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Example 1: Recognition dinner

I used to work for the University of Kansas Upward Bound Program that does college prep work with high school students who are from low income families and/or are potential first-generation college students. During the school year, participants attended a variety of educational workshops, visited college campuses, and received tutoring assistance. In the summer, students attended a summer camp where they took college preparatory classes and got a taste of campus life.

Every year, KU Upward Bound celebrates the conclusion of the summer program with a formal banquet. The annual awards banquet is primarily a celebration for the students and their parents, but attention is also given to showing appreciation for program staff.

Since the banquet was an annual event, we would choose the date several months ahead of time. This allowed us to reserve a location (either the ballroom at the university's student union or a banquet room at the alumni center) well in advance. It also gave us plenty of time to line up a keynote speaker - for high school kids, local sports figures are always a good bet - which was always more difficult than we thought it would be! If you're trying to get anyone notable, you may find the process takes several months, so start early.

The banquet gave the kids a chance to dress up and feel appreciated for their efforts over the past year, and their parents just ate it up. Most of these students had rarely, if ever, attended any formal occasions, so it was a big deal to them. However, we did have to make some adjustments to make them more comfortable. For several years, we tried having fancy foods on the menu, until one year some kids showed up with McDonald's bags! That was a big enough hint for us. We decided to go with foods that had more appeal to the kids; after all, the banquet was for them, and it worked out well because it was cheaper than the fancy meals anyway. We found that by having something simple (roast beef or turkey and dressing, for example), we were able to afford a big dessert buffet, and the students absolutely loved that!

Over time, we learned to keep the speeches by staff members and university officials to a minimum, and we started incorporating speeches and performances by the students themselves into the program. It made for a more entertaining evening, and made the students feel more like they were really a part of the banquet. Teachers of the summer classes presented awards to students who had done well in their classes, but we also gave awards to students who may not have done so well in the classes but had shown leadership and positive behavior in the residence hall. To make sure everyone felt recognized, certificates of participation were given to all students.

We also recognized staff members at the banquet, to a degree. Staff were thanked by the director, and the teachers and residence hall staff participated by presenting the student awards. However, since this event was supposed to be for the students and their parents, we didn't do any sort of staff awards at the banquet. That was saved for a separate, end-of-summer staff party.

The annual awards banquet takes a lot of advance work, but we found that if we started early and planned well, it wasn't too hard to pull off.

Example 2: Arranging a party

A medium-size organization is putting together an end-of-the-year party, and they have completed this chart for the party organization.

Budget: How much can you spend?

  • $1000

Who do you need to contact?

  • DJ
  • Caterer
  • Community center
  • Key speakers
  • Guests


  • Community center


  • Saturday, Dec. 22, 6 p.m.

Who's helping with the organization? What are their functions?

  • Mark - decoration
  • Anne - contact DJ
  • Star & Trey - buy food/beverages
  • Myself - contact the community center, caterer
  • Diana - contact guests, send out invitations
  • Jean - clean-up


  • Pizza, chips, sandwiches, desserts, gelatin + caterer


  • Soda, beer, wine, coffee, juice


  • DJ

Other details:

  • Select music for DJ
  • Buy recognition plates
  • Get fireworks

Guest list:

  • Dr. Stone
  • Prof. Carvey
  • Mayor
  • Mr. Delaway
Chris Hampton