Staff appreciation event on a (tiny) budget
October 17, 2006 1:16 PM   Subscribe

What would you do if you were asked to plan the following event for 250 people on a budget of $500?: "... a staff appreciation event celebrating the past year's accomplishments and anticipating future directions. Includes the following tasks: scheduling event, reserving location, setting agenda, arranging for speakers, ordering and purchasing refreshments, publicizing event, and handling setup and cleanup."

This event is for library staff at a major southern public university. Our committe has already thought of giving eveyone $2, but HR says we can't hand out cash awards. Annual leave as awards is out, too; and we can't serve alcohol.
posted by jay_wiese to Work & Money (27 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
$500 is riduculously tight. Short of spending $100 on a ticket to Las Vegas and putting $400 on black, you're pretty much screwed. Your best bet is to leverage the University's facilities and services as much as possible - event should be on campus, refreshments should be provided by the university's dining services program, clean up should be handled by the facilities department, etc. Find an interesting professor or two to give some speeches. That's about the best you are going to do, I think.
posted by rorycberger at 1:27 PM on October 17, 2006

Can't go wrong with five hundred tacos.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:38 PM on October 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

Am I wrong to think that $2 a person isn't even enough to handle refreshments (unless is is liters of Coke and some bulk cookies)?

The only way I see this happening is to use the library as the location, use current staff to plan, organize and clean up, and get a speaker who will do it gratis.

Or are you trying to make a case that it can't be done on the current budget without being very lame?
posted by qwip at 1:43 PM on October 17, 2006

err..., what rorycberger said.
posted by qwip at 1:48 PM on October 17, 2006

Absurd. The staff might well feel more appreciated if they didn't have to listen to the speeches. An awful lot of those celebrate the perception that your time is cheap enough to waste.

Five hundred bucks will buy everyone a couple decent cookies. I say hand out the cookies and be done with it.
posted by jet_silver at 1:50 PM on October 17, 2006

For a form of entertainment other than a speaker, is there a way to solicit anecdotes or comments from library users? Students who are regulars? Teachers who rely on the library heavily? Maybe put quotes together on a slidshow with music behind it-- time intensive but free.

And can you ask for donations? Maybe from the local bakery-- free cookies? From a grocery? Consider platters from Chik Fil A or something like that-- not toooo pricey. Or platters from a grocery store.

$100 should go to two students to do setup and cleanup. Don't do it yourself. I suppose this can be done, but $500 is ridiculously cheap.

If you want to skip food, consider a giveaway with the university's name on it from a printer, like (i don't work there or anything-- they were just really helpful when I needed something like that.)

One other thought-- maybe give 20 or so awards? Person with the most books checked in, person who fell asleep on the job, etc. (Sorry, I don't know library humor.) That would take up time and be in lieu of a speaker, perhaps. And more fun.
posted by orangemiles at 1:53 PM on October 17, 2006

use facilities, etc: $0
250 lottery tickets (scratch-off or powerball or whatever you state has) @ $1 each: $250
drinks and snacks (because you can't conceivably get any good lunch food with your budget): $250

to stretch the snacks/drinks budget, hit the dollar store for off-brands, your local warehouse or Xmart, etc.

skip any boring speakers and just blast some good tunes instead.

I have to say, I wouldn't feel very appreciated, but hey any excuse to get out of the office for a while.
posted by mikepop at 1:57 PM on October 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

Jay - I have to go with everyone else, sorry you're not getting better answers.

Perhaps you can talk to whoever handed down the $500 number and let them know that $2/pp doesn't show much appreciation at all (personally I'd kind of take it as a slap in the face if someone gave me a $2 check for "appreciation").

If there's no flexibility from up on high, maybe your best bet is trying to think up one big, nice thing that everyone might be able to use or enjoy (TV for the breakroom, some improvements to the facilities, etc..).
posted by allkindsoftime at 1:59 PM on October 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

Could you make the "event" the unveiling of a gift to the staff from the management?

For instance could you buy something for the library restroom perhaps? I dunno like a nice piece of art? At least then the staff might appreciate it for more than 15seconds that it takes to consume $2 worth of refreshments.
posted by selton at 2:01 PM on October 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

Essentially, you're being told to make people feel valued by a management that doesn't want to fund it or bend policy in any way to accommodate same. How utterly ironic.

