January 31, 2012

The Spark.

The Spark: Proactive Calendar Planning

Welcome to The Spark - a tidbit of wisdom to stimulate ideas and help you transform your student organization. The Spark is a bi-weekly resource provided through the Center for Student Involvement which is sent to all registered officers through PantherSync.

It is amazing how quickly time can get away from your organization, with each member's many commitments. Setting your organization's calendar for the entire year can help to ensure that you have enough time for event planning and progress on projects. This can make the process less stressful and create better quality events. Here are a few tips to help you with plan your calendar.

First, figure out what dates you are working with:
Start with a calendar that shows the full year. You'll want to be able to see all of the months at the same time. You will also want a variety of colored pens/markers and access to the university's academic calendar.
Identify dates of non-activity. In your first color, draw an "x" through any major holidays during which school is not in session, or that would impact member or participant availability.
Identify major academic conflicts. Next, using another color, draw an "x" through important academic dates (semester finals, graduation, university breaks, etc.). You will probably want to "x" out all of the summer, if your group does not meet during that time.
Identify conflicting events. In a third color, mark down any major university events that you would not want to conflict with or that will involve your group's participation (examples: Panther Fest, Open House, Campus Expo, Renewal, Grant Hearings, etc.)
Add in major organization dates. Finally, put in any dates that are already set for your organization, such as conferences or tournaments.

Now, track organizational energy:
Let's graph out member energy during the year. Write January through December across the horizontal axis of a graph.
On the vertical axis, track levels of involvement (low/medium/high) at different points of the year. It is most likely lower during major exam times and months when school is not in session. Energy is likely higher during the start of the semester, and in warmer months, when you can be outside.

Utilizing this info, plan the rest of your dates:
Consider conflicts/energy when planning. If everyone disappears for two weeks in March because of midterms/spring break, and your event is scheduled for the following week, the bulk of the planning will need to happen in February. Plan backwards from your event date, allowing adequate advanced planning.
Allow sufficient time for paperwork. If your event requires a contract for a performer or service (speaker, DJ, etc.), keep in mind that it takes 30 days to process a signed contract, so you will want to begin that process with the Center for Student Involvement even further out.
Advanced calendar planning can also assist you with preparing for the grant process. By setting dates a semester out, you allow for enough time to obtain quotes for space, identify program costs, and pull together data required for grant applications.

Need assistance with planning your events and establishing your calendar? Contact the Center for Student Involvement to set up a meeting with your liaison. Meetings can be requested by emailing activities@uwm.edu or calling 414-229-5780.

References: Rise Partnerships (2011). New Officer Checklist.