“It takes REAL planning to organize this kind of CHAOS.”– Mel Odom
Ever hear of the 7 P’s? For the sake of Scouting, it’ll have to be the 6 P’s. Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance. You could even swap Performance for Participation and have a unit event coordinator’s mantra.
There’s nothing worse than utilizing that “one hour a week” to plan something special for your Scouts and end up with extremely low attendance or, worse, having to cancel the event entirely. It happens to everyone at some point or another and can suck the wind right out of the sails of even the most enthusiastic volunteer. It’s not that your event wasn’t going to be a total blast, it’s that people weren’t aware of it and/or didn’t feel committed. The solution may very well be as simple as an electronic sign-up that automatically sends reminders, that provides you with a shareable link that can be posted to social media or in your ScoutBook calendar, and can be used to track attendance. It’s time to set clear expectations in your event communications by providing them with a place and deadline to RSVP.
All About Sign-Up Genius
Sign-Up Genius is a FREE online event planning service that helps coordinators organize, communicate, and track event information in one easy-to-use place. You simply create an account, preferably using your Pack’s email address (read why this is a great idea here), to get started.
This tool is useful for events like potlucks, service project collection drives, event volunteer recruitment, t-shirt order collections, and countless other instances where you have a need for many roles or requests to be fulfilled for one single event. For example, my Pack uses Sign-Up Genius to collect toys, personal care items, and school supplies for our annual Operation Christmas Child service project. We create a list of what and how much of an item is needed, and families sign-up to purchase those items and bring them to our service project meeting. The same for our Scouting For Food service project, only in this case we use it to list the neighborhood routes that we want families to claim and use when putting bags out and picking them up again the following week. It basically creates a to-do or shopping list that families can choose items from to fulfill on the unit’s behalf.
Using Sign-Up Genius for events like this helps us keep everyone organized, prevents families from buying too much of one item and not enough of another, or doubling-up on on Scouting For Food routes. The site provides automatic reminders before the event, which you can set for whatever duration you’d prefer – one week before the event, two weeks, maybe even three days; it’s up to you. It takes that responsibility off of your shoulders and frees you up to stress about the other billion details you’re stressing about.
Sign-Up Genius lists can also be customized to suit your event using FREE themes. Search for anything and there will be a theme that matches; in fact, searching for “Scouts” brings up a bunch of scouting-related themes that are sure to fit your event. If you don’t see a FREE theme that you like, do not fret. There are plenty of “premium” themes that you can purchase for a couple of bucks. Just remember that a Scout is thrifty and parents don’t mind if you use the same s’mores theme for every campout.
After your event, your list will be archived but will always be available to use as a guide for the next event. You can even duplicate the event from year to year, which clears out the people who signed-up for the previous event and saves you some time.
In our Pack, the event coordinator that creates and manages the Sign-Up Genius list sends me (the Cubmaster) and our Committee Chairperson the link to the list. We then add it to the calendar event in ScoutBook and sync the ScoutBook calendar to a Google Calendar that is linked to our website. We also share the link on our social media pages and groups, include it in our newsletter, and share via ScoutBook email. Communication is key, and consistently sharing upcoming event details will ensure that you have the kind of participation you’re hoping for!
Need help with your Sign-Up Genius list? They’ve got you covered! You can also ask me for help in the comments and I’ll Do My Best to be of some assistance.
All About Evite
Evite is also a FREE online event planning service that helps coordinators organize, communicate, and track event information in one easy-to-use place. You simply create an account, preferably using your Pack’s email address (read why this is a great idea here), to get started.
This site is an online invitation service. You use this to gather RSVP’s for special events like your Blue and Gold Banquet, Pinewood Derby, Family Camping, field trips, and more. If you need share event information and get an idea of who is coming and how many guests they intend to bring along, you would use Evite. For our Blue and Gold Banquet, we use Evite to pass along information about the event itself (when, where, what) and oftentimes include a link to a Sign-Up Genius list for potluck dishes.
I love to use Evite because it allows you to export out responses into Excel, which makes printing a guest list a total breeze. It also gives you the option of directly emailing your unit families through the Evite website itself and/or sharing a link to the Evite that can then be pasted into a ScoutBook email or text, included in the ScoutBook calendar, posted to social media, shared through your newsletter, and more. Where you can’t set an RSVP deadline within Evite itself, you can include one in your communications, which prompts families to RSVP in a timely manner. In our Pack, the event coordinator that creates and manages the Evite sends me (the Cubmaster) and our Committee Chairperson the link to the list. We then add it to the calendar event in ScoutBook and sync the ScoutBook calendar to a Google Calendar that is linked to our website. Again, communication is key, and consistently sharing upcoming event details will ensure that you have the kind of participation you’re hoping for!
Like Sign-Up Genius, Evite offers up countless FREE themes that can be used to jazz up your event. You can even use a FREE customizable theme and upload your unit logo or a graphic that best suits your event. For instance, our Harry Potter Blue and Gold deserved more than a simple magic themed Evite, so we created our own.
There are also numerous themes that you can buy, many of which include a fancy animation where the envelope actually opens and out pops your invitation. Being thrifty Scouts, I don’t think families mind receiving the FREE themes, so we don’t give them a second thought.
One thing I truly love about using Evite is that your unit is the host, but you can designate a “Co-Host” and include their name and email address so they receive notifications about new RSVPs or changes to existing RSVPs. If you’re the coordinator creating your event using the unit’s login, this is how you can designate yourself as a co-host and receive those notifications in your own inbox. It makes things that much more convenient for you!
Once your event has passed, you can log-in and send thank you notes to your participants and they can upload photos of the events right there into the Evite site. How cool is that? You can also duplicate an event and use the export function to keep track of participation changes from year-to-year. It’s a great tool that helps even the best planner work that much more efficiently.
Need help with your Evite? They’ve got you covered! You can also ask for help in the comments and I’ll Do My Best to get you on track.
I Keep Referring to Event Coordinators…
Hey, Pack Committee! If you don’t have event coordinators and you’re absolutely up to your neck with responsibilities, create a Sign-Up Genius listing each unit event and send it out to your families and ask for their support. I guarantee you someone out there is just dying to be asked to utilize their skills and talents for the betterment of your Pack, Troop, or Crew. All you have to do sometimes is provide them with an opportunity to be asked for their help, make it as easy as possible for them to give it to you, and you’ll find your own to-do list starts to shrink. Ask and you shall receive, right?
Do I mention that “hour a week” again, or are we all sick of that joke?
It should be noted that I am in no way a representative of or paid for my promotion of either Sign-Up Genius or Evite. I’m just a Cubmaster doing my best to share some pearls of wisdom before my time in Scouting comes to a close this spring. If this post in any way helped you out, let me know in the comments. Don’t forget to like the post and follow Look Wider Still!
Yours in Scouting,
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