CM Get Together Event Planning Guide
Over the three years and a half, the movement of CatholicMatch members initiating events to bring their fellow members together for a weekend-or longer-has increased exponentially. More and more members are becoming involved as attendees, planners and organizers of these events, known casually as “CM Get Togethers.”
The growing popularity of CM Get Togethers have resulted in increased questions from those who plan the events. Namely, what does it take to put on a successful event?
Tracy-57589 can speak with the authority of experience, having staged successful CM Get Togethers in Chicago in both 2005 & ’06, ’07, and everything on track for a fourth success in July 2008. She has also attended several events as a guest, enabling her to experience a CM Get Together from both sides of the aisle.
To answer the questions members have, Tracy has put together a complete document that addresses all the issues that need to be considered when preparing an event. What to look for, factors to consider, what sequence to do things in-all that, plus a few things you’ve probably never thought of, are all here. Tracy has produced the most comprehensive resource yet for anyone who is planning-or wants to plan-a CM Get Together.
Part I: Setting the Logistics
- Pick Your Location
- Select Your Date
- Choose Your Hotel
- Posting Your Event
A. Pick Your Location
The first step to planning your event is to decide where you want it to be. Will be it CM Chicago? CM Boston? CM New York? These are examples of bigger cities and they often bring more people in attendance. This does not mean that those in smaller markets should be discouraged. Successful events have been held in Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Toledo and Detroit, to name just a few.
In almost all cases, people choose the nearest major city to where they live. They have a great deal of knowledge and experience with that city. The first rule of success is this-do what you know!
B. Select Your Date
How do you pick a date? CM events are usually Friday-Sunday, but can extend to a long weekend, adding in Monday-particularly during holiday weekends. A week long vacation, while not typical, is also a great way of adding to the event! All types are encouraged!
Remember that people from all over the United States and even other countries will be attending. For some, this may be the first time they are visiting your city. Consider the month/season when planning the event. It’s possible to get great deals in terms of hotels and activities if you schedule during offseason, but if you go this route make sure you take everything into consideration.
- If you want to go snow skiing, make sure you pick a date that most likely will produce snow.
- August is probably not the best time to visit…say,Dallas/Fort Worth.
- Florida during hurricane season also might not be a good idea.
While these examples might seem simple enough, they are the kind of things you need to take into consideration when picking your date.
C. Choose Your Hotel
- When picking your hotel, the first and best advice is to visit the hotel before committing to it.
- Call different hotels and ask for group sales. Every hotel has trained staff to deal with groups and offer group rates.
- You may use CatholicMatch group name. Be sure to tell your guests to use that name when calling in for reservations to ensure they get the group discount! Make sure all hotel information is provided on the event page.
- Remember: A hotel may look good on paper or online and the price may be right, but often you get what you pay for when it comes to hotels. There are GREAT deals out there! Be proactive!
- You want your guests to feel safe and comfortable, and if that means finding a hotel with a higher price tag, it is worth considering and weighing all your options. Your guests can share rooms and offset the price by splitting it evenly if they wish! Your guests will also have fewer concerns over higher-priced hotels.
- Pick a hotel that is close to your activities, or one that has easily accessible transportation to get from place to place. You do not want to spend a lot of extra time traveling to and from activities for the sake of a cheaper hotel rate.
- Consider the convenience of your guests when picking a hotel.
- Check for handicap accessible as well. Very important!
- Offer to help find roommates for your guests. Keep a list of those in need of one and help network them together. Remind your guests that only one person should call in for the room (to avoid double-booking), but ALL roommate names need to be added to the reservation. This ensures that if someone arrives early they are able to check in, even if they are not the person who actually made the reservation.
- Be sure to let your guests know if a hotel adds a fee to room any room with more then two people. Many hotels will charge extra for a 3rd or a 4th person. Other hotels do not charge extra. Make sure your guests know what the deal is.
- Be sure to add the tax to the price per night and let your guests know the overall total.
