How to Plan An Event

How to Plan a Columbia SoCal Event


This guide is meant to help alumni volunteers plan an event for Columbia alumni in Southern California by providing some context, guidance, and helpful resources.

Background & Context 📄

The Columbia Alumni Association of Southern California, Inc. (“Columbia SoCal”) is a 501(c)3 registered non-profit in the state of California that is affiliated with Columbia University, by way of the Columbia Alumni Association (“CAA”). The CAA is the University’s official umbrella alumni association, representing all graduates of the University from every constituent school. Each school also has its own unique alumni group, such as the Columbia College Alumni Association, that focuses its efforts solely on its own graduates.


While we are technically a separate non-profit organization from the University, with our own funding, by-laws, and leadership, Columbia SoCal coordinates very closely with the CAA and other Columbia groups that operate in our region (e.g. Columbia University Entertainment or Columbia Black Alumni Council - LA). This is true of most of the “regional clubs” like us that organize alumni events in different parts of the world.

How to Organize a Columbia SoCal Event

Okay, you’ve made this far and you’re ready to organize your first Columbia event. Great! Take a look at the questions and timeline below to help bring your event idea into focus. If you’re looking for some inspiration, take a look at our list of past events on our website.


When you’re ready to move forward, contact your Columbia SoCal Board rep via email, or send us a note at [email protected].

Questions to Answer

  1. What is the purpose of this event, i.e. why would alumni want to attend? What are we offering that alumni couldn’t get on their own?
  2. Is there a cost associated with this event? If so, how much is it? Could we get some sort of group access or discount?
    1. Columbia SoCal doesn’t really have a major operating budget for events, and we aren’t funded by the University directly. We tend to prefer free events or events where we can pass on the cost to attendees. There are a few exceptions here and there, though, so don’t let this be a blocker to moving forward!
  3. What are the logistics associated with this event?
    1. Arrival, Tickets, & Check-In
    2. Parking & Transit
    3. Food & Beverages
    4. Departure


Ideal Event Planning Timeline

Sure—not everything goes according to plan. But ideally, here’s the timeline for how planning an would go.




4 – 3.5 weeks out

Event organizer sends email to Columbia SoCal with event details for confirmation


3 weeks out

Columbia SoCal posts event on website and social media; call for RSVPs


3 weeks out

Columbia SoCal includes event in monthly e-newsletter on 1st of the month


1 week out

Event organizer checks in with venue to confirm everything is all set


1 day out

Columbia SoCal sends RSVP list to event organizer and board member(s) attending. Columbia SoCal sends reminder email to those who RSVPed


Event Day

Event organizer arrives ~15 minutes early to venue to check in with staff.

Event is a total blast; everyone has a great time


1-2 days after

Event organizer sends rough headcount, any photos, and any other feedback to Columbia SoCal

A Few Other Notes for Your Consideration

We’re pretty easy-going about alumni events at Columbia SoCal, but we do want to make sure that the alumni experience at all events that bear our name is as seamless and enjoyable as possible. To that end, here are a few items to keep in mind as you go through the planning process.

  • We represent all Columbia alumni in Southern California. As such, our events must be open to all Columbia alumni, regardless of graduation year, school, major, or any other defining characteristic. This bit is non-negotiable.
  • For Columbia SoCal to truly sponsor an event, we strongly prefer that one of our board members can attend, especially if it’s a new event. If our name is on the event and we’re helping with marketing, it’s important to us that we have a presence. Plus, we’re happy to help out—it’s what we do.
  • When you speak with a venue, it’s helpful to tell them you’re looking for a space for the “Columbia Alumni Association of Southern California” (our full name). If you just say “Columbia” you’ll often get confused with Columbia College Hollywood. Similarly, saying “CAA” to mean “Columbia Alumni Association” will get you strange looks here in Tinseltown—people assume you mean “Creative Artists Agency”. 😆
  • People need about 2 weeks’ notice for most events, and our email newsletter goes out on the 1st of every month. We try to remain as flexible as possible on timing, but it’s hard to get the word out to our alumni adequately with less than 2 weeks’ notice.

About Columbia SoCal 🦁 

Columbia SoCal provides a space for alumni in Southern California to engage with one another and the University. We represent alumni from all schools at the University from the following counties: Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, and Riverside.


We are composed entirely of alumni volunteers who care about Columbia and want to create opportunities for alumni to connect with one another in the broader Southern California region. Nobody involved with Columbia SoCal is paid—we’re all doing this in our free time!


There are two main ways to be more involved with Columbia SoCal as an alumni volunteer:


Volunteer to organize an event or two. This is a pretty light commitment, as you can organize as few or as many events as you have time and interest for. That said, Columbia SoCal isn’t able to co-sponsor every event idea someone has (see notes below on our criteria).


Join the Board of Directors. This is for those who are looking for a slightly steadier commitment. The Board meets a few times a year, and Board members are formal Directors of our non-profit organization. Our job is to help coordinate all our efforts across the region, and to help partner with other Columbia organizations in the area. Board members are expected to attend meetings and organize at least a few events per year.


Contact Information

You can reach the Columbia SoCal board at [email protected].

*prepared by Cliff Massey

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