Event Planning on a Tight Budget for Non- Profits


Tom Crowl hosts the Savvy Event Planner Podcast. I went through his archives and listened to a great episode on planning an event on a shoestring budget.

The interview with event planner A.J. Steinberg, from Queen Bee Fundraising, shared lots of great tips on planning an event with limited resources.

A.J. suggests a critical mistake meeting planners make is reinventing the wheel with every new event. Although an event venue, theme, participants, etc. are all different, many things are repeatable and can be systemized for efficiency. 

Non- profits use committees to plan events because the members can bring valuable resources and contacts to the table. However, sometimes planning and decision making can be inefficient and slow. It's critical to have decision-makers at the table and give them the ability to negotiate.

Creativity often flows on a tight budget because limited resources stretch you to do more with less. A.J. suggests things like flower centerpieces will not make the fond memory list, however, a personalized note to all attendees would. 

The following are some timely suggestions to plan an event on a shoe- string

Know Your Local Resources:
Check resources locally to save lots of money

Use computer graphics and have a significant online presence

Use community colleges for graphic design help, entertainment, even administrative support

Use print shops during Idle times to reduce print costs

Use technologies like Conference Apps to post handouts and agendas instead of printing them

Consider having a cocktail party instead of a sit-down dinner

Another creative example was to solicit donations of beautiful table centerpieces and sell them at the end of the event to recoup some costs.

Focus on Volunteer Committee Leadership

Working with committees can take more time because they bring 10 people together and it can delay decisions. However, every committee member has skin in the game and will have a pride of ownership. They can reach out to sponsors, sell tickets, get donations and more. 

Understanding volunteer leadership is critical because committee members are not meeting planners, and this isn't their full-time job. 

Also be sure to show lots of appreciation to guests, volunteers, and donors at an event. Without them, none of it would happen. Make the donor the hero, not the fundraiser.


Focus on Event Programming

With limited resources, it may be tempting to cut costs by asking someone who seems to have a good sense of humor to be a funny motivational speaker, comedian or Emcee. A. J. advises against this. She suggests your event programming is the most memorable and important part of an event and you never want to leave this part to chance. She tells the story of a committee member deciding to ask a lady from a homeless shelter to do a brief stand up comedy stint before a substantial fundraising ask. The comedian, unfortunately, made fun of the clothes and food they got at the shelter, all of which were donations. They raised only 20 percent of what they usually would. 

With the above tips, a savvy meeting planner can save money and plan a great event.

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