Example of convenience…
Continental/Deluxe Breakfast included is a great thing. It’s very important for your guests to spend more time visiting your city than trying to find a place to eat first thing in the morning. Most often, breakfast is *not* a group activity. People are up at different times; early risers need to get their much-needed coffee and donuts; a continental eliminates the need to add to an activities fee, which can then be used for bigger group activities such as lunches or dinners. And some often don’t eat breakfast, so planning a group event around it isn’t necessary!
Hotel contracts are very important! Before doing anything else, and before signing the dotted line, please check under the section “contracts” below. There is a must read information.
D. Posting Your Event
Now that you’ve got everything set, it’s time to post your event on the CatholicMatch’ events page!
Why is it so important to have done all of the above prior to posting your event to the calendar? Because circumstances can change, the hotel may not have the dates you want, or anything else that might cause the date to go bad. You don’t want to keep changing this important part of the event. There are thousands of people on CM looking at your event. People buy their airline tickets, make vacation plans at work and line up childcare if necessary.
If you choose the date prior to picking the hotel and getting everything lined up, it may force you into a situation of picking a hotel out of desperation rather then what you really want. So it’s better to wait and make sure the location, date and hotel all function in rhythm, and then make it public.
Part II: Planning Activities
- Know Yourself
- Types of Activities
- The Meet-N-Greet
- The Second Day
- Making it to Mass/li>
- Setting Your Activity Fees
A. Know Yourself
The first decision is an intangible one-Decide what kind of planner you are? Are you forming a committee-a group of fellow members that will divide out the duties or do you take the bull by the horns and plan the event alone, with little or no help. There is no right or wrong answer. Each event and each planner is unique. Know how you work best for the greater good of your event!
B. Types of Activities
There are two types of activities. Group activities are done together as a whole, are planned in advance as part of the event and include everyone. Free-time activities are done in small groups, or involve members just going off on their own. Suggestions by the event planner or other local people for what free-time activities can be done are helpful, but not strictly necessary to the functioning of an event.
C. The Meet-N-Greet
Your event-most likely beginning on Friday in the late afternoon/early evening-starts with what is commonly known as “The Meet-N-Greet.” This is a group activity and is often held at the hotel, although you can choose other options, such as-
- Rent a meeting room to include a reception party with food and drinks Meet in the hotel lobby and then go to dinner at a local restaurant
People will be coming from all over, traveling from near and far, so it’s important to have food and spirits available to accommodate hunger needs. And not everyone will be make it by the exact starting time, so make sure your plans are flexible and considerate of early and late arrivers.
The Meet & Greet is meant to be casual and fun. If time and funds allow it, absolutely add another activity other then dinner or reception to your first night, but make sure you plan it as a group activity. People are often nervous when meeting each other for the first time and this is their time to mingle and get to know each other. Keeping it simple the first night of your event is often best. But whatever you do, keep everyone together!
Please Note: If there is a fee for a meeting room, make sure it is cost-effective. If it’s $300 to rent a room and only ten people show, that’s $30/person and it doesn’t include food, drinks or an activity! This is very expensive!! Dinner at a restaurant would be more effective if this is the case.
D. The Second Day
Now’s the time to show people what is special and unique about your city! After all, they’ve come from all over to meet others. For many this is really a mini-vacation and for others it is their only vacation of the year. This is the day where both sets of activities-group and free-time-should be included.
Options for free-time activities should be provided, so your guests can pick and choose what they want to do-you can’t possibly know all the likes and dislikes of your guest, but you can let them know the different things that are unique about your city. But while you allow for flexibility, also make sure there is direction from the event planners so everyone is taken care of, no one is left out and time is well-spent.
Most often, meals are done as a group, especially dinner. A group lunch may interrupt free-time activities, but Saturday night dinner is often a focal point of the event.
Don’t forget to allow time during group activities to have pictures taken as a group!
E. Making It To Mass
Decide early on in the planning stages when you will attend Mass together. Please do this as a group-some will do daily Mass independently, but at least plan your day of obligation together.
