Planning a 150th Celebration
Planning a 150th Anniversary Celebration Event
The 150th Anniversary of Pi Kappa Alpha offers a unique opportunity for PIKE chapters and alumni associations to celebrate a significant historical milestone. With over 215,000 living alumni, the Fraternity wants to provide our various entities with the best resources for different ways to celebrate this event. This comprehensive planning guide will focus on three areas:
- Re-branding a current event as a 150th Anniversary Celebration
- General event planning for associations and chapters
- Founder’s Day Banquet
This is meant to be a guide and is not intended to be a directive to any chapter or alumni group. For further event planning questions, or questions regarding the 150th Anniversary, please contact the Director of Alumni Engagement at firstname.lastname@example.org .
The information below, plus sample seating charts, introduction scripts, event program, and invitation are available as a complete document.
Re-branding of a current event
Pi Kappa Alpha encourages groups to use pre-existing events and turn them into 150th Anniversary Events. This will save time, money, and effort for all parties. A few recommendations to make the event in-line with the 150th Anniversary are:
- Use current branding and 150th logos: The Fraternity has high quality, brand standard graphics available online at this link. Please consider incorporating current PIKE branding as well as the 150th anniversary logo in any marketing, invitations, programming, or signage at the event. Please see the “150 Logo Brand Guide” for proper use and display of the logo and icon.
- Let the International Fraternity know about your event: The Fraternity is aiming to have as many 150th celebratory events as possible. In order to allow the Memorial Headquarter’s Staff to assist you, please let us know of your event at least 6 weeks out. In addition, if made aware of your event, the Fraternity could look into the possibility of having a representative at your event. An online form to notify MHQ can be found here.
- Take high quality pictures: The International Fraternity would love to have a visual record or album of 150th celebrations across the country. Having a professional or semi-professional photographer at your event, especially if it is a more formal event, will allow your group and the Fraternity to have photographic documentation of your event.
- Add 150th programming to your event: Even if your event is relatively informal, MHQ encourages you to incorporate brief programming into your event. Use this opportunity to speak about the history of the Fraternity, the chapter, and any upcoming local/national initiatives. This will be a great opportunity for people to re-engage with the chapter and the Fraternity. Please see Appendix 2 in the full guide for more information on sample programming.
Event Planning basics
While planning a large event can certainly seem daunting at the start, by planning ahead and giving yourself plenty of time to work and develop the event not only will you save yourself stress but your event will be much better. For those groups planning a larger than usual event for the 150th Anniversary it is recommended to start as soon as possible.
Examples of events include:
- Golf Outing
- Outing to a sporting event (school or pro league)
- Holiday Reception
- Alumni-Undergraduate sporting event
- Chapter Scholarship Dinner
- International Work Day
- Sponsored Chapter Recruitment event
- Tailgates or pre/post game receptions
- Civic activities (blood drive, food drive, etc.)
- Homecoming Weekend
- Founders day or other banquet
- Special anniversary
Event Planning Tips
Successful events should be planned well in advance. It is important to have alumni input when organizing events. Consult with your chapter advisor or representatives from the alumni association and house corporation for advice on how to cater to the alumni. Remember that it is not the quantity of events, but rather the quality of the event. Many of these events could take 6 months to a year to prepare for, but in the end, the chapter’s hard work will pay off.
Consider the following points as you plan your event:
- Set a date well in advance: Allow enough time for alumni to coordinate work and family schedules. Larger events should allow a minimum of 8 weeks advance notice. Three to six months is better.
- Keep your event cost reasonable: Cost is a major factor for individuals when deciding whether or not to attend your event. A relatively high price will prevent alumni, especially recent graduates, from attending. A price of $35-$50 per person is about the national average for banquets.
- Distribute event evaluations: Ever wonder if those who attended your event had a good time? Were there areas that could have been improved? The best way to answer these questions is to develop a short, simple evaluation to have your guests complete at or a few days following the event. Evaluations will provide you with invaluable information for planning the next event.
- Find a venue that is centrally located: Another factor that determines turnout is where you hold your event. Consider locations easily accessible to alumni in your area. Sites that have a novel twist can also enhance turnout. Stadium clubs, museums and other attractions might be alternatives to hotels and country clubs. Additionally, venues that have strong university and historical ties to them might help increase attendance as well.
- Budget your event cost to cover the basics: As you set your event price don’t forget to factor in the following: meal cost, tax, gratuity, room charge, guest speaker’s meal, audio/visual charges if used, decorations and door prizes.
- Keep your program brief: An hour-long program featuring your guest speaker or other activities, plus an hour for dinner, is generally long enough. Your attendees will become restless with a long, drawn out program. The goals for your event should be to generate enthusiasm and provide information about the Fraternity, the Alumni Association, and the Chapter.
Checklist of tasks prior to an event:
- Coordinate the chapter calendar with the host college or university.
