Special Event Tips & Examples

Do It Yourself

There are many ways that you can involve the target public audiences in recognizing and showcase the role that your organization, field station or agency has played in migratory bird conservation. Here are some suggestions about the type of event you might consider holding, and resources and checklists to help get you on your way.

Examples of Events

  • Open house – An informal public event any time of year could last a few hours or be a daylong event. You could feature a speaking program/VIP guests and speakers, or simply invite people to view exhibits or materials or tour your facility
  • Festival – Hold a bird or wildlife viewing festival, especially during peak bird migration time in the spring or fall. Partner with local businesses or other conservation organizations to host exhibits, tours, guest speakers, scavenger hunts, workshops, film screenings or other family oriented events.
  • Media event – Invite news media to your event if you are making a news announcement, featuring a VIP or other distinguished guest
  • Lecture series or symposium - Discuss migratory bird historical and current topics and local bird conservation topics of interest at a daylong event or a series of events. Invite well-known speakers from local conservation organizations and/or a local university that has a natural resources program.
  • Art, photography or writing contest for youth or adults – invite people to capture the spirit and meaning of migratory bird conservation in images or words. Recruit local artists to judge a contest. Local business could donate prizes for various age groups that you can distribute at an awards ceremony.
  • Already occurring events & observances – Leverage annual events, anniversaries and other observances by incorporating your messaging and themes, such as:
  • Local civic events such as street fairs, art shows, farmer’s markets, etc., often offer exhibit space for local organizations. Check your county, city or town website for these opportunities.
  • Consider delivering a presentation to a local civic organization such as Rotary Club, garden club, scout groups,4-H, or school group. Your town or city council might even provide opportunities for guest presenters at meetings. Be creative!

Audiences and invited guests

Consider inviting the following audiences to your event:

  • Agency or organization leadership at the local, regional or national level (USFWS employees, work with your regional External Affairs office if you would like to invite a regional or national FWS official.)
  • Representatives from federal conservation agencies or conservation organizations in your area
  • Members of Congress or local Congressional staff (*U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees MUST work with their regional Congressional & Legislative Affairs office on any communications with Congress or Congressional staff*)
  • State, County or Local Officials
  • Local news media
  • Representatives of local chambers of commerce
  • Community leaders and opinion leaders

Event Planning

Special events take time and money.Early in the planning process, ask these questions:

  • What will the event cost?
  • Where will the money come from?
  • Are there items that cannot be purchased with appropriated funds?
  • Are there partners or foundations that may be able to help with event expenses?

Partnerships and close association with volunteers and support groups are critical to the success events. Funding and staffing needs usually require volunteer help and support from organizations, foundations, private citizens, and local community agencies and groups. (Remember, unless specifically authorized, Federal law prohibits the use of appropriated funds by federal agencies. Non-Service supporters can provide donations and help with costs.)

What Do You Want to Achieve?

When planning an event, keep in mind the broad goals:

  • Create awareness about the importance of migratory bird conservation.
  • Promote key actions to help birds.
  • Increase support for migratory bird conservation programs and initiatives.
  • Expand opportunities for engagement in bird-watching, hunting and conservation.

Then think about what you would specifically like your event to accomplish, such as:

  • build membership for your organization
  • get exposure for your group through publicity and media coverage
  • provide opportunities for the public engagement with bird conservation through meaningful activities
  • educate children and adults about the importance of birds and bird conservation
  • build partnerships
  • provide opportunities for volunteers
  • build relationships with your members
  • raise money
  • and have fun, of course!

Decide on Your Event

Determine the appropriateness of the event, and how it will achieve one or more of your own agency or organization’s goals. Consider the amount of volunteer time needed, front money needed, repeatability and timing of the event.

Set a Schedule

One way to develop a schedule is to work backwards from the event, deciding what needs to be done each week and month beforehand. This should give you a good estimate of when it's feasible to hold the event. News releases or local newspaper calendar notices must be prepared and sent out well in advance.

Fund raising may need to start well in advance; many businesses make decisions about donations at the beginning of their fiscal year and turn-around time for a grant can be six months or more.

Establish and Empower a Committee

The committee should be chaired, or co-chaired, by a strong leader who is organized, able to communicate and keep track of details, and get people excited.

Give the committee full responsibility and authority to get the job done. Set up periodic reporting times to check-in and make sure they are headed in the right direction.

