Throughout the academic year, our student organizations plan and organize 2,000 different events. While we ask that our students plan their events well in advance and follow our suggested deadlines, sometimes that doesn’t always happen. Being aware of some of the more common pitfalls that our groups face will help you guide our students and make the process run more smoothly.
- Missing signatures. Our Brookline and Commonwealth student organizations are required to obtain advisor sign off for disbursements greater than $200. All paperwork must be signed by their President and/or Treasurer. A large number of student groups have their program directors organize their events, but they still need to receive the appropriate signatures on all paperwork in order for it to be accepted and processed.
- Missing memos, documentation (invoices), and W-9 forms for Check Requests. We need this documentation for proof of payments and services for our annual audit. Invoices/receipts need to match the amount listed on the check request for contracted performers, venues, services/goods and speakers. If there is no invoice or receipt a memo must be provided to explain the purchase/payment. W-9s are required for all checks except student reimbursements.
- Not understanding the impact that Allocations Board could have on student group events. If the student group does not complete an Allocations Board funds transfer within two weeks of their event, the funds they were awarded will be re-allocated. Relying on Allocations Board funding should not be your students’ only plan. Sometimes groups aren’t always awarded their funding requests or they spend their money before being granted funding. Always have a backup plan for how you will fund your program or event.
- Not planning your event well enough in advance. Student should be consulting with you on their programs and events but they should also come into Student Activities around the same time they are formulating ideas for their programming. Often times students don’t realize the deadlines in place for event specific services. For example, events in Metcalf should take at least 8 weeks to plan and the appropriate paperwork items should be submitted at least 4 weeks in advance for an event of that scale. This is important because the various departments our groups work with need to plan for staffing and setup and usually have multiple events going on at the same time. Check out our website for specific timeline information. The sooner they chat with someone in Student Activities the better grip they are going to have on what they need, who to talk to, and how much to budget.
- Not reserving your space in time and having to fit your big program in a small space or vice versa. Space is at a premium on campus and we have 500 student groups that are all vying for those prime locations. The Tsai Center for example books almost up to a full year in advance. Metcalf books at least a semester out and Black Box reservations fill up at the beginning of each semester.
- Setting realistic attendance goals. We sometimes see groups planning and budgeting for an event based on an unrealistic expected attendance. We love that our students are ambitious but sometimes that can be their downfall. Ask your students to think about who is realistically going to attend and compare the event to past events. This is important especially if you are charging for an event and depending on ticket sales to help cover expenses.
- Taking into account what an event will cost before you start planning. There are times when the Allocations Board and Student Activities can help subsidize the event but that is not always guaranteed. When planning an event on campus there are four really important areas to factor into your budget: Facilities, Tech/AV, Catering, and Security. Each of these areas has different pricing structures and services can add up quickly. Encourage your students to come into the office and chat with an Activities Consultant to get an idea of what some cost breakdowns will be anticipated.
- Unorganized Executive Board/Group members. We see a large number of students who were not transitioned or given any direction prior to being put in charge of an event. This issue can be solved by educating your students and encouraging them to attend our mandatory Square Officer Transition training Our staff is also available to come to a group meeting to conduct a more personal training session. There also might be times when you have to step in to mediate an issue between members and facilitate a conversation to help the group get past an issue.
- Advertising. Advertising for a program or event should be happening at the least 2 weeks before the event date. If your students are just getting around to advertising their event two days prior the chances of them having a great attendance will be slim. There are a variety of different ways student can advertise on campus. Twitter is a huge one. Encourage your students to connect with Student Activities on Twitter and Facebook and we will share and repost event details on our Facebook page. Student groups can advertise on the shuttle, in front of Warren Towers and in the GSU Link. Take advantage of that space and get on the ball sooner rather than later. This will also encourage your students to plan well.
- Students forget we are here to help. At the end of the day we want our students to know that it’s okay to make mistakes and that we will be here to help support them. It’s okay that they might not know everything there is to know about planning an event on campus; that’s why we are here. Let us be the experts. We don’t expect you as an advisor to know everything either, just being familiar with our office is a great way to start.