We say this to all our clients and will continue saying it – you must set a fair and realistic budget which is comparable to your event’s goals to be successful.
An effective budget is imperative for setting your financial goals, understanding what you need to charge your participants, how much you need in sponsorship dollars, and they help you to accurately report to your board or other stakeholders.
We often see organizations who know what they need in revenue – which is great – however when it comes to fairly budgeting for expenses there seems to be a disconnect.
When you begin working on your budget (right at the start of your planning phase), you need to know where to allocate your expenses and how to allocate them accurately. You need to understand what services you require to run your event effectively and budgeting for them will help avoid surprises.
Now, we are not talking about giant corporate budgets which are unrealistic in the charity sector – we are fair with our clients! Charity or not you still need to plan for expenses to run your event.
You are not working for free and your suppliers shouldn't either.
Here are three key areas you need to ensure you are properly budgeting for:
#1. Food & Beverage
This will be your most expensive budget line and rightfully so. Your guests are paying to be at your event and they want quality for their ticket. They will talk about the food, bar, line ups, service team and you want them to be raving about it all. Food which comes from the freezer, bags of salad or the same menu served at every other event is NOT going to WOW your guests. Choose a team who takes pride in their food prep, menu creation and service to show your guests you care if they have a quality experience at your event.
Going cheap on the F&B and service is a big mistake and can set the tone early in the evening.
#2. Audio Visual
Over the past year, we’ve seen a trend of organizations underestimating the value and cost of quality AV. We’ve seen events hire people who “dabble” in AV and the results have been less than ideal. This includes situations where videos don’t play on cue, sound from the mics cut out, giant speakers blocking sight lines, no switchers and techs who are in way over their head.
If you are running an event where you have live fundraising in the agenda, clients sharing emotional stories, live entertainment and sponsors to recognize, please hire a true professional AV team. A team who is part of the planning process, who selects the right equipment for you, who helps build your floor plan, so sightlines are accounted for, who sets up early and does sound checks and who can trouble shoot any issues on site. Like a great event planner, you shouldn’t even notice there was an AV team because everything ran so smoothly! And if you don’t know how much you should budget, call two or three AV companies and get quotes so you know what you are looking at. Don’t make a guess, go the route of accuracy.
#3. Professional Services
Events are a business and should be treated and run as such, ideally by professionals. Yes, volunteers are inexpensive, but they also often lack the expertise at producing an event. Just like we should not do your taxes, your accountant friend should not run your event. Your lovely board chair or local MP should not MC your event and please do not let them be your auctioneer!
Invest in talented individuals who specialize in running events, logistics and understand how to maximize your goals both revenue based and not. A great example of specialized talent you need to pay for is - Layne, The Auctionista – who is now so sought after she is booking a year out! Why? Because she is AMAZING at what she does and offers an unmatched ROI. We recently saw her raise $82,000 in five minutes for an organization and she did so with such professional poise, gratitude and had full engagement from the guests… it was truly a beautiful moment.
Bottom line, you really do get what you pay for. If you want your guests to take your event seriously and spend their hard-earned dollars on your organization, you need to take your event seriously and budget fair and realistically for professional services.
We know budgets are tight, sponsorship dollars are hard to secure, and the event field is competitive. We also know if you set your budget to allocate most of your dollars in these three areas you will get a much better return for your investment and your guests will be more likely to give - because they can actually hear you asking them (after they’ve had a delicious meal).