Saturday Mass-Remember, if you attend Mass on Saturday night, this will take away from free-time activities, since most liturgies start around 5 PM. Allow your guests enough time to freshen up or relax at the hotel before you meet up for Mass-or any group activity. Because this will cut their free-time short, allowance of time needs to be made.
Sunday Mass-This works well if a 10-11 AM Mass is available. This allows people to relax in the morning, eat breakfast, pack and be prepared to check out of the hotel before or after the service. Hotels will hold luggage for guests if they choose to check out early.
A Goodbye Brunch/Lunch is normally planned right after Sunday Mass as your last meal together. Always start your event as a group and end it as a group! Don’t forget to have a photo taken of your group in front of the church you attend! It’s a great way to save a memory!
F. Setting Your Activity Fees
Make the decision early on as to whether you will have a set activities fee that your guest pay up front or if it will be pay as you go through the weekend. Setting a combined up-front fee is a smart thing to do for several reasons:
- You will set a due date for its receipt, and this allows you to have an excellent idea of how many people will be attending-their check is a confirmation!
- Many activities you could do will require a deposit, Taking money out of your own pocket for the deposit may happen, but it should not, and it should certainly not be for everything. Some places will not hold an event for you if a deposit is given the time of booking.
This can be risky. You can minimize the risk by working out deals with many places to add a deposit by a certain date, thus allowing you to collect the fees from your guests.
- Your guests are able to save and send their activity fee within an allotted amount of time. The precise financial definition this provides is helpful for those who are on budgets. They know ahead of time how much money is needed and how it will be budgeted for the event.
- The less money your guests have to pay out of pocket at the event the better. They can focus on enjoying the activities rather then counting the dollars in their wallet or purse.
After you have your activities planned and you know the amount of the fee, Post your activity fee on the event page! List everything that it includes and does not include. Don’t leave any surprises!
Important Financial Issues To Remember
Set a Due Date For Your Fee
You will receive late payers. Be sure to allow a few days for late payments and set the date accordingly. It’s smart to have the monies in 3-4 weeks before your event.
Get a P.O. Box
Do not give out your home address or your last name. Use your name and CM # for addressing (e.g., Tracy #57589). Divide the price of the P.O. Box evenly from the number of people attending and add that amount to the activity fee.
Do Not Have Payments Made Out To You
Do not accept cash. Have checks or money orders made out to your event name (e.g., CM Chicago). Use your event name, not your own legal name! To do this, you must…
Set Up A Business Bank Account
Most are free. Banks may need verification that the event is real. Give the bank the link to your event on the events calendar, not the link to CatholicMatch in general. Anyone on the web can view it, and a password or user name is not necessary to view the events sections! Your link will look something like this – http://www.catholicmatch.com/events/details.html?event_id=15160
To keep all the monies, transactions and payments to vendors straight, it is important to have a separate account from your own. Name your business account after your event. If there any inconsistencies, it will then be easy to for anyone with questions to verify the accuracy of any and all transactions. Be responsible with all monies. Keep excellent and accurate financial records!
Get a check card with your account. Do not order checks. It’s an expense and it’s not needed. You can get temporary checks printed if you need one or two. Otherwise just your business check card (often a VISA or Mastercard) to pay for your activities.
Do not buy anything online with a business account! There is usually less or no liability for fraud. You could end up responsible for charges made by another. Call the vendors with the credit card information, do not use the Internet for payments!
Keep all information for the entire event in a folder or binder. Keep all information together, even the little scrap pieces you doodle on when receiving information. You may need to go back to it. Keep all of it!
Part III: Negotiating Contracts
- Useful Information
- Hotel Contracts
- Meal Contracts
- Other Contracts
This Section is Very Important!
Get a contract for everything you have to pay money for. If they want your money, you want the contract!
Read the contract several times over several days. Have someone else read it too and get a second opinion.
Read the fine print. It’s there, and it’s easy to miss! Read, read, read!
Remember, once you sign a contract, you are responsible for what’s in. CatholicMatch is not responsible for the event. You are using CatholicMatch to promote your event, but they are not responsible for it.
