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Plan a Recovery Month Event

Use these tips, guidelines, and resources to help you plan your Recovery Month event.

Organizing an event for National Recovery Month (Recovery Month) is a great way to celebrate the recovery community and to share real-life experiences of people in recovery, their families, and the communities who help make recovery possible. Events help spread the message that prevention works, treatment is effective, and people recover.

The Recovery Month Toolkit includes information about private funding of Recovery Month events (PDF | 174 KB). The following are additional resources and tips to help you plan a successful Recovery Month event:

Questions to Consider Before Planning Your Event

  • What type of event do you want to have (for example, a walk/run, rally, barbecue, talent show)?
  • How much money do you have available for your event? (Learn more from our fundraising tips and tools.)
  • Are there other organizations that you should partner with?
  • When should you hold the event? Keep in mind other events that may be happening at the same time. This way you can avoid competing dates or perhaps combine events with another partner.
  • Where should you have the event? Is the location convenient? What logistics are required? For instance, if your event is outdoors, you may need a tented area and portable restrooms. If you’re hosting a benefit concert, you will need audiovisual equipment such as a sound board, speakers, and microphones.
  • Do you need any special ordinances or permits?
  • Will you serve food? Do you need access to a kitchen? How will you keep the food warm or cold?
  • What activities will take place at your event? Do you want a special guest speaker, entertainment, or games?
  • How will you promote the event? Learn more about using social media tools to promote your Recovery Month event.

Create a Recovery Month Event Timeline

Being organized and prepared are key to planning an event. Establish a timeline for when the activities should be executed. It may be helpful to start your timeline at the beginning of October or the start of your fiscal year.

Recovery Month events most commonly are held in September, but you can hold your event any time of the year. Here is a sample timeline for a September event for you to consider:

  • October—Determine what events you plan to host next September, and based on the success or difficulties encountered during the previous event, set your budget for these activities.
  • November to December—Form (or reform) your event planning committee.
  • January—Establish an event plan or an execution plan with set tasks, timelines, deadlines, and costs.
  • February—Begin executing the event plan, which will likely include sponsorship outreach, registration form creation, finalizing an online fundraising site, etc.
  • March to June—Continue executing the event plan. Specifically, finalize the event site (except for virtual events), permits, other logistics, and establish media opportunities for publicity and promotion.
  • June to July—Open registration for your event, if applicable. Finalize event plan tasks and begin promoting on social media, in print, radio, and television.
  • August—Meet all deadlines on event plan and make final preparations for carrying out your Recovery Month event.
  • September—Promote and execute your Recovery Month event.

Establish an Event Committee

Consider writing into your bylaws a standing committee charter that details the budgeting, planning, and executing of your event. Establish a board and elect committee members to specified terms. This will guarantee commitment from the members and continuity of the event from year to year. It also results in a strategically oriented event.

Your event committee should be a cross-section of the entire community. The broader cross-sectional representation of the community in your committee, the better reach you will have for event sponsorship and funding. With sufficient outreach on your part, you will be surprised at how many people in your community have the heart and passion for the issue and will love to be a part of creating a community event for prevention, treatment, and recovery awareness.

Budget for Your Event

Write the full cash expense for your next event or activity into your organization’s annual budget. Essentially, your Recovery Month event will be a line item in your operational budget for the fiscal year. If the event is written into the organization’s operational budget, the expense can be captured through regular operational revenues and can be carried out accordingly. Your community-based event committee will then have a budget from which to operate and plan.

Remember that virtual events are more affordable and will be useful in reaching a younger demographic with your Recovery Month message. However, in order for them to succeed, they require extensive marketing and promotion.


Set sponsorship levels and goals. Give potential sponsors varying levels to support your event and organization. Assign sponsorship benefits for each level. For example, the sponsor’s logo will be included on event T-shirts or on the event website. Each sponsorship level could come with a predetermined number of free registrations for the event.

Set a defined period of time for seeking sponsorships for your event. Even if you meet your sponsorship goals, continue seeking sponsors until your scheduled deadline. This may require you to modify your sponsorship benefits and you will need to be transparent about any required modifications.

Registration Fees

Set registration fees at a reasonable level, but high enough to cover some direct costs, such as T-shirts or printing. Consider using on online event registration tool to manage your registrations and to incorporate a crowdfunding element (raising contributions from a large number of people via the Internet) to your event. This can turn your event into an actual fundraiser for your organization creating revenue to offset the budgeted expense for your event.

Secure an Event Speaker

Having a guest speaker will add context and purpose to your event. The guest speaker should be able to articulate the importance of the prevention and treatment of mental and/or substance use disorders.

When choosing a potential speaker, consider the attendees at your event, since you want someone who can connect with your audience. Start by making a list of three to four potential speakers based on the needs of your event, and rank each speaker in order of priority.

Here are steps to take your list from “potential speakers” to a “confirmed speaker”:

  • Draft a letter or email to extend the invitation to your first-choice speaker and determine his or her availability. The letter or email should provide the speaker with the purpose and overview of the event, potential topics, his or her role during the event, and a contact person to speak with for more information.
  • If the speaker confirms, schedule a phone call or in-person meeting to provide more details about your event and his or her involvement.
  • Work with your speaker to make sure that he or she has a solid understanding of the goal and purpose of your event, so the speaker can prepare an appropriate message.
  • On the day of the event, designate an onsite contact to assist the speaker.

Obtain Permits and Ordinances

For some events, such as those where you close a local street, have live entertainment, or serve food, you may be required to obtain special approvals.

Each city or town is different, so it is extremely important to check with your local government’s community planning and development or administrative office to find out if you need a permit, license, or ordinance for your event. Obtain all of the necessary paperwork and be aware of submission deadlines and fees. It’s critical to reach out to your local government’s office early in the planning process, at least four weeks before your event.

After Your Event

Following your Recovery Month event, schedule a full debrief. Include the following people in this discussion:

  • Board of directors
  • Event committee members
  • Volunteers
  • Key stakeholders
  • Community members

Assess what worked as well as what didn’t work. Review how the event was budgeted and ultimately funded. Create a lessons learned document that the committee for next year’s event can use as a starting point.

Thank every sponsor promptly. Thank you notes should come from the executive director or the board of directors.

Analyze participant information that was collected during the registration process and conduct follow-up surveys with as many participants as possible.

Last Updated: 01/13/2016