I think the best way to do that is to do some cheesy feel-good stuff that's free of charge. For example, you could pass papers around asking people to offer compliments on their co-workers, then present those. Nothing makes someone feel good like a page full of flattery. :)
posted by WCityMike at 2:03 PM on October 17, 2006

i would solicit the heads of other departments in the university for donations, and advertise what was donated by which department...particularly for those departments whose students and staff utilize the library a good would build some good will between those departments and the library staff (who would perhaps look more favorably and generously on requests from said departments)... might steer clear of speakers (unless the library culture would welcome that), but if you do go that way, keep it light and entertaining...i would go for more fun group activities...intellectual if that is the general liking...but something that branches out onto campus would be cool, good weather some kind of twisted literary scavenger hunt...something with some cool if inexpensive prizes... could invite students and outside staff members to each pack a lunch or bake some cookies for a library staff person, and that takes care of food and provides some meeting opportunities and general goodtime cheer...make it a celebration known campus-wide as a library staff appreciation thing...
posted by troybob at 2:08 PM on October 17, 2006

A few more ideas:
-Buy a handful of nice things (e.g. ipod nanos or shuffles, $50 and $100 Amazon gift certificates, dinner at a fancy local restaurant, etc.) and raffle them off.
-Show a movie somewhere on campus. I can't think of any good library movies, but any blockbuster new release should be fine. Another option is to make some sort of humorous video and show that.
-Humiliate the bosses: $500 should be enough to rent you a dunk-tank or something similar.
posted by rorycberger at 2:18 PM on October 17, 2006

You can't possibly win here. Put your energy into finding some way to dump this on someone else. Surely there's someone around who wants to suck up the bosses and doesn't mind all being the face of an ungrateful management to all their co-workers.
posted by rdr at 3:02 PM on October 17, 2006

Taking a page from the many Southern Baptist weddings I've attended, I suggest sheet cake and punch, although $500 for 250 people does seem tight even for that. You'll also need to consider the cost of any serving pieces, like plates, napkins, cups and silverware unless your university catering company can lend them to you at for free or reduced cost.

You could approach local businesses about donating or providing goods at a discount in exchange for listing them in the event's program*. I've done a fair number of limited-budget events for some nonprofits, and although I hate the tin-cup routine, sometimes you have to do it.

I like the idea of a raffle of prizes, your budget permitting. Perhaps a local florist could donate some decor that could be raffled off as well?

You may also want to push back on the person who gave you this assignment. One thought: Come up with something you can do within your budget and tell them, for example, "Since the budget is so tight, each guest is going to get a Little Debbie snack cake and a cup for the water fountain." They may choose to reconsider the budget if they think it will make them look bad.

*Program being something that you lay out yourself and use a copier to reproduce, of course.
posted by Sully6 at 3:07 PM on October 17, 2006

I think the staff would feel more appreciated if they were allowed to go home early rather than being forced to sit through a cheap-ass ("we really don't appreciate you") and boring ceremony.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 3:16 PM on October 17, 2006

Can you throw a pancake breakfast? Pancakes, syrup and coffee are cheap. Have the senior managers make the pancakes and serve them. Approach your vendors/suppliers for branded items -- they may be able to donate some prizes to you. Winning a golf umbrella from the photocopy company aint like winning a trip to Vegas, but it's still something.

For a speaker, can you ask senior managers for their contacts? Perhaps they know someone who'd make a speech. But I'm not sure it's the right fit for something like this anyway.
posted by acoutu at 3:46 PM on October 17, 2006

You have got to be joking. For 250 people, the minimum budget you need is $5K. And that doesn't even get you much. Run away from this. Run far, far away. A management that (as pointed out above) actually wants to show it values its employees will spend more than $2 per. The only thing I can honestly think of is to have them give everyone a free paid day off, and spend the $500 on something that everyone can benefit from. (A new microwave, TV, etc.)
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:17 PM on October 17, 2006

I'm supporting the lottery ticket or big ticket item idea; give them each a cookie and make them listen to a speaker as appreciation and they're likely to riot.
posted by craven_morhead at 4:25 PM on October 17, 2006

Well, they're not putting their money where their mouth is, that's for sure. Sometimes, though, the money just isn't there and there's no way to get around that.

Consider both the soliciting of donations as mentioned above and the donation of time/money by management. If the management/patrons/"people saying 'thank you'" can donate either money or (even more impressive) time to this, it'll make a big impression. If I were in an outfit with little cash but saw my boss busting his butt to try to make some sort of meangingful gesture, I'd be impressed.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 4:44 PM on October 17, 2006

Generosity aside...