Any and all information you put in must be your own, not that of CatholicMatch.
You may use “CatholicMatch” as your group name for things such as hotel & dinner reservations, but when using contracts it is your own name that is provided-your address, your phone number, etc.
Make sure all the information you want in the contract is there. Don’t assume the vendor knows what you want. Even if it is the smallest detail, add it to the contract.
Re-read the contract and then sign it. Make sure you receive a copy, and if anything gets edited, be sure you get the updated copy. The latest and final contract is the only one that counts.
Many hotels require a percentage of booked rooms be reserved when taking a group reservation. This is not a good thing. For example, if you hold 50 rooms at $100 per night, they may require you to book 50 percent of the rooms. That would mean you are responsible for having at least 25 rooms booked and paid for by the due date. If it falls under the percentage, you are responsible for the difference.
Thus, if you only booked 10 of the rooms in this example, they will charge you for a 15-room shortfall at $100 a night, for two nights. So that’s $200 x 15 rooms…which adds up to $3,000 you are liable for. If the hotel is able to book these other rooms they will, and you would not be charged, but there are no guarantees
Therefore it is recommended that you do not hold any rooms at any hotel that requires a percentage of rooms to be booked. Just the stress of worrying about booking the rooms is not worth it. Some hotel will omit the % rule if you ask. If they don’t-find a different hotel!
As for the hotel group rate to be effective a few days before and after the event dates. This allows your guests to come early or extend their vacation late and still get the same rates. It’s nice for your guests to be assured of the same prices throughout their stay. If your hotel stay is for Friday and Saturday with Sunday check-out, reserve a handful of rooms for Thursday night and Sunday evening too.
Depending on the type of place you reserve for your dinners or lunches, there are some things to look for-
Some establishments require a minimum for a group event, and a deposit at the time of booking. For example, it may be $50/person to eat, but the establishment might require a total food and beverage tab of $8,000. You would have to have a lot of people coming to dinner to make it worth it. Try to stay away from places with a minimum requirement.
The places to look for are those that will allow you to give a deposit at a later date then when you book. You can set the activity fee due dates around when your own deposit is due. For example, if a deposit of 50 percent is due on May 20th, be sure to have your activity fee due by May 15th. This is a concrete example of why having an activity fee is so helpful.
Vendors will ask for the number of people attending anywhere from 3-7 days before the event. Be sure to only give the number of people who have actually paid their fee! You will be responsible for that number showing up. You can always add people at the last minute and they will charge you at the time of the event, but they will not go below the original guarantee number. If you say 50 are coming, but only 35 show up, they will still charge you for 50. Now if you have the money from 50 people in your pocket, this is okay…but if you have not asked for an activity fee, you will be responsible for paying for all the people who fail to show up.
Work with vendors if they require a deposit. Ask if a deposit can be given at a certain due date. Again, some vendors require a deposit at the time of booking. Do not spend a lot of your own out of pocket money, unless you can afford it! Most vendors will work with you.
Do not sign anything you are not sure about or don’t understand. Ask as many questions as necessary. It is their job to help you! Make sure you get a copy of a valid contract, read it and read the fine print!
Part IV: Keep The Momentum Flowing
- Effective Communications
- Use The Message Forums
Stay in contact with everyone who has shown interest in the event. When information is available to you, pass it along to those who have signed up for your event. CatholicMatch has made it easy to send e-mails through the event page, enabling you to reach everyone who’s interested with just a single message.
Be sure to let people know if a reply from then is needed, and set a deadline for
Use The Message Forums
Make sure to promote your event in the CatholicMatch message forums. Go to the Event Forum and start a new topic. Post about it regularly. As your planning progresses, use that as an opportunity for promotion. For example, if you finalize plans for a group activity, go in the forums and let everyone know! It’ll give people a chance to hear about your event, and wavering members who haven’t signed up might hear something that will inspire them to come.
So advertise your event! Let people know it’s out there!! CatholicMatch has staff and members willing to help and share their experience!