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Festival or Event Planning Guide

How to Organize a Birding or Nature Festival

Nancy S. Millar   See more about Nancy Millar

The Vital First Steps

Gathering your Core Volunteers

The first thing you must do, once you have determined that you do indeed want to proceed with the festival, is to assemble a group of people who may be interested in working on the project. Speak with someone involved with a nearby refuge or State Park, an environmental organization, a birding group, a well-known birder in the community. Ask for the names of a dozen or so people who may be willing to help. Come up with a few people you know who are good organizers and marketers. Include a couple of people who are community leaders, also. These people can be your community liaisons, or can suggest someone who might be good for that role.

You must have expert advice on birding sites and certain elements of the festival organization. Without it, you may come up with a lovely festival, but one that has no attractiveness to birders at all. Not every birder will be a good organizer, and not every organizer will know anything about birds. And organizers and birders may not be well placed in the community or know the ins and outs of marketing. It is imperative to have BIRDERS, ORGANIZERS, MARKETERS and COMMUNITY LIAISONS represented in your core group. All four elements are vital to the successful implementation of your festival.

Finding a Niche

Not all areas are naturals for a general birding festival. Some parts of the country are well known for migratory birds or a large number of indigenous species. Others have a specific species that frequents the region. Ascertain, with the assistance of a local birding authority or two, the most reasonable attraction your area has and play on that strength. Do not try to force a non-existent strength. Birders wonít fall for it.

Covering The Fundamentals

Pulling a festival together will take a lot of people. Weíve all seen events that had one person doing all the work. As capable a worker as that one person may be, an event cannot be as good as it would be with a dozen people really committed to it. So use the strengths and passions of other- from the beginning.

Start by calling your people together to discuss the fundamentals of the festival. Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of your area. What time of year is best? What elements should be included in the festival? What is the purpose (mission) of the festival? What is a realistic time frame to shoot for? Who is your target- advanced, intermediate or beginning birders? What other major regional or national events may conflict with your timing or your marketing focus?

  • Be realistic in your answers. Donít allow people to sway the group with what they think should be, rather than what really is.
  • Once these questions are answered honestly, you have something to go on. You can then question the individuals in this group about their preferences as far as responsibilities.
  • Ask for suggestions of others to fill in the gaps.
  • Donít be surprised if several people are willing to come to a meeting or two, but do not want to take on the responsibilities of an entire committee. Thatís OK. Their input can still be very valuable.
  • Stay organized. Nothing can kill enthusiasm for a good idea like a lack of organization.
  • Assign responsibilities to the group. This will obviously spread the workload, but will also be likely to help keep interest high.
Compiling The Festival Notebook

At this point, it is time to put together your Festival Notebook. The notebook is a compilation of all committee responsibilities, a listing of volunteersí addresses and telephone numbers, the festivalís mission statement and goals, meeting minutes, and all collateral pieces and other information as it is gathered and developed. Each committee chair should have one. New information should be handed out regularly so that the Notebooks are always up to date. The table of contents may read something like this:

  1. Mission Statement and Goals
  2. Budget
  3. List of Volunteers and Staff
  4. Individual committee responsibilities, time lines and collateral pieces
  5. Meeting Minutes
  6. Notes

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