- Set a date and time for the event (notify alumni two months in advance).
- Saturday is usually the best day for events since Friday and Sunday are often travel days.
- Make all arrangements for activities (i.e. keynote speaker, venue, entertainment, etc.).
- Price and arrange for catering if needed.
- Send invitations two months prior to the event. Provide information on lodging, nature of the event, and cost. Include an RSVP form.
- Advertise the event in the alumni newsletter and on the website. Mention which classes will have their reunions (i.e. 5, 10, 20, year) as well as a list of alumni who have already confirmed.
- Inform the Shield & Diamond editor of your events for an announcement in the next available issue.
- Order awards if you are recognizing alumni for their accomplishments.
- Invite college or university guests, faculty advisors, local officials and any special guests.
- Contact a photographer or make arrangements to take pictures.
- Appoint a Master of Ceremonies, create the agenda, and print the program.
- Set up a sign-in table with a list of lost alumni, name tags, information on giving societies, and a guest book for attendees to sign so you can acquire their most recent contact information.
- If you have a house, clean it thoroughly.
- Instruct members to greet alumni and speak with them about their experiences.
Checklist of tasks following an event:
- Send “thank you” notes to speakers and guests.
- Complete an event summary sheet to document all the steps and materials needed in planning.
- Send several high quality pictures to the Memorial Headquarters, along with coverage of the event, for the next Shield & Diamond issue.
- Write an article for the next alumni newsletter.
- Update the alumni database with address corrections.
- Return all rented supplies.
Adding the Extras
Depending on the type of activity, the following “extra” suggestions and ideas can be used to get the most of an event:
- Budget – Avoid over estimating the number of attendees by closing registration far enough in advance so the attendance can be confirmed with the facility. Plan on last minute cancellations as well as late registrations. Many sample event budgets can be found through Microsoft Excel or other online platforms.
- Undergraduates – Be sure all chapter members are aware of the event. Share expectations of attendance and dress code with members.
- Contact Local Hotels – Get special rates, and list it in all publications. If the hotel is the same location as the venue make sure to understand the contract and avoid picking up the cost of an unused room. Some hotels will have a “drop-date” for special rates or room holds.
- Spouses and Older Alumni – If spouses and children are welcome, make sure they know it. Plan non-athletic activities for older alumni and families such as a house tour, campus tour, school art gallery tour, shopping trip, etc.
- School Alumni Office – Inquire to what services are available, such as mailing labels, use of phones and school facilities. Invite a representative from the university to speak or attend any major banquets.
- Photographer – Plan to have a group picture of all alumni attending to include in future publications. Professional photographers do cost money, but are usually worth it in the end. College/high school students will have the best rates.
- Alumni Awards – Give out recognition for fraternity service, community leadership, oldest member present and possibly other awards.
- Chapter Scholarships – Provide scholarships to the local chapter in recognition of leadership, academic excellence, etc. This will get the chapter more involved and provide insight into an association they will be expected to join upon graduation. For more information or assistance in this matter, contact the Pi Kappa Alpha Foundation at (901) 748-1948.
- Program – Having a nice program shows planning and thoughtfulness of the event. It also allows the guest to have something to take home from the event and remember. In addition, it is a great way to recognize donors, guests, etc.
- Guest Book and Name Tags – This allows for better recognition of participants, address up-dates, and listing of attendees in the next newsletter to increase interest in future events. Arrange to have a welcome committee to supervise registration, signing the guest book, pinning on name tags, handing out programs and football tickets, etc..
- Feature Article for the Next Newsletter – Include the names and initiation years of the attendees to help increase visibility for future events.
- Thanks – Publicly and privately thank all alumni who have helped. Send a hand written thank you to special alumni as well as distinguished guests and speakers.
- Evaluations – Evaluate and document everything from the promotion of the event to the facilities used. This information will become invaluable in future years.
Founders Day Banquet Planning Guide
Planning a formal banquet, similar to planning any event, takes time to plan and to get the details right. However, professional banquet venues make the planning of the event easier and give you more time to focus on registration, invitations, and programming. A sample timeline for planning a banquet is below:
Six to Eight Months in Advance
- Set a date: The best date and time for a banquet is on a Saturday evening around 7PM.
- Find a venue: Popular venues will begin to fill up weekends around 6 months in advance. In order to get a good location begin contacting vendors around 8 months out. Some large hotel brands will have an online form for requesting space while others will be in-person or over the phone. Regardless, it is recommended to make phone contact with the venue’s Director of Sales or Director of Catering to form a personal relationship. Determine how long they will hold the venue while you determine how many people are interested in attending.
- Develop planning committee: While there needs to be one main contact for the association or chapter, it is difficult for one person to effectively plan a large event such as a Founder’s Day Banquet. It is recommended to develop a committee including chairs such as: Director of Communication, Director of Registration, and Director of Programming. Give each director a clear title, role, and goal for their position.
