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Before you even begin recruiting volunteers for committees surrounding a big event, develop your all-inclusive timeline for the event. You can even do this in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet with separate columns for the item and the targeted due date.
If you're doing an event that will reoccur year after year, you might also add a column for actual date and then at the end of the event you can re-evaluate the timeline. For instance, if there wasn't enough time built in to proof the event program draft and the rush job cost extra money, next year you can proactively plan to get away from that. An example might be to back up the due dates for the program items or give the committee more time to proof the program than in this year's timeline.
Fundraising for Dummies says, “If you can begin a year early, do it. Many organizations begin planning for next year's event the same day they evaluate the one they just had.” Plug in your event date and back-up from there considering again the first things that need to be done include choosing an event type, deciding event goals, and deciding an overall theme if necessary.
If you are booking any type of entertainment like a band or even a speaker to do a keynote or comedian or anything, they'll need to be contacted and booked almost immediately as well. Choosing and booking an event venue will also need to be done almost immediately. This will be critical if you're sending out any type of save the date to past event attendees, or those in a database or mailing list you've purchased and are targeting.
You'll also need to be identifying and targeting sponsors right away so you can deliver on all the promises in your sponsorship proposal as the pre-event activities (including publicity and printing of items, recognition at kick-offs or other parties) go on.