Association Program Planning

Event Ideas
Ideas for association events can originate from several sources. The association leadership typically solicits suggestions from the membership and proposes a variety of events. Although events should be designed to interest as many people as possible, they should not necessarily attract the same crowd. A diverse slate of offerings–one that might appeal to families, professionals, young alumni, sports fans, art lovers, and academics, for example–is desirable.
The program planning process depends on creativity and resourcefulness as well as the ability to delegate work. It’s also important to be familiar with the alumni base, especially the prominent alumni residing in the area, as this can generate leads on speakers and events within the association. The association’s mailing list and the alumni online directory, which include business information, are also good sources for potential speakers and venues. It may be useful for you to refer to program guides from previous reunions in order to see both potential topics and alumni who have already been featured on campus.

The Alumni and Parent Program staff might also suggest that an association organize an event for the College President, a professor, or another College visitor who is traveling and has indicated a willingness to speak to an association. Often, these dates are pre-determined and arise quickly, which necessitates a joint effort between the association leadership and Alumni and Parent Programs to find a suitable location and host.

Programming ideas sometimes stem from collaboration with local alumni groups from colleges such as Wesleyan, Williams, and the other NESCAC institutions. Co-sponsorship of events is particularly effective for smaller associations. Alumni and Parent Programs can provide association volunteers with contact information to plan such events.

Event Suggestions

  • Talk or performance by prominent local alumni or parents
  • Tour of a special museum exhibition, gallery, or business with alumni speaker
  • “Send off” picnic for new students
  • “Welcome to the City” gatherings in the fall for new grads/relocated alumni
  • Local Cultural events
  • Holiday celebrations
  • Riverboat, lake, or bay cruises
  • Wine tasting
  • College singing groups: A Cappella/Choral Society
  • Visitors from the College: President, Trustee, Dean of Admission, Dean of Faculty, Director of Athletics, or faculty
  • Student panel
  • Seminars featuring faculty and/or alumni/ae
  • Community Volunteer Projects
  • Athletic events

Specialized Programs

The Amherst - Williams Football Telecast
This is an annual event in which about 50 associations participate. In late August/early September, Alumni and Parent Programs will contact the Association President and telecast organizer from the previous year to start the planning process, which also involves the Williams College Regional Alumni Associations. The College pays for the mailing of association telecast invitations to alumni, parents, and friends.

Send-Off Parties for New and Current Students
In July and August, associations often plan a BBQ, Beach party, reception, or other outing designed to welcome new student members into the local Amherst community. The association should waive any event fees for new students and their families. The more current students attending, the more meaningful the gathering will be for new students who will be grateful to see some familiar faces when they arrive at Amherst.

Traveling Student Groups
Singing groups from the College can be arranged through Alumni and Parent Programs. Most road trips are within a day’s drive and involve fees of approximately $300 paid to the group by the association. Trips during spring break are also possible, with advance planning; trips of this nature often involve arrangements by the host association to provide overnight lodging to students in alumni and parents’ homes.

Young Alumni Events

Larger associations often sponsor (or co-sponsor) happy hours, sporting and entertainment events that will appeal to recent graduates; since most young alumni have e-mail addresses, publicity for these types of events is often done solely by e-mail to save money and time. Although these events tend to be more informal and may not require RSVPs, it is still advisable to provide 2-4 weeks advance notice to get the word out. In the case of happy hours, the young alumni coordinator should check with the bar site and confirm that there will be enough space, especially if no special room is being set aside.

Inviting Faculty, Administrators, and Coaches from the College
Alumni and Parent Programs will arrange for faculty and College visitors. Direct association contact with College faculty is not recommended. Although specific professors may be requested, Alumni and Parent Programs will determine which faculty members are able to travel to association events and will issue the invitation. Professors are often asked to visit more than one association per trip to maximize travel efficiency. The timeframe for asking and confirming faculty members requires a minimum of three weeks. Only one professor is asked at a time, so declined offers result in a greater delay. Since professors often do not know their teaching schedule a semester in advance, getting confirmation for a visit more than three months in advance is difficult.

Faculty who are traveling for conferences and speaking engagements sponsored by other organizations are often asked to be part of an association event at their destination. Professors who have just published books or who are on sabbatical are also frequently willing to travel for association business. Association officers who learn through local sources that an Amherst professor will be in town to speak to another group are urged to share this information with Alumni and Parent Programs. Space and time permitting, the association members can be e-mailed about the presentation.

The College does not pay speaking fees to faculty, nor should the association. Alumni and Parent Programswill reimburse the faculty member for travel, accommodations, and meals during the time they are on College business. Travel guidelines are shared with faculty in advance of their trips. An association may be asked in advance to contribute funds to cover any additional nights of food and lodging, should the faculty member expect to stay over for more than one evening.

Sales of books authored or edited by a visiting Amherst faculty member are usually arranged by Alumni and Parent Programs and the book agent. However, the volunteer should check with the event site to ensure that there are no regulations against the selling of books.

Professors determine their own topics for talks, according to their area of expertise.

Inviting Other Speakers
The membership of regional associations includes many interesting and noteworthy people who could be considered potential speakers. Since the number of College faculty who can visit each association is limited, Association officers may also look for resources locally. Association officers should let Alumni and Parent Programs know who they are asking and for what date. In addition, College staff can help to issue the speaking invitation. Again, paying speaker or performance fees should not be necessary. The College only reimburses expenses for Amherst faculty and administrators.

Site Selection
Appropriate venues for association events include private clubs, alumni and parent homes, restaurants, hotel function rooms, alumni offices, spaces at local colleges and universities, museums, parks, and athletic arenas. Please consider parking and public transport, accessibility, centrality to where the association’s constituency live and work, and possible room rental charges in deciding on a venue. Rotating event sites is recommended.

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