Planning Guide for Grinnell College Alumni Volunteers

Thank you for volunteering to host a local event for alumni and friends of Grinnell College! This Planning Guide provides step-by-step suggestions and resources to help you. The Office of Development and Alumni Relations (DAR) suggests that you start planning about 8 weeks in advance and confirm details 4 to 6 weeks before the anticipated event.

Responsibilities of the Local Planner/Host:

Don’t let this list scare you off! It isn’t as bad as it looks. And you can call on DAR staff for advice and suggestions. The online Local Event Planning Form can help you think through the steps and collect the information DAR needs for the event invitation

  • Decide the type of event, the date, time, and site and make decisions about food and/or beverages (see “Designing the Event” below)
  • Complete the Local Event Planning Form and submit it to DAR
  • Request any materials or other assistance from DAR, using the online Event Supplies Request Form to indicate what you need
  • Collect RSVPs as they come in
  • Manage the event onsite
  • Take attendance at the event and send the list to DAR

How DAR can help:

Here is what DAR can do to support your local event:

  • Provide a list of area alumni, after volunteers have completed a confidentiality agreement
  • Provide advice and suggestions based on experience with past events
  • Send a formatted email invitation (2-4 weeks before the event) and a follow-up reminder (2-5 days before the event or the RSVP deadline) to area alumni
  • Provide Grinnell College supplies and giveaways (name tags, napkins, small logo items)
  • Provide modest financial assistance if funds are available

Designing the Event:

Here are some things to think about as you design the event.

WHO? How many people can you expect to attend in your geographic area? DAR can provide you with a list of area alumni to help estimate the level of attendance.

WHAT? What kind of activity are you planning? This will depend in part on the number of potential attendees. And of course different kinds of events appeal to people of different ages and interests. Examples of regional events include social events (happy hour, picnic), life-long learning events (book club, lecture, reception with speaker), active events (ice skating party, Frisbee challenge), cultural events (concert, art exhibition), volunteer events or networking events.

WHERE? Where will the event occur? A pub for a pub night? A park for a picnic? Or do you have a local zoo, museum, or other attraction that might be a good “anchor” for a gathering? Can you or other local alumni accommodate the anticipated number in your own house, apartment, or yard? DAR encourages you to ensure that the venue is accessible to people with physical disabilities.

WHEN? When is a good time for the event to take place—both time of year and time of day? Obviously, professional and family schedules affect timing. Be sure to allow enough lead time for planning and invitations; see the timeline below.

HOW? Do you want the event to include food and/or beverages? Alcohol or no alcohol? Do you need attendees to chip in by bringing food, beverages, and/or contributions to help cover costs? Note that DAR has a very modest budget to help support events of this kind. Please ask whether any funds are available for your event, but know that if funding is available, it will likely be quite modest.


DAR wants to support your community organizing efforts and help make the event as successful as possible! In order to provide materials and send email invitations, the office asks for 4-6 weeks’ notice. This timeline should allow adequate lead time for planning and communication.

Two months (8 weeks) before the event:

  • Set a date and time for the event.
  • Identify a site for the event; collect the address, phone contact information, and website for use in the invitation email.
  • If the event includes food and/or beverages, determine how they will be provided. (Catered? Potluck? Bring/buy your own?)

Four to six weeks before:

  • Confirm the event details with DAR by submitting the Local Event Planning Form.
  • Request materials/assistance from DAR, using the Event Supplies Request Form.
  • If needed, be sure you have lined up one or more people to help out at the event; recruit someone to take photos.

Three to four weeks before:

  • DAR will send an email invitation to alumni in the area, providing event details and requesting RSVPs, if necessary.

One week before the event:

  • (If applicable) provide food/beverage counts and any dietary needs to caterers and anyone else who needs to know.

Two to five days before RSVP deadline:

  • DAR will send email reminder to alumni in the area.
  • Arrange for the following if you have not requested them from DAR: nametags, napkins (if needed), an attendance sheet.

At the event:

  • Arrive early enough to make sure that all logistics are in place.
  • Arrange for distribution of nametags and the taking of attendance; maybe assign this to a volunteer who will greet people as they arrive.
  • Take photos!
  • Make sure an event organizer stays at the venue until everyone else has left.
  • Make sure venue expectations for clean-up are met.

After the event:

  • As soon as possible, post photos and updates to social media and send photos to DAR
  • Send a record of attendees to DAR
  • Send thank-you notes as needed (e.g., to a speaker or an alum who hosted at his/her/their home)
  • Return any undistributed “swag” or other items of value to DAR—or keep them for another event
  • If DAR has been able to help cover costs, finalize any arrangements for reimbursement