Founders’ Day: A Day to Celebrate Tradition
In case you were wondering, Founders’ Days commemorate the first class held at UW-Madison on February 5, 1849, by Professor John Sterling. For many chapters, these events are the biggest of the year, a time to shamelessly wear your red pants and sing “Varsity” with other grads. It’s also a time to hear from UW faculty on the latest research and hot campus issues. Here’s some advice on how to make the most of this momentous occasion.
Start thinking of Founders’ Day topics over the summer. It might seem like it’s a never-ending process that picks up right where the last event ended, but it’s worth it to get things moving early.
Pick a date.
Sounds obvious, right? But if you pick a busy time of year like Memorial Day or Passover, your attendance will suffer. So choose wisely.
Check out venues.
Questions to ponder: is the site speaker-friendly? Does it fit your budget? Will it accommodate special requests, like serving Babcock ice cream? Is it accessible to your alumni? These considerations will help you find a perfect spot for your event.
Read the stuff WAA sends you.
You’ll get a Founders’ Day e-mail in the fall, and it includes vital information like the speaker request form. If you don’t return it on time, you risk not getting your topic of choice. The submission form is above, and due by November 15.
Get back to WAA.
Fill in the Founders’ Day Information Form with the details of your event as soon as you can, at least 8 weeks before your event. We need those details to put your invitation together in time. We must have it printed and in the mail five weeks before your RSVP date.
Get the word out.
Tell your friends and neighbors, shout it from the rooftops, and drop leaflets on the city if you have to! No one will come if they don’t know they’re invited. Social media, news releases, e-mails and invitations are effective ways to tell alumni about Founders’ Day, and WAA can help you with the marketing. Invite interested parties and organizations from the area (e.g., you could invite the MS Society to a speech about stem cell research).
Get it together.
If you don’t have a battle plan for the event, there will be mass hysteria as you try to figure out who ordered what. Put one volunteer in charge of registration, arrive at the event early so you can troubleshoot and plan out your speech in advance. That way, you won’t be stumbling through the remarks in front of a staring audience.
People like free stuff.
This sounds pretty obvious, right? If you offer Badger memorabilia for raffle or offer prizes for trivia contests, your event will be a lot more fun. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a room full of people afraid to talk to each other.
Bring out the scholarship winners.
People like to see where their money is going. There’s nothing like the bright faces of UW students to show that your chapter is doing good things.
Have fun! Wear your red pants and a smile.
You’re the cheerleader, and people will take cues from you. Circulate the room and welcome everyone to the event, and sing your heart out for “Varsity.”
Capture the event and share.
Don’t forget to take some photos and video during the event. These can be great to share out on social media after the event, or for marketing your next Founders’ Day event.
Learn more about best practices for photos and video >
Download the Founders’ Day Quick Guide as a print ready PDF
- Event details must be submitted eight weeks in advance of your event date.
- Contact your speaker about event logistics (travel, audio/visual needs, hotel, etc.).
- Request supplies online if needed.
- Gather Badger of the Year biographical information, if you are presenting the award at the event.
- Participate in Founders’ Day training sessions as announced.
- Merge national goals with local goals.
- Determine the chapter’s financial resources.
- Talk to WAA about payments to venues and caterers before the event.
- Seek sponsorships.
- Be responsive to strategies suggested by WAA and deadlines required by WAA.
- Chapters cover costs for the venue, meals/catering, audio-visual equipment, and meals for the speaker and a WAA staff member if one attends.
- Identify and secure speakers.
- Prepare and orient the speakers.
- Create, drive, and implement the marketing and communication.
- Produce and provide print materials, emails, the main website and local chapter websites, social media strategy, roster access, customer service, collateral supplies, thank-you/follow-up communication, and post-event survey.
- Direct the marketing timeline:
- Invitations will be mailed five to six weeks before your event.
- Email invitations will be sent four weeks before your event.
- Email reminders will be sent one and a half to two weeks before your event.
- Provide registration services.
- Coordinate the campus-relations strategy and tactics.
- Create a program shell, which will be posted on the WAA Volunteer Intranet site in January.
- Provide a video message from the chancellor.
- Provide a speakers’ booklet.
- Coordinate the speakers’ unified message, which will be disseminated through a slideshow provided by WAA.
- Send event-in-a-box supplies to chapters. The kit may include registration pads, name tags, program brochures, stickers, window clings, table tents, balloons, poms and pennants.
- Confirms with speakers and chapters once the date is confirmed.
- Covers costs for marketing (email, web, invitations, and supplies), speakers’ expenses, and staff time.
- WAA will send a Thank You email with a link to a Feedback Survey to:
- Follow up with volunteers, vendors, and the venue multiple times prior to the event to ensure that all elements of the celebration will happen as planned.
- Welcome people as they arrive, and record their attendance (including the event planners, who might not have actually registered).
- Make sure the venue is physically accessible to all, has WiFi available, can meet your AV needs, and can ensure that the speakers can be easily heard by all
- Offer no more than three menu choices, include a vegetarian option, and anticipate dietary needs.
- Provide a cash bar.
- Set pricing based on your local market and consider including reduced pricing for recent graduates.
- Anticipate parking needs and mobility accommodations.
- Plan décor and room arrangements.
- Plan the timing of the pre-dinner reception, dinner, speaker, program, and award presentations, if any.
- Don’t conduct chapter business so that it can be all about the celebration.
One week before the event
- Confirm details and arrangements for the event.
- Send volunteer confirmations regarding tasks, responsibilities, shifts, times, appropriate dress, expectations, and the like.
- Send a reminder to chapter leaders and include event expectations for the board of directors.
Day of the event
- Arrive at the venue early to set up.
- Set up the event.
- Set up the registration/check-in area for volunteers and event attendees.
- Conduct any necessary volunteer orientation.
- Greet attendees as they arrive.
- Network and facilitate alumni conversations.
At the event
- Recognize the time and effort put in by the volunteers.
- Thank everyone for attending the event.
- Pay special tribute to the speaker.
- Have fun!