You have an opportunity to create a wonderful event or meeting. Ideas swirl around in your head about how to pull off the perfect event. The venue? Check. The theme? Working on it. What speaker can we get to connect our guests with God and each other? And what decorations or special details will make guests feel welcome and well cared for? You can see it in your mind’s eye, and it is wonderful.
But then reality kicks in—the budget. This is always the most challenging part for any event or meeting planner, and knowing how to create, fund and manage it takes common sense, practice and a little help from others who’ve been there.
I covered how to prepare an event or meeting budget in an article I wrote earlier, “Three Key Factors in Preparing Your Meeting Budget.” To view it, click HERE. . Now I want to provide a few creative ways to fund your budget.
The goal, size and complexity of your event will determine how big of a budget you’ll need. If you’re a retreat leader with 50 to 100 guests, your budget will be smaller, whereas planning an event for your denominational meeting of 500+ guests will require more resources. Both will require some practical and creative ways to come up with those funds. Once you’ve done the hard work of determining the strategy and scope of your event, and you’ve determined the rough budget dollars needed, then you can set your sights on how to get there. Here are a few ideas.
- Determine guest registration fee. The amount your guests will pay multiplied by the anticipated number of guests will give you a baseline amount of funds to work with. The event planner determines an average amount guests can or are willing to pay based on socio-economic factors of your group and what is reasonable for a 1-night vs. 3 to 4-night conference. These fees will cover the basics, such as facility expenses, and supplies, speakers, curriculum, decorations and special details if there is enough left over. If guest fees won’t cover more than just the basics, then you have a shortfall, and this is where creativity and a little more work comes in.
- Define fundraising needs. Yes, these are your bake sales, car washes, bbq’s, donations, yard sales, and whatever other creative fundraisers you and your committee come up with. The idea is to be efficient and effective. Any proceeds you raise will deduct from the amount of the shortfall. These are perfect if you have a small amount to come up with, say $500 to $2000. Hopefully you’ll raise enough money to close the gap between the shortfall and the total funds you need, but if there is still a gap or the funds you need are much, much larger, then you’ll want to consider these next ideas.
- Seek individual donors. Chances are, there are suppliers or members who wouldn’t mind supporting your event, possibly by funding scholarships for individuals or underwriting a certain aspect of the event, such as the speaker fees or catering expenses. Take some time to determine who they are, establish a good relationship with them, educate them on the mission of the event, and bravely solicit their help. Once they agree to help, make sure you steward their resources well. For more on this, click HERE.
- Solicit sponsorship. Undoubtedly, there are people who would sponsor or underwrite your event at a donor-level that is mutually beneficial for them. The shortfall or scope of your event will determine the sponsor-levels you’ll need to shoot for. For large events, you may need 2-3 “platinum” sponsors who each give $10,000, or 4-5 “gold” sponsors at $2,000 each. If you only need a small amount, these levels would be decreased. I recommend assigning a dedicated committee or point person to secure these sponsorships—not only to collect the funds but to ensure the sponsors are well taken care of with promotion and advertising, thank you/recognition gifts, and so on. For more on this click HERE.
- Exhibitors. For larger events, consider offering exhibition space to companies or ministries for a rental fee. Some of these exhibitors could also be sponsors, and a booth is part of the sponsorship package. But other ministries would also love an opportunity to gain visibility into their cause or do their own fundraising through selling books, ministry-made items and so forth. Booth rates can vary based on the size of the space.
In the end, the goal is to have the amount of money you need to fund the event you have in your mind’s eye. With hard work and a dedicated funding effort, you can get there. We’d love to hear your thoughts on budgeting in the comments below.