Fatherhood events are a great way to celebrate dads and broadcast the message that dads matter to your community. They can help create a positive relationship between your organization and the community it serves. They can also act as a marketing vehicle to recruit dads to your fatherhood program or other father-serving efforts.
Despite all of these benefits, I’ve found the lack of fatherhood events to be a consistent theme from my 17 years of helping counties create community-wide action plans to promote responsible fatherhood. That’s a huge public relations and marketing miss.
With Father’s Day on the horizon, I thought this would be a great time to provide the following steps to help you have a successful fatherhood event. After all, what better day around which to organize your first fatherhood event!
- Determine who your target audience will be. This choice will affect everything about the event, from how you market it, to the length and timing of it. There are four primary types of participants to consider.
- For dads only
- For dads, children, and their families
- For community leaders only
- For dads and community leaders
- Survey your target audience. This step is critical to an event’s success, but it’s one that’s often missed. What are their wants and needs? Would they prefer to have an event only for them or one where—taking dads for example—they can bring their children? The answers will help you shape the event details.
- Decide what kind of event you want to have. Once you know your target audience’s wants and needs, tailor the event to make it most valuable and fun for them. Here are some ideas for each of the target audiences.
- For dads only: Hold your event at a community center or conference center. Have a motivational speaker address the entire group and then provide breakout sessions where dads can explore other issues with specialists (e.g. legal, access and visitation, workforce readiness, and reinstating driver’s licenses).
- For dads, children, and their families: Hold your event at a place where dads would feel most comfortable (e.g. local zoo, waterpark, bowling alley, or sporting event). Give dads support materials (e.g. brochures, tip cards, information on fatherhood groups, etc.). Give children fun items (e.g. stickers, toys, and healthy snacks). And don’t leave out moms! A session for them on how they can support dads’ involvement could be a winner.
- For community leaders only: Hold a leadership summit. Provide an overview of the state of fatherhood in your community, then break them into smaller groups to discuss strategies to improve your community’s father-friendliness.
- For dads and community leaders: Hold a fatherhood summit and host a panel discussion where both dads and community leaders share stories and insights. Include breakout sessions with topics for dads (e.g. co-parenting, masculinity, child development) and for community leaders (e.g. father-readiness, community mobilization, training female staff to work with dads).
- Partner with organizations, agencies, and businesses in as many sectors as possible (e.g. healthcare, education, media, business, law enforcement, and faith). No matter which type of event you have, the support of community partners will play a big role in its success. If you’re doing a dads-only event, for example, bring in an expert on child support or a doctor to talk about men’s health. If you’re doing an event for dads, children, and families, partner with your local zoo to provide free admission to dads if they come with their children or family. If you’re doing an event for leaders, partner with your local Chamber of Commerce to encourage business leaders attend or provide financial or in-kind support.
- Establish your outcomes. It’s important to know how you and your partners define success well in advance of your event so you can create your tracking or evaluation process. If you hold a dads-only event, for example:
- Will you need to track the number of dads who attend?
- Of those who attend, will you need to track how many sign up for your fatherhood program?
- Will you need to evaluate whether the event addressed the wants and needs of dads that were the event’s centerpiece?
Whatever you track or evaluate, keep the process simple and make it easy to gather feedback. Also, think about the setting for your event and how that will affect how to get feedback. For example, it would be difficult to gather formal feedback during or after an event for dads, children, and families at a zoo or a park. It would be much easier to get feedback during or after a closing ceremony or presentation in a community or conference center.
- Measure success. Now that you have everything in place, make sure you have people who are designated to gather feedback. Events can take a life of their own, which makes it easy to forget tracking and evaluation details before it ends. And once the people are gone, it may be impossible to get feedback.
The most successful fatherhood initiatives complement their programs with fatherhood events. While coordinating one takes time and effort to do well, remember that you don’t have to do it all yourself. Partner with other agencies and divide up the tasks that make up the steps above. The effort will pay off when you look into the eyes of grateful fathers, happy kids and families, and excited community leaders.
Are you planning a fatherhood event this year?
If not, what is one thing you can do to get the ball rolling on one?