I love my neighborhood. It’s newer and since the the Home Owners Association (HOA) isn’t run by home-owners, social events are up to us as a community. I was taking daily walks with a few folks from my neighborhood and each one of them mentioned wanting to get to know their neighbors better, but how hard it is to catch someone outside. Then the idea came, why not throw a summer block party so that everyone would get that chance? As a marketer, I’ve thrown tons of events, but never a block party. There’s not much online about how to do it so I thought I’d share my insight with you, so you can throw one too!
From start to finish, the block party took about 7 weeks. Don’t worry about money, just gather a few good neighbors to help you along the way!
- Gather resources so you know what you’re working with. This means both people, location, and a budget - and don't worry if you have zero budget. Whatever you've got, you can make it work! The power of motivated people never ceases to amaze me.
- Pick a date and location. For me, it was easy to use our (free) community center pool. It’s central to everyone, had parking, electricity, bathrooms, and is a great gathering spot.
- Research, secure, and coordinate vendors. Use the resources you have to find the best quality and best value vendors. For me, that meant asking a neighbor who runs his own food truck to set-up. It meant crowd-sourcing an affordable DJ rental company via Facebook community forums. It meant using small businesses as much as possible. We partnered with a food truck, slushy truck, bouncy house, DJ, and face painting artist.
- Plan to give your neighbors the full experience and pick a theme. What makes a memorable event? The atmosphere, the comfort, the people, the music, and the food. While planning my block party, I thought through every single detail. We had dollar store decorations (balloons, banners, yard swag, pinwheels). We set up the activities so that folks could flow from one to the next. Plan out where trashcans, vendors, bathrooms, seating, and shade are. We blocked off the parking lot with cones for our food/slushy trucks. We blew up pool floats to make every location of our event festive. We had a summer luau theme, so we had pink flamingos, sunglasses, beach balls and pineapples. Our event was very family friendly, so we made sure to play family-friendly music and we did not provide alcohol.
- Plan activities. Besides meeting their neighbors, give your guests something to do. We had a water gun station, side-walk chalk, a resource sign-up table, ring toss, corn-hole, and other kid-friendly activities. For us, the main attraction was of course the pool! Regardless of what activities you plan, make sure they are self-sustaining activities or stations. No one wants to sit behind a table or man a station when the entire purpose of the event is to meet people. Get out there and enjoy the event!
- Provide name tags and bring a camera. This is so important that it deserves its own step. With any new meet-and-greet, it’s always vital to wear name tags. It may feel cheesy, but it allows you to easily introduce others and connect without pressure. Make sure you also bring a camera to snap photos and videos. You can even designate a few people to be the local photographers.
- Communicate, promote, and remind! Use multiple forms of communication so that you ensure you reach everyone in your neighborhood. Use any mailing list or HOA channel to send an email, mail an invite, go door to door and ask people to save the date. Promote the event by posting a copy of the invite at the bus stop, the pool house, the dog park, etc. Get the word out early and often. Use social media to your advantage. We used Next-door and Facebook. Our neighborhood has multiple groups we reached out to. Creating an online event on these platforms can help you remind neighbors. We also put bright homemade signs we put on the street signs the week of.
- Recruit a team of neighbors to help set-up and tear down. It takes a village. Don’t do it all yourself. Create a sign up. Ask neighbors to volunteer for a task. I have the most incredible neighbors who really rallied together to help. We had people do everything from picking up chairs to picking up supplies the day of or cleaning up afterwards.
- Send thank you notes and gather feedback. This is what most people forget. Share the photos and words of gratitude on social media and email. It’s a lot of work and a lot of people get involved. Don’t forget also to thank your vendors. Post reviews for their businesses on Yelp, Facebook and Google - help them grow! Lastly, get feedback. Ask your neighbors what they liked or didn’t like. This will give you what you need to make your next neighborhood social event even more epic!
So how did my block party turn out? Our party was a huge hit! Over 150 people came. It was an incredibly hot day, but you’d never know it. The pool was full, the stations were busy, and good food was flowing. Fun was had by all!