RA's Guide to Planning Programs on a Budget

Posted by Alexandra Macleod on Nov 28, 2017 2:23:14 PM

In RA program ideas, Ohio University RAs


Planning a program is one of the most difficult parts of being an RA.  On top of class, homework and clubs; planning a great program in a short amount of time can be a tough job.  Luckily there are ways to make programming easy and inexpensive.  If you do it right, you might actually get all of your residents to show up!  Take a look at the 7 best ways to plan great programs on a budget.

1. Planning your Programs:

When you plan the program, you have to be careful to not fall into the routine of putting on a movie, buying a box of discount donuts and calling it a program.  Not to say movies or donuts are off limits, because they are definitely crowd-pleasers, but the same old programs get boring and residents will simply stop showing up.  Think of something fun to do.  Is there an event going on on campus that you can take your residents to?  Always get calendars at the beginning of each semester so you can make sure to hit the fun local events.  When you take residents to programs you don't have to do any of the planning, and you will feel more like a friend to your residents, and less like an event planner.  If you have your own program, give it a twist.  Think crafts, games, themes or giveaways.

2. Always Advertise: 


Advertising is key to getting your hall to come to your programs.  Emails and fliers are a great way to get the word out for your programs.  Canva is an awesome tool for making really attractive and eye-catching fliers or infographics.  It's so easy that even someone who has never designed a day in their life can make really beautiful graphics.  There are ways to add your own images and, other than some options that are only available for paying members, it's completely free. 

As you're advertising, keep the resident in the forefront of your mind.  Consider what they would want to hear about and put that first.  Advertise with your residents in mind, not your supervisor.  Fun should be in the forefront of the advertisements, save the educational value to be explained in the write-up. 

3. Make it Personal:

Your residents want to feel like they're going to go hang out with friends, not like they're being begged to go to another university event.  Make it personal by talking about your programs in casual conversation, or advertising it in your group message.  Talk about the program in the same way you would invite a close friend to go do something, don't act like you're above your residents.  In reality, you and your residents are probably the same age, and acting like you're above them will only scare your residents away. 

4. Create Excitement:

Residents want something to get excited about, so giving them something to look forward to is key to hosting a great program.  If you're doing a craft, make it something that they will actually value.  If you're playing a game, make it something fun, not something that feels childish.  If you're planning a movie or a meeting, lure them in with food or a chance to win a prize or gift card.  Although oftentimes creating excitement means spending money, there are extremely cheap ways to entice your residents to attend your programs.

5. Budget and Buy:


Budgeting for a program can be easier than it seems.  Always go for off-brand items, they're often cheaper and of identical quality.  If you're having food, cooking is often a less expensive route.  Baking a box of brownies is much cheaper than buying already-made ones, and cooking them can be fun and even become a part of the program.  When buying craft supplies, online is always a great option.  Dick Blick has great inexpensive art supplies; often in bulk.  Plan ahead so you have time to get the cheapest and best supplies for your event.  

6. Have Fun:

Don't supervise your programs, enjoy them!  Be genuine and try to have fun at your own programs, this will encourage your residents to loosen up and have fun.  Overall, you control the mood and feeling of your programs.  If you're stiff, your program will be stiff too.  If you're having a great time, it will be contagious and your residents will have fun, too. 

7. Keep an RA Eye:

As an RA, you should always have an eye out for who needs any sort of help.  Programs are a great way to get to know your residents and see if anyone is in need of a conversation or guidance.  Always offer resources if you hear any sort of need or problem.  Offer to give help to those who need it.  Keep an eye out for loners or people who aren't adjusting to college life well.  You could be the help they need, even if it's just a push in the right direction.  Remember that your job is valuable, and you could be a difference-maker for a resident. 

Planning a program isn't easy, and the hardest part can be continuing to come up with new ideas each time you have to host an event.  Check out ResidentAssistant.com to get some new ideas and see cool things other RAs across the country are up to.  While your planning your events, just remember that you're a student, and no one is expecting your programs to be perfect.  A little fun and a little food is the perfect combo to get residents knocking down the door.

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