Prepare a Plan

The Event Committee will need to prepare a plan that describes the "who, what, when, where, why, and how." For the plan, consider the following.

  • What is the event, where and when will it happen?
  • What is the goal (what will the event accomplish)?
  • Who will lead each component of the event?
  • How many volunteers will you need, who will recruit, who will oversee?
  • Who do you need as partners?
  • Who will take care of publicity?
  • What supplies are needed?
  • How much will it cost and where will funds come from?
  • Who will raise funds and get donated services?
  • How will the event make money (e.g., sell items, silent auction)?

Once the Committee has answered these questions it should be easy to create a master schedule of activities. This schedule should include a time line to complete each step and identify who will be responsible for each step.

Post-Event Debriefing

Immediately after the event, talk with the committee about what went well, what could be done better, what not to do again, and what new activities can be added next time.

Task Checklist for Special Events

Here are some considerations for logistics when planning your event. Depending on the scope and location of the event (national wildlife refuge, state or local park or visitor center, or other facility), not all of these may apply to your event.

Pre-event

  • Designate an event coordinator
  • Meet with staff and partners, and form committees
  • Check on local event schedules
  • Find out about upcoming similar events in your area (so you do not overlap with them)
  • Select an event date and place (include rain day alternatives)
  • Secure permits (fire, building, assembly, police, health and sanitation, etc.) where needed
  • Advise communications staff (e.g., External Affairs or your PR office) and local information centers of event date
  • Confirm availability of VIP speakers (work with your External Affairs office or Congressional and Legislative Affairs Office as needed)
  • Arrange VIP lodging/transportation (if needed)

Event Funding

  • Establish budget
  • If needed, designate support group to handle donations and non-federal funding

Invitations

  • Develop guest list; work with your regional office as needed to determine VIP invitations
  • Distribute invitations to local dignitaries and the public via mail, email, social media or all of the above

Program

  • Develop program for event which may include:
    • Formal ceremony
    • Activities
    • Exhibits
    • Guided walks
    • Tours
    • Demonstrations
    • Entertainment
    • Refreshments
    • Presentation plaque or certificate
  • Prepare talking points or draft speeches
  • Select color guard and vocalists, if appropriate
  • Arrange interpreter for visitors who are deaf or hard of hearing (required if a Federal public event)
  • If needed, design and produce program brochure and select staff to distribute
  • Reserve needed exhibits and arrange to have them staffed on day of event
  • Plan activities, walks, tours or demonstrations, and assign staff. Do a rehearsal, if needed.
  • Design and procure plaques or certificates
  • Determine entertainment needs (staging, electric, tables, etc.)
  • Select refreshments and determine needs (tables, skirting, plates, cups, etc.)

Publicity

  • Prepare media alert, press release, advance stories, social media posts, public service announcements, flyers, and pitch feature stories to publicize event
  • Contact local media to cover story on the day of the event
  • Select photo opportunity spot
  • Designate table and staff to greet and register news media
  • Designate event photographer and videographer

Grounds and Event Setup

  • Select level area, mow and trim for placement; tents should be situated so sun is not in speakers' eyes
  • Contract for tents
  • Podium with FWS/agency/organization emblem
  • Sound system with backup equipment, contract for technician (your event will be ruined if people can't hear)
  • Flags (U.S./Interior Department or others as appropriate) -display according to flag code
  • Arrange for stage, including skirts, shrubs, flowers, steps, etc.
  • Arrange for water and glasses for speakers
  • Chairs (use labels to designate speaker's chairs and other reserved seating)
  • Restroom or portable toilet service accessible to all participants
  • Lights
  • If no electricity, you will need a generator
  • Trash receptacles

Support Services

  • Prepare directional signs, assign staff to post
  • Notify local EMTs, police, and fire departments
  • First aid kits
  • Notify FWS law enforcement officer
  • Locate portable radios (make sure they are on same frequency)
  • Arrange for shuttle transportation (busses, vans, etc.)
  • Designate staff to direct traffic, park cars, and to shuttle or guide visitors
  • Designate parking, seating and other areas to ensure access for guests with disabilities

Post-event Details

  • Cleanup crew (break down stage, chairs, tables, exhibits)
  • Return borrowed equipment
  • Dispose of trash
  • Remove portable toilets
  • Thank you letters to VIPs, volunteers, partners
  • Critique event

This document adapted from “A How-To Handbook to Support the National Wildlife Refuge System’s Centennial,” U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, August 2001.

Last Updated: August 24, 2017