The Importance of a Solid SOP

Posted on November 6, 2018

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By Robin Shapiro

Whether you are planning a new event or working to improve an existing event, developing standard operating procedures (SOPs) for all of your processes is key to your event’s success. A complete SOP outlines how things get done, who does what and how results are measured. Compiling a complete collection of thorough SOPs require manpower, collaboration and attention to detail, but it will reap great rewards, including an efficient event as well as staff, volunteer and participant satisfaction.

Step 1: Write of a list of SOPs that could benefit your event. Work with your managers and/or subject matter experts to brainstorm a list of all of your event processes. These are your potential SOP topics. You may not create SOPs for all of the ideas on the list. Some of the items might be better documented as a simple, short checklist but it’s good to get all the ideas out on the table so you have a comprehensive list. Focus on the topics that will best streamline event processes and benefit the greatest number of teammates, clients and participants. Write those SOPs first.

Examples of the kinds of SOPs our team has in place include: planning a route, planning a pit stop, volunteer leader selection, volunteer deployment, eComm planning & execution, social media community management, building a website, digital marketing development… even blog post writing and publishing!

Step 2: Develop an SOP template. It is important that all teammates use the same template to create your SOPs. This way all SOPs are consistent, efficient and contain all pertinent information. Many SOP templates can be found online, some quite general and some industry-specific. If you can’t find one that meets your event’s needs, create your own.

Your template should include specific guidelines for what to include in the SOP but should also allow freedom to distinctly outline each of the different processes for your event. Our SOP template contains the following:

  • Date – when the SOP was most recently updated
  • Purpose – who and what is the SOP for
  • Contact for Process – the person to whom questions about the processes should be directed
  • Supporting Files – links to any documents that support and/or give greater context to the SOP
  • Outline Format – bullet points of the process, with the addition of diagrams for detail.

Step 3: Write your SOP. It’s always best to work with subject matter experts to fill in the template and build out the actual SOPs. Those who actually do the work know the processes the best and are most invested in making sure the SOP is comprehensive and accurate. It will be to your benefit to empower those who know the processes to write the SOPs that apply to them.

As a starting point, find out what departments already have processes fully or even partially documented and use these as building blocks for your SOP. Be thorough but concise. Make the SOP scannable. You don’t want your reader to have to sift through paragraphs to find the action items.

Step 4: Review the SOP for completeness and accuracy. We practice a three-tiered review process.

  • First, a subject matter expert reviews the content to ensure that all essential steps are included and information is up to date and accurate.
  • Second, we conduct a manager review to ensure the SOP is in line with event goals.
  • Finally, we conduct a quality assurance review to make sure we’ve crossed our t’s and dotted our i’s.

During your review process, consider if someone who is not directly involved in the processes outlined in the SOP should be part of the review process. They might be able to identify where current processes could be tighten up or expanded. They will also be able to tell you if the SOP is understandable to a person unfamiliar with the process who might be coming into a new role.

Step 5: Get it into the hands of those who need it. Determine the best place to publish the SOP so those who need it know it exists and have access to it. The best SOP in the world won’t do your event any good if those who need it don’t know it exists or don’t know where to find it.

Step 6: Keep your SOPs up to date. The time and energy you put into developing SOPs will be in vain if they aren’t kept up to date with the most accurate and timely information. Set up periodic and regular reviews to keep them current. We typically review our SOPs at the end of each event season. But you should determine what makes the most sense for your event and your team. Making minor updates on a regular basis can save a lot of time and manpower, which also means less frequent major overhauls.

Step 7: Use your SOPs! Taking the time to create SOPs doesn’t make sense if they sit unread on someone’s hard drive. SOPs are meant to be used. If there’s any staff turnover, an SOP can quickly educate a new employee about their role. When starting a new event, or expanding your event series into a new city, an SOP can give you a strong starting point for how to build that event. But also, an SOP can refresh and remind returning staff of how the event process that they are involved in can be made most efficient. Every person involved with the particular event process referenced in the SOP should read it on a regular basis.

Email us to let us know what kinds of SOPs your event already has in place and what SOPs you are looking to create.


As Manager of Volunteer Operations for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day®, Robin gets to combine her love of volunteerism and leadership development with endurance events. She currently volunteers with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Girls on the Run, and the American Youth Literacy Foundation.

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