“Me, plan a health fair? You must be kidding!”
That’s what I said when I was asked to organize our fitness facility’s first health fair. After 8 months of wrong turns, detours and far too much stress and drama, the big day came. Our first health fair was a hit! And we earned $1,000 for our designated charity!
No experience is necessary; I certainly had none. I’ve organized my notes from the experience into a planning guide. If you take the role of Manager and divide the details of the task among a team of Coordinators, you’ll be on the road to a great community event.
The Manager’s Role
Here’s what you need to do to get this underway.
Spread the idea. Announce the event 6-8 months in advance. Get the staff and membership excited! Assemble a team of volunteer Coordinators (staff or members).
Make logistical decisions immediately. Set the date and time and find a venue, at least 6 months before the fair. Determine how many tables your venue will accommodate, and arrange to rent or borrow tables and chairs. Share all this information with your team.
Make your fair unique. Define your event—for example, “Spring Wellness Fest” or “Health and Fitness Expo.” Will you have health screeners, fitness demos, lectures, hands-on services, healthy food samples and games? Perhaps you will couple it with a 5K run or an open house.
Choose a charity that will receive most of the funds. Do not charge admission. Raffle ticket sales and table fees will go to the charity. Use sponsor money for fair operations.
Trust your Coordinators to do their jobs, using the guidelines below. Answer their emails promptly, and meet with them occasionally to collect information. Maintain a folder for each of the planning areas.
Prepare three documents:
- Create a professional flier for promotion purposes.
- Develop an agenda, and update it 1 month before the event. Include the timetable for the demos, lectures and mini-classes; a list of sponsors and vendors; and a facility map.
- One week before the event, make a table layout map that shows vendor locations. When assigning tables, include any special considerations, such as the need for an electrical outlet.
The Role of the Coordinators
Divide up the following tasks among your team members:
Find sponsors. Locate businesses that are willing to donate money. The Manager designates how the funds will be used.
- On your facility’s letterhead, write a letter explaining the event and the designated charity. Include your company’s tax ID, non-profit status and contact information. Describe how sponsors will be acknowledged.
- Visit potential sponsors in person. At this point in the process, emails and letters are easily ignored. Be brief: “We are having a health fair to raise money for this charity, and we hope you can sponsor us with a donation of $25 or more.”
- Start with local places where you and your organization are known: stores, supermarkets, banks, medical offices, women’s clubs, restaurants, etc. Then branch out: Visit every establishment at a shopping center or business park. Stay within a 5-mile radius of your venue.
- Some potential sponsors will give you an immediate response; others will not. Do not approach them more than once. If you do not hear back, the answer was no.
Find vendors and health screeners. Strike a balance of vendors and health screeners. Get started on this 6 months before the fair.
- Compose a letter for vendors. Include the nonrefundable table fee amount ($25-$50), the fee deadline (2 months before the event) and the late-fee charge ($10). Nonprofit vendors (the American Heart Association, for example) may ask that the fee be waived.
- Create a sign-up form. Keep good records that include contact information and date of payment. You may need to remind some vendors of the deadline.
- Contact vendors directly. Most vendors and health screeners are eager to promote their businesses or services and will respond positively. Don’t forget food vendors!
- Cover these areas of health screening: blood pressure, blood glucose, body mass index, blood oxygen, eye, vein and spinal health. Make a special card that attendees can use to write down their results.
- Once your table quota has been met, start a waiting list. There are always last-minute dropouts.
- Communicate with everyone 1 month before the fair and again 1 week before the fair. Immediately after the event, send thank-you notes or emails.
For more information, please see “How to Plan Your First Health Fair” in the online IDEA Library or in the March 2013 issue of IDEA Fitness Manager.
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