11 steps to planning a community event: the complete guide

Organize a successful community event with Craft's 11-step guide. From planning to permits to putting on the big day, we'll show you how to execute a successful community event (with free, handy templates)

Updated:
Organize a successful community event with Craft's 11-step guide. From planning to permits to putting on the big day, we'll show you how to execute a successful community event (with free, handy templates)

Putting on an event for your community is a great way to bring people together, make new connections, re-ignite old connections, and just increase community spirit. But even small events required a lot of planning and preparation - if you want them to be a success. In this guide, we’ll go through each step you’ll need to plan and put on a great community event.

What is an event plan?

An event plan is a document that outlines the logistics of a specific event, including planned activities, marketing, budget, and expected outcomes. It is a living document as that is constantly adapted as the event is planned and prepared. A good event plan will cover all aspects of the event, from the concept and objectives to staffing, budgeting, and technical requirements. It should also include a timeline of when tasks need to be completed and any necessary checklists.

Why use an event plan?

As there are a huge number of components, even for a small event, it’s vital to have a written plan, which enables you and your team to coordinate all the moving parts that make up a successful event. 

By starting the planning process early, having a clear timeline, understanding the needs and objectives of the event, and having a contingency plan for unexpected occurrences, you’ll be able to ensure that your event is successful.

The key components of an event plan include the purpose, objectives, timeline, target audience, budget, logistical information, and promotion. Your plan should also include policies and procedures, such as risk management and health and safety plans. You should also consider any legal requirements or regulations, such as permits, licenses, or insurance.

Finally, the plan should include a feedback strategy so that you can measure the effectiveness of the event and make adjustments for future events.

Putting together a great event plan is a challenging but rewarding process. With a bit of time, effort and attention to detail, you can be sure that your event is a success.

Step 1: Identify the Purpose of the Event

Every successful event starts with a clear purpose. Take time to consider what you hope to achieve with the event. What do you want the attendees to learn, experience, or take away from the event? Is it for fundraising, networking, or simply for fun? Identifying the purpose of the event will help guide the rest of your planning process.

Step 2: Set a Budget

Establishing a budget is an essential part of event planning. It is important to consider all costs associated with the event, such as venue rental, catering, entertainment, marketing, permits, and supplies. Additionally, it is important to consider contingency funds in case of unexpected expenses.

Craft's event budget template helps make the budgeting more simple to calculate and easy to share with the rest of your team.

Screenshot of Craft's Event Budget Template
Craft's handy event budget template makes it simple to lay out your event's financials

Step 3: Choose a Date and Location

Choosing the right date and location for your event is one of the most important steps in the planning process. It's important to consider the venue, the weather, and other factors that could affect the success of your event.

Venue Considerations

When looking for a venue for your event, first create a list of all the ‘must haves’ you require. Think about the size, capacity, accessibility, and just the general suitability for the type of event you plan to hold. 

You'll want to make sure it can accommodate the number of people you expect to attend, and that it is easily accessible for all attendees. Think about car parking or how easy it is to get to via public transport. Additionally, investigate the amenities the space offers, such as electricity, PA system, lighting, restrooms, cooking facilities, etc. These factors can help you determine if the venue is a good fit for your event. 

Weather Considerations

If your event will be outdoors, then the weather is an important factor to consider. You’ll need to think about what to do in case of heavy rain, extreme heat, or unusually cold weather. Think about where people could find shelter from the elements and still enjoy the event, even if weather conditions aren’t ideal on the day.

Step 4: Create a Timeline

Creating a timeline is essential for planning a successful community event. It helps to ensure that all tasks are completed in a timely manner and that all volunteers and vendors are aware of their roles and responsibilities.

The timeline should include pre-event planning tasks, such as securing permits, recruiting volunteers, and advertising the event. It should also include day-of-event tasks, such as setting up the venue, greeting attendees, and monitoring the event.

Pre-Event Planning

Pre-event planning is the most important step in organizing a successful community event.

Start by creating an event planning checklist of tasks that need to be completed, such as:

  • Setting up your online presence 
  • Securing vendors
  • Creating a budget
  • Developing a timeline
  • Recruiting volunteers
  • Obtaining necessary permits
  • Promoting the event

Once you have identified all of the tasks that need to be completed, assign a timeline to each task and create a timeline of when each task should be completed. This will help keep you on track.

Screenshot of an Event Planning Checklist by Craft
Use Craft's free event planning checklist to outline the ‘to dos’ for your event


Day-of-Event Planning

Day-of-event planning involves preparing the venue and weather considerations and creating a timeline for the day. Volunteers must be recruited and assigned roles, and vendors must be secured. Greeters should be assigned to welcome attendees, and the event should be monitored.

Step 5: Recruit Volunteers

Depending on the size of your event, volunteers or even paid staff may be essential. When recruiting volunteers, it's important to consider the roles they'll play and the best methods for recruiting them.

Volunteer Roles

There could be a variety of roles for volunteers to fill. Some of the most common volunteer roles include:

  • Greeter: Responsible for welcoming guests and answering questions.
  • Ticket Taker: Collects tickets and ensures that guests have a valid ticket to enter the event.
  • Parking Attendant: Manages parking and traffic flow near the event.
  • Set Up/Clean Up: Responsible for setting up and breaking down the event space.
  • Food Server: Serves food to guests and ensures that the food is replenished throughout the event.
  • Security: Monitors the event to ensure that all guests are safe.

Recruiting Volunteers

Start by creating a detailed description of each volunteer role, including what tasks they'll be responsible for and how many hours they'll need to commit. Then, reach out to your network to find potential volunteers. Utilize social media and other online platforms to spread the word and make sure you're clear about the expectations and requirements of each role. Finally, follow up with potential volunteers and make sure they have the resources and support they need to be successful.

