December 23, 2014

Collegiate Perspective: Painting the Town Red

‘Tis the season to start thinking about your next Red Dress Gala!

I had a great time serving as my chapter’s Red Dress Gala Chair for 2014, and I’m excited and proud of the ways in which our event has grown and improved over the past several years. Being a part of the Gala team has introduced me to some important aspects of event planning and marketing; I know from experience that planning a large event can be overwhelming, and I recommend staying on top of things by handling one task at a time. Whether your chapter is planning its first or fifteenth annual event, these are the main responsibilities that you’ll need to accomplish:

Choose a Venue that Suits your Chapter & Campus
The Zeta Omicron Chapter at Johns Hopkins University has been hosting an annual Red Dress Gala for three years now. For the first two years, we held our event each spring in a nearby hotel, and I can understand why; the space that we rented was beautiful, and it was fun to dress up, dance, and leave campus for a night. However, the fact that the venue was off-campus seemed to discourage other students from attending. In planning our 2014 event last spring, we determined that, at Hopkins, an on-campus Red Dress Gala better enabled us to achieve our goal of increased student attendance. When planning your Red Dress Gala, think about the people you’re hoping to attract – Other Greeks? Alumnae? Parents? Other Students? A little bit of everyone? – and choose a venue that will be appealing to your target population.

Think About Event Décor
The amount and type of decorating necessary will depend on your venue, so once you have decided on a space, you can start thinking about how to make the room sparkle. If you are renting or repurposing an upscale venue, some essentials – think tables, chairs, and tablecloths – will probably be included. If you've instead decided to use a campus hall or multipurpose room, you’ll have to put a bit more effort into creating an elegant atmosphere. Last spring, we draped gold fabric and hung twinkle lights to hide less-than-chic bulletin boards and to transform an average room into something more. Don’t forget to think about the details – check Pinterest for cute and simple flower arrangements and centerpieces (in red, naturally) to tie the room together.

Decide How to Contribute to the Alpha Phi Foundation
One of the most satisfying parts of being the Red Dress Gala chair was being able to donate the funds that we raised to the Alpha Phi Foundation after our event. Your Red Dress Gala team should decide how you plan on fundraising – will you be selling tickets? Holding an auction? Doing something else? Our chapter has had success with a silent auction, in which sisters are placed into groups that are responsible for creating a themed basket to be auctioned off during the event. Some favorite baskets have included different types of teas, movies, sporting event tickets, and beauty products. Try contacting local businesses for donations!

Plan, Schedule, & Reserve
Whether your Red Dress Gala is a formal sit down dinner or a buffet, reservations and plans will need to be made for catering, entertainment, and more. Think about fun activities that you’d like to incorporate into your event well in advance to leave yourself enough time to make the necessary arrangements. Our chapter was thrilled with the quality of the food that we had catered, to work with a great DJ, and to rent a photo booth complete with fun props – the pictures made for great souvenirs.

Design Promotional Materials
Now that you have a great event planned, it’s time to advertise it. To publicize our Red Dress Gala, we designed a banner, save-the-dates, and Facebook profile pictures. There are many fun motifs that you can incorporate – red dresses, hearts, and Alpha Phi bordeaux and silver. For our event, I used a gold sparkle and twinkle light theme in both the event decorations and the promotional materials to create a light, whimsical feel. While you’re designing your materials, don’t forget about “thank yous” – along with our save the dates, we also had matching thank you post cards printed to hand out to our attendees and our donors.

From one Red Dress chair to another, I wish everyone the best of luck with their 2015 Galas – I can’t wait to see what everyone puts together.

Alexa Curto is a collegiate member at Johns Hopkins (Zeta Omicron). Learn more about Claire by clicking here.

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