Borrow a digital projector from the university, pop a whole bunch of popcorn, buy sodas and show a movie that would be a crowd pleaser, with two minutes of "trailers" that are a (borrowed video camera) talking heads of people in charge saying thank you. Obviously, use a meeting room with a big screen or something. Any extra cash can go to movie theater like candy, gift certificates, etc. Or to the (discounted) rental of a slushie machine or something.

Publicity can be fliers that look like a movie poster tacked up all about, Xeroxed on someone else's dime.

The movie should be something that's fun (not serious), has some tie to the area, the school or libraries? (All I can think of is GHOSTBUSTERS or a movie based on a book.)

Grad students, volunteer labor are the only way to pull it off.
posted by Gucky at 5:05 PM on October 17, 2006

What would I do? Probably complain about it ad nauseum, and then do one of the suggestions above (especially the scratch tickets (if that's allowed), or the big ticket raffle items. I'd spend part of the money on soda and chips/salsa or cookies (cheap), and the rest on the scratch tickets or nice prizes, so that the people that get nothing don't feel too screwed.
posted by Amizu at 5:19 PM on October 17, 2006

BBQ, ice cream social, or literary themed tea party in a public place outdoors might be done on that budget, however, I don't know when the event is or what the weather might be like in your neck of the woods.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:19 PM on October 17, 2006

What would you do if you were asked to plan the following event for 250 people on a budget of $500?

I would write back, politely asking them whether they'd misplaced a decimal point somewhere.
posted by ikkyu2 at 6:37 PM on October 17, 2006

Hold some sort of Group trivia (have teams) contest.

Figure 50 groups of 5 people.

Buy $100 of soda + Popcorn/crackers. Tell them it's BYOB (up to 3 or so drinks to limit liability)

Then, you have (in cash) prizes of the remaining $400
100-75-50-50-25-25-25-25-25. (9 prizes)

Use a projector + powerpoint for the questions. Rounds of 4 questions. Eliminate quickly, each round add a question, making them progressively harder (easy to eliminate quickly.) Make some questions about the company (and some questions about trivia, history, etc.)

One team will earn $20/per person.
posted by filmgeek at 6:43 PM on October 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

Alternatively, buy a bunch of pinatas write words like "Appreciation" on it and then auction off the right to smack the pinata (Like for $5).
posted by filmgeek at 6:43 PM on October 17, 2006

I would come up with three programs and present the three options with associated budgets to whoever is in charge. A cheapo $500 one, a middle-of-the-road (i.e. what any reasonable person would have budgeted for you), and if you're up for it, one that is the nicest option.

You'd want to show that you can barely eke by on the $500, and that it will probably suck, and leave people feeling not-so-appreciated. If they can see that they'll get way more for by giving you a larger budget (not to mention all the returns from having employees that aren't bitter that they got shafted on "Staff Appreciation Day"), perhaps they'll reconsider. I'm guessing that they just don't know that $500 won't take them too far, so if you show them, that might help. Be aware that they might approve the $500 budget though...

I have never heard of an event costing that little for so many people including refreshments, unless everyone is bringing the food and drinks themselves. Even sodas and cookies (and all the various napkins/plates/cups) will add up. I'd also be concerned about whether you will incur any additional housekeeping costs for clean-up, or if the committee has to do it. Also, at the university I go to, people have to use the in-house catering service for anything food-related, which is usually some crazy amount of money (like $100 just for coffee and tea for 50). You may not even be ABLE to buy your own food, and because you'll have 250 staff members there, it's not like you could fly under the radar. I'd look into that.

I really like the raffle idea. You could probably even get some donated from on-campus stores/services or stuff near campus. Does that count as a cash award though? Also, not everyone will attend, which could be good.

At my university, the staff members get a huge BBQ buffet luncheon and a plant (I'm sure the plants are probably donated) for Staff Appreciation Day. Within the division where my program is, the staff gets taken out to lunch at a really nice restaurant (approx. 30 ppl). You guys don't seem to be very appreciated. I wonder if they'd be better off not trying to act like they care if they just don't.
posted by ml98tu at 6:51 PM on October 17, 2006

Take them to Chuck E. Cheese?
posted by Superstitious at 5:37 AM on October 18, 2006

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