As we near the beginning of the fall semester, student leaders and student affairs professionals alike will be planning activities and programs for the year. There are varied thoughts on what characteristics make for a “good” activity or program so we’d like to suggest our own philosophy on program development.
- Create activities and programs that you yourself would like to see and attend. Many times student leaders such as resident assistants plan activities because it’s simply a requirement. Look beyond the requirement and develop activities and programs that you wish would have been available for you to attend before you became the program leader. Everyone’s time is valuable so make it count.
- Take full advantage of free resources on campus and / or within the community. Make connections with various department administrators on campus and see what expertise, advice, and resources they can offer. Such areas you should take advantage of include the following: the counseling center, diversity office, health & wellness, public safety / police, career development, women’s center, recreation / intramurals, etc.
- Do a simple assessment (survey) to see what types of interests people have and develop activities around those interests. Creating small and simple surveys through Facebook, SurveyMonkey, PollDaddy, and TwtPoll are free and relatively easy ways to find out about people’s interests.
- If at all possible, keep it simple. When it comes to activity and program development, bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better. Small and simple ideas can make for great programs!
- Partner with other groups and organizations to share the workload and budget requirements. Find other leaders that will support your ideas and help with the implementation and marketing of the program. If you involve more people, there’s a good chance that they will in turn invite people to participate in the activity.
- Look for community volunteering initiatives that you can turn into a programming opportunity. There are numerous community organizations that are looking for volunteers and more than willing to work hand-in-hand with you. Habitat for Humanity, Red Cross, the Y, youth & civic organizations, and local schools (K-12) can offer many activity and program opportunities for your organization or staff.
- Use the local price of a movie ticket as your guide for “per person” cost in terms of program budget effectiveness. The gauge of cost effectiveness I use with my staff is roughly $8.50 per participant per program. Was this program roughly worth the cost of a movie ticket? So if a staffer spends $85.00 and 10 people participate, in my estimation, this was a successful program budget-wise because it ended up to be $8.50 per person. But if a staffer spends $250 on a community-wide program and only 10 people show up, this ends up being $25.00 per person! Granted, those 10 people may have a great time, but from a budgeting standpoint, was this a good return on the investment?
- Offer opportunities for participants to put something on a resume or within a portfolio. People will participate if they can see a benefit coming from the program and “get” something out of it (and it doesn’t have to be pizza or some sort of prize!) Workshops, skills training, and volunteering opportunities (see #6) offer people the ability to list this as an accomplishment they can show to potential employers in the future.
- Partner with other team members to plan and execute the activity. You don’t have to go it alone. The old saying “Two heads are better than one” holds true with activity planning. More individuals developing the program can offer different insights and bring something unique to the experience that may not be there if you do it alone.
- Have fun! This is the best part of activity and program planning and implementation. Fun is contagious. If you can demonstrate a track record of fun, others will naturally want to be involved.
Click for a free handout listing of 650+ activity and programming ideas. Please feel free to share it.