calendar
Start by building your calendar around the big holidays for the year: St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, 4th of July, Halloween, and Christmas. These are times of the year when residents look for local things to do with their families.
For Easter, think about doing a petting zoo, which is popular among the younger residents. For Christmas, most parents will want to bring their children to see Santa and Mrs. Claus, and you can add games and a train to make the event even more festive.
One of our most successful events at The Preserve at Wilderness Lake, a Pasco County community we manage, is Santa’s Arrival and Tree Lighting. The event starts with a parade as Santa enters the community on a fire truck, and “elves” throw beads and candy. The parade has been going on in the community for 17 years, and about 400 residents attend each year.
Also keep all cultures in mind when planning holiday events and get to know your residents to learn what appeals to them.
During the times of the year without major holidays, incorporate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day celebrations into your plans, along with activities like a summer splash pool party with live music, back to school event, wine tasting, adult or children’s painting night, Lego club, cooking demonstration, Kentucky Derby party, farmer’s market, or a pumpkin festival with pumpkin carving.
Most of these events can be planned easily with vendors that are experts in these areas.
If your community doesn’t have a clubhouse or amenity center, think about using an open field for events like a community fair with pony rides, balloon animals and food trucks, or even an inflatable playground or slide. Community garage sales are also a big hit and don’t require much commitment on behalf of the board, other than finding the date and making sure residents are aware so they can participate.
If one event is particularly successful, remember it for next year, and be willing to adjust your plans according to what residents want. Learn what residents would like to see in an event by talking to them about their interests, or circulating an electronic events survey.
Plan far in advance, building interest and attendance
For any event, the further out you plan the better – at least six months is ideal. This gives you time to use many different methods to communicate with residents. For example, put upcoming events in your newsletter, on the marquee sign, on fliers at the pool or clubhouse, and in email blasts.
For the Christmas event in The Preserve at Wilderness Lake, Lodge Manager Tish Dobson plans a year in advance. She wants to make sure she reserves the best Santa and can get the fire truck.
For other smaller events in her community, Dobson and her team work six months in advance to book vendors and inform residents.
Having residents RSVP for specific events can also help with attendance. A wine night, painting night or cooking class will require a certain amount of wine, painting or cooking supplies, so an RSVP count is very helpful in buying the right amount of items.
Receiving RSVPs is also important for Lego events for children, as it’s important to know how many will attend so the vendor can bring the right amount of items.
If resident participation is low for certain events, it’s ok. Know that every event will not be interesting to every resident. You’re planning events for different tastes and you’re still capturing a specific group of people, even if the attendance is lower than expected.
Make sure you’re covered under insurance
Any vendor a community hires should have its own insurance policy, and should have the CDD or HOA listed as an additional insured on the policy. It’s always a good idea to check with your legal counsel to make sure your insurance or the vendor’s insurance works for your needs.
There are also times when you’ll need to obtain an “events” insurance policy for the day, for example, if you have an event in an open common space such as a field. These types of events may not be covered under your traditional policy.
If you host an event in your clubhouse, it’s more than likely that your insurance policy will cover it.
Find ways to offset event costs
To offset the costs of large events, event sponsorships or in-kind donations from vendors or residents are an option. If you have residents that want to promote their companies’ services, they can do an in-kind donation or sponsorship and in return can promote their company at the event. Communities may also elect to charge residents an event fee or sell tickets to defray the operating costs of an event.
There’s also the opportunity to use resident connections to your advantage in planning events. For example, we had a resident who had the ability to secure a few historic fire trucks for use at a family-friendly event and offered tours of the trucks.
Through our experience managing hundreds of HOAs and CDDs in Florida, we’ve learned that planning community events can be a challenging but rewarding task. Residents always appreciate the opportunity to connect with neighbors and entertain their families.
As 2019 rolls along, this is a good time of the year to look at your 2020 calendar and fill in the holes. And as you do that, make sure you are planning a wide range of events planned for different ages and interests.