NPHC’s Guide to Homecoming, Part 1

One of my favorite times of the year is soon approaching. Not Thanksgiving. Not Christmas. I’m talking about Homecoming. YES! Homecoming! Just picture it:

If you’re anything like me, you can’t wait to see the new developments on campus, catch up with old friends from freshman year and make your way to the livest tailgating tent around (which conveniently happens to belong to your organization). The tantalizing scent of fresh hamburger patties fills the air and intertwines with the sound of Old Heads laughing about the good ol’ days. Play by plays of the football game compete with Greek chants as everyone takes their place in the strolling circle. With a sea of matching shirts and hand signs to match, people are snapping photos left and right. I mean, Homecoming is THE epitome of a great time and I love every second of it.

Sadly, it comes to an end too soon. We all must we drive back to our homes and continue with our normal lives. Usually, as I’m reminiscing about the awesome weekend I just had, 2 things come to mind:

  1. Did I thank my undergraduate chapter for doing such a great job coordinating this event?
  2. How can Greeks use Homecoming in a way that benefits their members outside of socializing?

As of late, I’ve been thinking about the latter question more than ever. Many of you know, I’m all about Greek mentorship, leadership and chapter optimization. After each Homecoming, I wonder how can we optimize of our members’ time, talents and resources when we’re together? And what are some unique ways to go about doing it? After all, we do have our current undergrads, recent grads, semi-old heads and our seasoned chapter members all in one place. This is the perfect opportunity to network, establish and strengthen bonds and create unique spaces of conversation that we’d probably wouldn’t have if we were separated.

Here are a few fun, and efficient tips and ideas to help take your Homecoming planning and events to the next level:

Planning

  • Communication
    • Gathering Information: If you ever had to sit on the Homecoming Committee in your chapter, you know that communication with alumni is key. When you’re getting ready for your Homecoming festivities, it’s imperative that you gather as much contact information as possible. You don’t want anyone to miss out on all the fun you’ve been planning, right?
      • Current List: There should be an updated list of all current and past members available to your Exec Board. If you know the current list is updated, contact your members asap so they can plan accordingly.
      • Grad Chapters: If you think you’re missing some folks, reach out to your local grad chapters. They might have a few people or know of some folks who can get in contact with the missing persons.
      • College Resources: Check in with your college/university and see which departments handle Alumni Relations. They might have some helpful information for you as well.
      • Facebook /GroupMe: Look in your “books” and conduct a Google/Facebook stalk…I mean…search. You might be surprised how many of your alumni have Facebook pages. If you have a flyer or information ready, post it in a Your Org’s GroupMe or Facebook Group. Members might see it in there. However, I advise you to ask permission first. If there are any events taking place that require discretion, just stick to emailing people.
      • Old School: If all you have is a physical address or a phone number, go old school. You don’t have to write a fancy letter, just print out the flyer invite and send it to the address. If there is a phone number, call it. Alumni will feel special knowing that you put in the extra effort to make sure they will be present to the party!
    • Reaching Out: Once you have all the information you need, it’s important to reach out to Homecoming attendees as early as possible. At the very very least, your first point of communication should go out a month before the event. Many times, there are pre-Homecoming events to attend, gifts that need to be ordered, a headcount for whoever is cooking the food, etc.  Several things will be vying for your member’s time and money, so you want to get on their calendar early.
      • Email: One of the easiest ways to touch points with alumni is to reach out via email. One of the most efficient ways to do this is to open up an email management account for your chapter on websites like MailChimp and Vertical ResponseYou can upload all of your existing email addresses to the website and send emails through the platform in an organized, professional and eye-catching manner. Create templates with standardized messages for your Homecoming promotions. Instead of looking for your initial email, all you have to do is copy your original email and rename it. You can even schedule out your emails ahead of time. It cuts down on your time, helps you stay organized, and allows you to concentrate on other Homecoming tasks.
      • Graphics: In a day and age where information is presented to us in such a fast pace, it’s important for us to make sure we catch people’s attention almost instantly. If you have something that takes precedence over other information in your email, create a “Call of Action“. Make that info the most visible item in the email and put it in graphic form. For example: if you need people to RSVP to a pre-Homecoming event, place the words “RSVP to our Homecoming Breakfast by 9/13/2015” in bold letters inside of a solid color box. Make the “RSVP” a link to someone’s email address or to a private Eventbrite page.
      • Future Communication: Once everyone is in one place under the tent, make sure you reserve a table for the sign in sheet. Tape it down to the table so it doesn’t get lost. Occasionally make announcements and make sure people provide their updated information on the sign in sheet. That way, you can have everything you need for the next event.

Gifts

I’m not sure if this is common for other chapters, but my undergrad chapter traditionally puts together Homecoming packages for us to purchase. The MAIN thing you want to keep in mind when brainstorming items to include in this packet is this: Can people ACTUALLY use this for a long period of time? Or frame it this way, if someone gave you this gift, would YOU use it for a long period of time? If the answer is no, ehhhhh….You might want to move in another direction. You want to provide a useable keepsake. Here are a few things that can be useful, meaningful, fun and inexpensive:

**Sidenote: Even though these are Homecoming items, putting Homecoming related text on there could date your gift, therefore lessening it’s repeat value. AKA…Everyone is only gonna use it once. And although you love your org’s crest or logo, you might want to couple it with an image of some kind. Instead, print Greek letters or try spelling out your org’s name in bold letters. Other options are printing a well known quote from a renowned member or a clever saying on the item. This will encourage people to use the item more than repetitively. Once you see your Homecoming gifts keep popping up in people’s IG photos and newsfeeds, you’ll know you did good!

Stay tuned for our installment next week! We’re going to to cover chaper networking, fellowship and some cool marketing tactics to try!

 

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