Five Quick Steps to Planning Successful Programs
Programming is one of the many benefits that an honor society or chapter offers to its membership. Programs may be anything from raising money for a charitable organization to an elaborately organized research event with presenters, posters and meals. Utilize these steps and additional tips to discover how to begin engaging your members through creative programming.
Step one: Find out what members want
Periodically, your developing honor society should conduct surveys to assess member satisfaction, evaluate program needs and learn what is most important to members. Online surveys have become the most accessible and user-friendly evaluation tools available. There are several options available, such as SurveyMonkey, QuestionPro and Surveygizmo.
After you have selected which tool you want to utilize, download/access an active member roster from the honor society’s files to see how many members you will be contacting and if there is anyone without an e-mail address.
A few additional tips:
- Develop a communication plan to inform members of where, how and why the survey should be completed. Provide information about how long the survey will take to complete.
- Have a question in your survey to ask if any members would be interested in volunteering their time to plan programs. Be sure to include a field for the members to enter contact information.
Send the survey link out via e-mail and post the survey link on your chapter's website.
- Consider including an incentive to members who complete the survey.
- Leave the survey open for two or three weeks as you continue to send reminders for members to complete it. A good response rate is 30 percent.
- Utilize the survey results to determine what types of programs your honor society will prioritize planning first.
Step two: Identifying volunteers
Before scheduling an event, ensure that an adequate number of volunteers are willing and available to assist with the planning. The honor society bylaws allow the board of directors to appoint additional committees to complete the work of the honor society. Consider appointing a program planning committee to help carry out the work required for your next program.
Where can you find volunteers? If you included a question in your survey to indicate members’ interest in volunteering for an upcoming program, be sure to check the results to see if anyone responded. Another option is to ask members to complete an interest inventory at the induction when they are most excited about joining and belonging to the honor society. The interest inventory should include questions about members’ skills, experiences and interests so you can later match individuals’ skills and interests with the honor society committees and planning tasks that need to be completed and invite them to participate.
Step three: Planning the program
Planning the program is going to take time. Consider these first steps in event planning:
- Developing an event outline, objectives and timeline: The outline and objectives will set the tone of the event and help you communicate about the event effectively to interested members. Be realistic in how long it will take volunteers to complete tasks and build in plenty of time for members to hear about the event.
- Extra tip: Check the schedule of other nursing organizations, both local and national, so there are no conflicts for potential attendees.
- Content planning and speaker selection: You can start to develop content by finding members who are experts in a particular field or focus area. You can also find a list of topic ideas online. To find speakers, consider requesting an STTI board member to speak or visiting the STTI Speakers Bureau.
- Site selection: Once the committee has specific event details, you can select a location that best meets the needs of your event. You’ll find resources to help you select a location, including how to get a Request for Proposal (RFP), site inspection list, standard contract clauses and more, at www.nursingsociety.org/chapters.
- Extra tip: If your committee or honor society is having difficulty finding a location, consider contacting the local convention and visitor bureau for additional recommendations.
- Basics of budgeting: All of the established details will provide the information needed to prepare a realistic budget for the event. A realistic budget will include costs for venue, food and beverage, audio/visual equipment, name tags, handouts or promotional gifts, communication materials and any costs associated with the speaker(s).
- Extra tip: A sample event budget is available at www.nursingsociety.org/chapters by clicking on “Tools & Resources” and then “Programs and Service Projects.”
You should also consider additional event logistics such as insurance and collection of registration payments.
Step four: Communication
As you finalize event details and logistics, communicate the event to members early and often. Remember to keep the communication methods diverse. In order for your event to be successful, plan to utilize printed, online and in-person communication methods.
Follow these easy communication tips:
- Develop an event communication plan to establish a schedule of timely and consistent contact with members and create responsibilities that can be divided up among volunteers.
- Download a new active member roster every time you communicate with members. This way, the honor society utilizes the correct and most current e-mail addresses and contact information each time a message is sent.
- If your event is going to be open to the public, consider developing a press release to be published in local newspapers.
Step five: Analyze the results
Ask attendees to reflect on the event experience and relay suggestions back to the group. You can utilize another electronic survey or provide a simple form to complete at the event. For tips on crafting an effective evaluation, visit: http://eventplanning.about.com/od/productionentertainment/a/speaker_eval.htm.
The survey should be short and easy to return. Summarize the findings from the survey, share them with the planning committee and archive them for the meeting or planning committee.
Utilize the lessons learned to begin planning the next chapter program. What worked well? What could have been better?
Be sure to send thank-you notes to all parties involved with the event. This includes sponsors, speakers, volunteers, committee members and anyone that helped to make the event a success.