Saturday, August 14, 2010

Ten tips for a community OWH event

We are SO excited to have so many parties coming together....there were at least 10 already fully signed up on our site (http://operationwritehome.org/partysignup) and I keep hearing rumors of lots of others! I've had a number of folks ask me versions of the same question about their party, and thought I'd put the answer out here for all of you - usually if a couple people ask, many others want to know!

How do you host a successful community-wide cardmaking event?

The large community events bring in a lot of folks who really want to support our nation's heroes—and that is a GREAT thing. We love it! But, not everyone is ready to make a card, or cut out to do so without a lot of help.  Their desire is laudable, but we get our largest "stash" of hospital cards from some of the large parties.....so we've provided a few tips for you so you can avoid that destiny for your creations.
  1. Start smaller than your BIG dream. You can have a trial-by-fire in front of you if you bite off more than you can chew, and our shippers will have many many hours of labor in front of them when your boxes arrive. (They have so much to do already, so sending a box of hospital cards isn't too helpful!) Your Birthday Bash doesn't have to be a big town event - it can be just you and a few friends, and work your way up to something big later. Have some smaller 'practice' events before a big community one, and build up your group of friends. You'll have more people to help with kits (#2), and more fun people to do it with, as well as to share expenses with. You'll learn a lot about what makes a "good" kit and what is "too hard" to do in a group setting - test things out on each other, and be honest whether or not you think a newbie can handle a particular level of complexity.
  2. Card kits. Seriously! It is a LOT of work, and often the kits take more hours to produce than the party itself to run. But it will assure that you'll come out of the event with use-able cards in the end, and that's what the goal is! Putting out piles of random supplies lead to piles of random cards in the hands of inexperienced folk; they don't know where to begin, or how to assemble anything, and often produce some sticker sneeze out of sheer frustration and lack of guidance. Make it easy for your attendees - write out instructions, provide a nice sample to follow, and have the parts well-prepared. They'll enjoy it, and you'll have a better box of cards at the end. If you aren't certain of your turnout, have extra supplies to create some of the kits on hand; that way if you need more kits for people to assemble, someone can be assigned the job of cutting papers to designated sizes to create more kits. 
  3. Quality supplies. When hosting a large event, often cost is an issue; but remember that going cheap on supplies also means cards could fall apart and be useless, and the whole purpose of making cards is to have them used by our heroes. You can set a small fee to attend the event - $5 - and that can cover some of the cost of shipping, cardstock, or tape runners. If you ask crafty friends, they'll likely have some things to donate; local craft stores may have opened packages or partially damaged items to add to the mix. Shop online, too - tape runner refills can be a lot cheaper bought in bulk online than in a store. Some brands of gluesticks, though inexpensive, can work ok if applied in enough quantity, however, if supervision (#4) is not adequate, inexperienced folks will assemble a card that may not even last in traveling to the shipper much less to Iraq and back. Pool resources with your friends to get good supplies, rope them in to help teach people how to use the tools provided, and do a good quality check at the end.
  4. Supervision. Have someone at each table who is not only experienced at crafting but who knows the kits at that table. They should regularly walk around and monitor what everyone's working on, who needs help, and if a kit is not working out (too hard, too messy, etc), pull it from the table so you can avoid frustration for participants - they don't want to have a hard time making a card, and whatever you can do to make them successful will bring them back to your next event. Supervisors should gently guide struggling folks to the AnyHero station (#6).
  5. Kit setup. Most of the successful big parties have several kits at each table, with all that's needed for each card in a shoebox. That includes scissors, adhesive, tools, etc (be sure to mark them clearly or they'll walk away!). (You might invite participants to bring their own adhesive or tools with them to cart around as they move from table to table; some can't live without their ATG gun.) Explain at the start to everyone that they should move to each table and make one of each card (or pick a card and make them all, whatever format you'll be using.) Give clear instructions, and have something identifying you and the other leaders so they know who to ask questions of - wear a flower in your hair, have a nametag, or a certain color shirt. You can place a box at each table to collect finished cards, or ask people to bring them to the stamping station (#8) when they complete one.
  6. AnyHero Card Station. This is a great place to send those who struggle with the card kits; some folks will either be frustrated with trying to make cards, or perhaps you'll find their efforts would be best spent writing letters instead of crafting. :) If you have a readymade place for folks to write a note, it's a perfect invitation! You can have a simple card with a flag stamped that just needs colored and a note written inside, and they can feel like they're crafty in a very simple way. Or have stationery, AnyHero coloring pages, or premade or prebought cards to write in. 
  7. Kids station. Here's one of the best tips for you: have a special section for the kiddos! Our heroes love to get letters from kids, so if you can have a really fun area set apart for them, they'll have fun and you won't be worried about them getting fingerprints all over your kits. With kids, there's no kits necessary - all you need is some cardstock, random stickers, crayons, markers, and turn them loose! Some folks make simple cards that just need a stamped image colored; others let the kids go wild! There are some young people who can make cards that our heroes will want to send home, however, most children should be encouraged to make AnyHero cards. In either case, have them write name/age on the back! :)
  8. Stamping and envelope station. It helps so much to have cardbacks stamped. Hubbies are great helpers in this stage of a party! Have stamps and ink for them, and space to sort the cards. If you have 20 of the same birthday card, it helps to have them sorted together into the box, so the stamp-er can do that as they go. If you're able to provide envelopes, that is a huge help to our shippers; we're happy to spend the time and effort tucking, but if you have volunteers on hand, and a lot of people to donate a dollar or two for the cost of envelopes and shipping, why not take advantage of the power of your team? Teach "the tuck" to whoever's going to be operating the station. 
  9. Packing and Quality Check. Have boxes ready for packing up your cards, and an experienced, responsible adult putting the cards in. Check for things falling off, or glue that isn't yet dry. Someone should count all the cards as they go in so the packing slip can be accurately filled out. 
  10. Community ShoutOut! Just for fun....take a group photo of your cardmaking team! Include it in an AnyHero card from your community. Have everyone sign their name on one big card  - you can print it when you get home and tuck it in the box before it's sealed and sent to one of our shippers. Post the picture on a community website, facebook page, blog, etc - and offer it up to your local newspaper too!
Hope that helps give you some ideas for your event!

1 comment:

Scrapin Kat said...

Thank you this is great advice! I appreciate all your hard work! This will help us have a great event!
Kathy