Four to Six Months in Advance
- Create event page: It is recommended to create an online event page to manage your event. This will allow an easy way to collect RSVP’s, charge fees, and add extra information such as parking, transportation, and lodging. A service such as Eventbrite might be worth looking into as it integrates into MailChimp (e-mail service) quite well.
- Send initial invitations: It is important to get an estimate of how many people will be attending the event before any contract is finalized with a banquet space. Using a mass mail service such as MailChimp will allow you to send thousands of e-mails at one time. The service will also allow you to see analytics of who has opened the e-mail. MailChimp integrates with Eventbrite so you can have an RSVP form directly in the e-mail. Provide an estimated cost per attendee and highlight any confirmed VIP guests.
- Finalize venue contract: After a rough estimate of how many attendees there will be, a contract with the banquet space needs to be arranged and a cost-per-guest needs to be determined. Find a venue that fits your needs based off the attendees. Most venue spaces will have a food & beverage minimum that will need to be met. Try to let the venue know your requirements as early as possible so that they will not waste their time or your time proposing extravagant costs. Additionally, make sure the venue/catering department walks you through how the final cost will be tabulated. Taxes and fees can get confusing and not be very straightforward.
- Create cost structure: After determining the contract, the cost structure needs to be finalized and communicated to all parties involved (guests, chapter, association, etc). This will include the cost per guest.
Two to Four Months in Advance
- Send another round of RSVP’s: At this point, the Director of Communication/Registration needs to be sending RSVP’s and invitation’s around once a month to men that have not RSVP’d either yes or no. It is recommended to filter out e-mails of those who have responded as to not send multiple e-mails to people who have already responded.
- Begin collecting payments: Using an online collection service such as Eventbrite can make collecting payments much easier. It also makes cross-referencing those who have RSVP’d and those who haven’t much easier as they are all in the same location.
- Finalize programming: It is recommended to plan the programming for the event in this window to give any VIP guests, speakers, and honorees time to prepare for their role and attendance. A sample program can be found in Appendix 2.
- Arrange lodging: If you think people will come from outside of the area, it might be a good idea to see if you can get a room hold for a block of rooms at the hotel. It will depend on the venue, but some hotels will allow you to hold a block of rooms up to a set date, and then re-open them to the public at no cost to the event.
One to Two Months in Advance
- Determine meal: Finalize the meal and what will be served as a combination of price-point, food & beverage minimums, and amount of attendees. Additionally, plan for a cash bar (if needed) and be sure to note the cost of a bartender and any transaction fees that might be added.
- Find photographer: While mobile phone photography has gotten better and better, nothing replaces the quality and value that a semi-professional photographer can provide. There does not need to be a professional firm, but there are many semi-professional photographers online that can do an excellent job.
- Determine audio & visual needs: A/V can add significant cost to an event. While a PowerPoint slide or picture show can be a nice addition, determine if it is in the budget and absolutely necessary before purchasing.
- Plan for a head table: It is recommended to have a head table with staging at a formal banquet. Determine the dignitaries and emcee’s that need to be on stage and in what order. Please see Appendix 1 for a sample head table layout.
Up to Event
- Emcee finishes script for evening: While the emcee might be an accomplished public speaker. Make sure the emcee is aware of the flow of the evening, has structured points, and is on time.
- Final preparations with venue: Double check that everything is on-schedule with the contact at the venue.
- Print program: Print the program for the event. Be sure to use a professional print shop as the quality and selection of paper is much better. Tan/cream paper with a heavier weight gives a great, classy look to any program. See Appendix 2 for sample program.
- Send reminders: Sending a one-week reminder to all RSVP’s is a must. Sending payment reminders for those who have yet to pay should be done once a week up to the event.
- Registration table: Assign someone to work the registration table, take payment, and provide programs.
- Document everything: Write down the cost, what things went right, what things went wrong, contact information, and general comments.
- Solicit feedback: Create a feedback form that attendees can use to provide their comments and suggestions. This can either be done as a printed out sheet or hosted online via a service such as Google Forms.
- Send pictures to MHQ: Memorial Headquarters would love to receive a picture of your event for either publication in the Shield & Diamond or via various web sources.
Additional Resources for Event Planning and Communication
MailChimp is a mass email program useful for chapter and association newsletters and notifications. MailChimp is free until your list exceeds 2,000 subscribers or 12,000 emails sent per month. PIKE branded templates are available at Pikes.org > Resources > Alumni Association Resources THE PLAYBOOK / COMMUNICATIONS.
https://www.thepikestore.com The Pike Store is the source for Pike branded items in many categories.
Certificate of Insurance
Some venues will require a Certificate of Insurance from either the chapter, association, or house corporation. In order to receive the Certificate of Insurance, the entity must be in good financial standing with the Fraternity and fill out the online application for a COI.