You can use Craft’s free job description template to quickly create and share job descriptions for volunteers online.

Job Description Template
Craft's free job description template enables you to create and share jobs for volunteers online via a link

Step 6: Secure Necessary Permits

Securing necessary permits is an important step in planning a community event. Depending on the type of event, the permitting process may require submitting an application, paying a fee, and/or obtaining approval from the local government or other organizations. It may also take some time so research the necessary permits early and plan ahead.

Step 7: Secure Vendors

If your event is large enough to require vendors, then identify the types of you need. Consider vendors who can provide food, beverages, entertainment, and souvenirs.

Food Vendors

Food vendors are an integral part of any successful event. They provide sustenance for attendees and can add to the overall atmosphere of the event. When selecting food vendors, it is important to consider the type of event, the number of attendees, and the budget. Additionally, it is important to ensure that the vendors have the appropriate permits and licenses.

Fish & Chips food truck at a community event

Entertainment Vendors

Entertainment vendors can be a great way to add fun and excitement to your event. Consider live bands, DJs, magicians, comedians, or other performers. Carefully research vendors and read their reviews. Contact references, ask for samples of their work, and get a sense of their performance style. Additionally, consider the venue size and the audience to ensure the entertainment is appropriate. 

Step 8: Promote the Event

Promoting an event is possibly the most important part of the whole process. There’s no point in putting on the perfect event if nobody turns up.

Consider both digital and print marketing, as well as media coverage. Create a website, Facebook page or a Craft doc and share it on social media. Create posters and flyers to be distributed in the local community. Speak to local newspapers, magazines, and radio stations about your event. Your goal here is to build a buzz and get people talking about it.

Social Media

Social media is an essential tool for promoting your event. It's an easy and cost-effective way to reach a wide audience, and it can help create buzz. Use all the usual social media suspects at your disposal: Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, LinkedIn - to reach your target audience.

Create a hashtag for your event, and post regularly during the planning and build-up. Share photos, videos, and updates to keep your followers engaged. Monitor your social media accounts for any comments or questions about the event. You want to get people excited about your event and tell others about it.

Print Advertising

Print advertising can be a great way to spread the word about a community event. It can be used to target a specific audience and can be tailored to fit any budget. Additionally, print advertising can be used to reach people who may not be as tech-savvy or those who don’t spend a lot of time online. Consider posters, flyers, leaflets, billboards - anything that helps raise the profile of your event.

Media

Getting the word out to your local community via magazines, newspapers, and radio stations will help more people learn about your event. Write a press release about it and submit it to the media in your area. Offer yourself up for media interviews with the local press. Try to find an interesting hook that makes it a great story for a journalist to cover. 

  • Is your event a first for the area? 
  • Is it the biggest in its sector? 
  • Will there be appearances from interesting people?

Step 9: The Big Day: Execute the Event

Executing the event is where all your planning and hard work come together. Greeting attendees is a great way to welcome them to the event and ensure they have a positive experience. Have volunteers stationed at the entrance to welcome guests and direct them to the appropriate areas.

Throughout the event, monitor the activity to ensure everything is running smoothly. Have volunteers stationed at different areas to ensure that guests are following the rules and are having a good time.

Greet Attendees

Greeting attendees is an important part of executing a successful community event. A warm welcome creates a positive atmosphere and sets the tone for the event. Volunteers should be organized and well-trained to greet attendees with a smile, answer questions, and provide directions.

Monitor the Event

During the event, it is important to have someone assigned to monitor the event. This person should be in charge of making sure the event runs smoothly and that any problems that arise are quickly addressed. They should be able to identify any potential risks and take steps to minimize them. They should also be able to communicate with volunteers and vendors to ensure that all tasks are being completed. This person should be organized, have excellent communication skills, and be able to think on their feet.

Step 10: Evaluate the Event

After the event is over, assess its success and identify areas for improvement. Firstly, go back to your original intentions for your event and ask yourself: 

‘Did my event fulfill its goals’?

For example:

  • Did it get the number of attendees you’d hoped for?
  • Did it take as much revenue as your planned for?
  • Did people enjoy it?

You should also dig down into the detail and use methods for evaluating your event, such as surveys and feedback from attendees, volunteers, and vendors. Collecting this information and analyzing will help you understand if your event achieved its goal and enable you to make improvements for future events.

Step 11: Follow Up and Thanking

Don’t forget to follow up with everyone who was involved in your event (workers and guests). It's important to thank volunteers and vendors for their support. This is a simple gesture that shows appreciation and will help build relationships for future events. Additionally, surveys and feedback from attendees can provide valuable insight to help plan future events.

Thank Volunteers

Volunteers are the backbone of any successful community event; show appreciation to volunteers for their time and effort. To thank volunteers, event organizers can host a post-event gathering to celebrate their accomplishments. This gathering can include food and drinks, and provide an opportunity for volunteers to talk about their experiences. Additionally, event organizers can provide volunteers with a certificate of appreciation, or a small token of gratitude.

Thank Vendors

After the event is over, it's important to thank the vendors for their services. Vendors are key players in the success of any event. Show your appreciation for their hard work and dedication by sending thank-you notes, gifts, or even a discount on their next service.

Final Thought

Planning a successful community event requires a lot of consideration, research, and preparation. From creating a budget and timeline to securing vendors and permits, to promoting and executing the event.

However, with the right guidance and by following the steps outlined in this guide, you will be well-equipped to plan your next community event and make it a success. And don’t forget to thank the volunteers and vendors who help to make your event an unforgettable experience.