Planning an Awesome (and Awesomely Complicated) Party

January 28, 2014

For the past five years, the folks in my office have partnered with The Variety Club of Boston to throw a huge holiday party for kids in therapeutic programs, special needs schools, and in mainstream schools and clubs in low-income Boston neighborhoods. Our staff describes the party as one of the best parts of the holiday season: a chance to treat kids who have had some tough breaks to one awesome day.

This year I offered to coordinate our company’s volunteers, even though I was petrified that I wouldn’t have time to do all the work. This is what I needed to do:

  • Sign up volunteers to shop for presents for 250 kids, ranging in age from 4 to 17. Shopping can’t start until about a week before the party because kids come and go from the programs we serve. Many of the kids have special requests or aren’t allowed to have certain items.
  • Pull together another group of volunteers to assemble gift bags for the kids the night before the party, to be handed out, one by one, by a terrific Santa with a killer Boston accent. (Mahk, come ovah heah, have you been a good boy this yeah?)
  • Rally another group of “elves” to chaperone the kids at the party itself.

One giant leg up: our office already has a Kona site that we use to share all sorts of info. It was the obvious choice as a hub for organizing the party.

First, I started a Kona conversation to get the word out to all employees that the party was on and that we needed their help. Past participants chimed in and encouraged new folks to join in. With a little help from an inhouse Kona smarty-pants, I set up a poll that let employees volunteer as shoppers, receivers, bag stuffers, or party elves. (We only had one real, in-person, meeting and only three people showed up, but 35 volunteered via Kona.)

Miss Kona Smarty-Pants created a Google spreadsheet (and shared it right in the Kona conversation) where we assigned shoppers to each age group/gender (5 year old girls, 12 year old boys, etc.). Then, as the lists of kids and their gift requests rolled in from schools and programs, I uploaded these to Kona so that the shoppers could start getting to work.

We shared shopping tips via Kona. (Lego sets on sale at Walmart! Any suggestions for a 12 year old girl with impaired vision?) We also sent out quick updates. (The truck is here to pick up the gifts. Everybody down to the loading dock!) We sent out directions to the cinema where we held the party. And after the party, we shared lots of thanks and congratulations for a job well done.

We already have a date set for next December’s party. We’ll be there, with Kona as our extra elf.


-Evelyn Osmond

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