Managing Events in Higher Education

4 minutes

Institutional needs and circumstances can vary drastically from campus to campus, but if there’s one thing all of Higher Education faces, it’s the dependency on student recruitment and retention. Competition among colleges and universities is extremely high as students become savvier about choosing where they’ll spend their postsecondary career, and with enrollment numbers down for the fourth straight year, many are thinking twice about entering the collegiate world at all. 

Higher education institutions are unique in that they have a certain level of duty in providing social activities for students and alumni. In fact, 45 percent of students attending a four-year program will transfer or leave college all together within their first two years due to negative social circumstances. Like it or not, social engagement is a big deciding factor for acquiring prospective students and in retaining enrolled students. One reason being that college is a home away from home for students, and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory makes it clear that a sense of community is needed for anyone to be happy and healthy. 



Another more lucrative reason can be stated bluntly: students who enjoy their college experience often become alumni who donate money back to their alma matter. Think of how many people identify their college years as the best time of their lives. Now consider the percentage who make that claim because of the classes they enjoyed or the internships they had. No, most make that claim because of the relationships they forged and the memories they made while being social. Of survey alumni, 48 percent report that clubs, chapters and reunions impact whether or not they engage post-graduation.  

The bottom line is that keeping people engaged and having worthwhile events drives revenue, fundraising opportunities (alumni engagement), student recruitment, student and donor retention, and marketing opportunities. That means that having a solid event management plan is necessary for Higher Ed institutions, but that’s not always as easy as it seems.  

Why Higher Education Events Are Different  

Higher Ed event planners must navigate some tricky factors when it comes to planning and hosting college events. They’re often planning functions that need to serve a diverse audience, and this audience can be anywhere from a few hundred students to tens of thousands. Then there’s the issue of multi-campus consistency when coordinating across satellite locations. And your audience isn’t just at your institution; your alumni and other donors are spread all over the country, maybe further. Aside from scope and diversity of audience, here are a few more key issues these event planners face: 

  • Lack of resources. Budgeting an event for, say, 30,000 students is clearly no small feat, and often, the team in charge of making it work is small. With so many events to plan and only a certain amount of dollars, budgeting is a major source of friction. 

  • Communication. Higher Ed events require communication among departments, satellite campuses, event requesters, attendees and service providers. Without a reliable system and process in place, communication is bound to suffer, leading to lost information, service that went unscheduled, attendee questions that went unanswered and more. 

  • Hitting goals. There’s a lot of pressure for these event teams to make events worth it. Events at this level come with stakes; there needs to be a return on investment regarding generated revenue and increased engagement. But not only does the ROI need to be there, it needs to be measurable.  

  • Manual processes. Planning and promoting events at this level using manual processes just doesn’t scale, and it leads to more tasks falling through the cracks, like losing insurance files and invoices, botching social media posts and emails, etc. 


So What’s the Solution? 

For Higher Ed institutions, having an event management system is critical. A robust, reliable event management platform is like having more staff on your event planning team, staff that’s organized, thorough and automated. A system like this will eliminate that manual approach, keeping all your necessary event functions in one, clean system that runs like a well-oiled machine.  

Using Brightly’s Event Management suite, event teams can streamline needs concerning: 

  • Organization. Handle requests, approvals, work flows, conflict checks, task management, rental agreements, room configurations, vendors and more from one central dashboard. 

  • Promotion. Promote your events and rentable facilities. Keep track of registrations, tickets and merchandising. Customize according to your institution’s branding. 

  • Engagement. Manage public and private calendars in one system, and offer subscription to specific calendars by type of event or location. Get a roll-up view of your entire organization’s events. 

  • Invoicing. Create manual invoices and fee packages. Receive online payments securely.  

  • Assessment. Collect data to analyze factors like space utilization, and get feedback from attendees and renters to optimize their experience. Survey event goers about how they heard of the event, what went well and not so well, and more. 


For Higher Ed institutions, the ROI must be there when it comes to hosting events. If it isn’t, your university could suffer. 

An event management system that’s customizable, efficient and easy to implement is an essential ally for your event planning team. 

 Watch the Event Manager Product Overview Video video to see how Brightly’s Event Management suite could work for your institution.