Resident Assistants often comment that getting students excited about attending programs is not the easiest job. RAs not only have to battle with academic commitments, but also various TV programs, parties, and other campus events. It is difficult to get students to that residence hall program or activity in the Campus Center when there are championship games on TV or when we are finding out who will be the next Bachelorette or American Idol. The timing of an event is crucial in having a large number of people attend any event.
Having a working knowledge of current American pop culture and specifically students’ interests in that culture is imperative when trying to organize a college event. Sure, there are times when an event is scheduled with these issues in mind and then, for example, the Red Sox make it to the World Series! Still, there are opportunities to either monitor or adjust our programs or change the time or date of your program.
While it is good to be mindful of conflicts, there may be other events or issues that could make our activities seem less appealing. Equally important is to see that the right people are supporting your program idea. There is always a need to organize the event and make sure that all the small details are taken care of, but it is especially important to remember that even the best organized event could go unattended if publicity does not take place. The best kind of publicity seems to be generated through word of mouth. If you have key members of your community going around telling students how fun and exciting your activity is going to be and those people tell their friends, you could have a very well attended event. Of course, there still needs to be other forms of advertisement such as posters, flyers, table tents, e-mails, etc.
Collaborate, Collaborate, Collaborate
What does all this have to do with residence life? Well, actually a lot. Most RAs are required to do some form of programming and bulletin boards. Occasionally, the residence life staff plans activities outside of the halls whether it is to hold a barbecue or to take an educational trip to the nearest museum. All of these activities, large or small, require the same techniques that activity programmers use. The basic concepts are still there: planning ahead, making sure there are no major conflicts, organizing, ordering necessary supplies, publicizing, etc. Here is a topic not yet mentioned: money. It is essential to most programming and sometimes the difference between getting what we really want and settling for what we can afford. How can we get around this? Collaborate, collaborate, and collaborate. That is the easiest way.
The Advantages of Co-Sponsorship: Financial
Co-sponsorship has several important advantages. Financially it is less risky. For example, let’s say that residence life decides to team up with the student activities office or better yet, two clubs that have a similar goal. If each organization is going to put on an event for $300, each stands to lose $300. Conversely, if each organization contributes $100 to co-sponsor a $300 program, each is only risking $100. There are three different types of financial arrangements that can be made: each organization contributes to one fund; each organization is responsible for a complete activity at a big event such as a special weekend or a small piece of one event such as ordering and paying for the food; or a combination of the two methods.
The Advantages of Co-Sponsorship: Increased Attendance
By co-sponsoring, organizations stand to benefit from the increased number of people involved in the planning, promotion, and production of the program. Since there are more people involved with the process, there is less work for each person. Plus, more people will have the opportunity to participate, learn, and create a successful program. At this point, we can go back to publicity, especially word of mouth. More people will be available to get the word out there, which should increase the number of people attending the program.
How Does Co-Sponsorship Work?
Ok, so how does this partnership occur? If I am an RA, how do I get the student activities staff to stand by my event and help maximize or contribute to programming monies? This part is easy. Go to the activities office and talk to the staff. Chances are that they will have an idea on what kinds of events other clubs and organizations are planning. They should be able to connect 2 or more organizations that are working toward a similar goal or who could benefit from co-sponsorship. For example, the residence life department here at Castleton wanted to sponsor a superbowl party and hold the event in our Campus Center. They had a limited budget to work with, but still wanted to put on a good event and started by putting up flyers and ordering food. At the start of the event, there were more attendees than expected. Members of the Student Government Association were there and decided to help out by buying extra food and soft drinks. The event was well attended and when it was over, everyone stayed after to clean up and make sure all the furniture was put back in its original location and that trash was taken care of. An event like this was simple, yet made better because two groups put their money to good use. After the event, the two groups talked about collaborating in the future, putting both of their budgets to use and planning together in advance.
The Importance of Advance Planning
Planning in advance is beneficial for many reasons. It is best to go to the student activities office as soon as you know when you want to have the event, the sooner, the better. It gives the student activities staff a chance to help the RAs or other clubs prepare for the event, order what they need, and get the word out. Talking to the student activities staff months or weeks in advance is not too soon. It helps to avoid conflicts of events and makes sure you get the time and space that you desire. What if my group decides to plan an event last minute? It is still possible. You will need to talk to the activities staff right away. You may still be able to pull off the event, but the time and space you want may not be available.
Managing Collaborative Events
Now that I found a group to co-sponsor my event with, what do I do? The following is a list of strategies that should be on your agenda: (1) Establish your goal(s). What do you want to accomplish by putting on this program? (2) Assess your support and resources. How many people can help plan and organize the program? How much time, energy and money do you have to spend? What type of students would benefit from this program occurring? (3) Decide if you want your program to have a specific theme and if so, choose that theme. Brainstorm ideas and have a clear understanding of how your theme will be used. (4) Make logistical decisions. Where will your event take place? Contact the scheduling office to make sure you reserve the location and time that is best suited for your program. Decide who will make sure there is money or checks for the things you need and who will organize the program. How many people do you need to help out with set-up, clean up, etc? Who will do it? (5) Design your program. What type of program will best achieve your goal? There are a variety of programs such as concerts, coffeehouses, dance, exhibits, films, video, lectures, workshops, travel, crafts, food, etc. Evaluate program ideas in terms of cost, budget, and applicability to your goal. Being creative with your collaborations and using student activities professionals on your campus, you can maximize your programming efforts!
It’s a Win-Win Situation
Most student activities staff members are continuously looking for good, innovative programming ideas. Stopping by to share your ideas with the activities staff will help you both to collaborate and share ideas. The activities office is a great place to look at magazines full of promotional material, activity ideas, possibly find out which other clubs and organizations have similar goals to yours, and discover what events are scheduled throughout the semester. The student activities staff does not have all the answers. Many times they look to students to find out what interests are. Sharing your ideas with the activities staff, whether it’s on a hall program or other activity helps the staff keep up with the interests of students and allows them to join forces with another group on campus. It’s a win-win situation.
Submitted by Melissa Paradee, Coordinator of Student Activities, Castleton State College