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Planning an Event on a Shoestring Budget
We’ve all had that feeling. The anxiety that grows as you total up your receipts from last night’s event and you realize you’ve already maxed out your budget. Scratch that, you’ve already spent twice your budget and you’re only halfway through the pile.
Despite the costs, few can deny the benefits of throwing events. When added to your marketing mix, they can help your organization achieve brand awareness, lead generation and more. However, if your organization doesn’t have a grand events budget, you could make the mistake of thinking it’s not realistic to have an event.
Successful events can come in all shapes and sizes, such as fundraisers, game nights, award ceremonies, meet and greets, etc. No matter how big or small, you can feel constrained by your lack of budget. Trust me, I understand completely.
In hopes of helping you achieve your marketing goals, without breaking the bank, I’ve created a quick guide to assist you with minimizing your expenses and maximizing your budget’s potential.
1. Utilize Your Coworkers
Do you have that coworker that plans office birthdays, team outings, or loves planning their best friend’s baby shower? Why not draft them to help out with your events? Don’t be afraid to ask Jimmy from HR or Cindy from Accounting to join your events team.
The more help you’re getting from your coworkers, the less money you are spending outsourcing for the same job. Round up everyone for a quick meeting or send out a survey with job preferences, job sign-ups and availabilities.
The more work you can delegate without having to hire additional staff, the better.
2. Strategic Date Setting
The offseason is your friend. When demand goes down, your favorite venue can be in your reach due to a promotional discount. Another way to yield some savings is by planning your event on a weekday instead of the weekend. Do your research. If you like a swanky restaurant, they may be begging for you to host your event on a Monday, when they’re empty, versus a Friday night.
3. Know When to DIY
We aren’t all as crafty as Martha Stewart, but there are tricks and shortcuts to making your decor look store-bought and in turn help you to save money. My rule of thumb is if I can make the decoration in the quantity I need, in less than one hour, I do it myself. (You can also ask Jimmy from HR to do it.) There are tons of Pinterest boards, blogs, and Youtube channels out there that will walk you through your crafting needs step by step. Let Google be your guide.
However, the most important thing that everyone often forgets, or just doesn’t realize, is that sometimes do it yourself (DIY) costs more than just buying something already made. In this case, just order it off of a discount website like Save on Crafts. Usually ordering in bulk yields a nice discount.
4. Realizing When to Borrow, Rent or Buy
Throwing a game night? Ask teammates to bring board games they already own to the festivities. Just make sure their games are in good condition and they aren’t missing any pieces. Don’t be shy about borrowing for grander events as well.
Is Cindy from Accounting getting married the day before your big event? Talk to her about reusing her flower arrangements for your fundraiser. I’m sure she would be willing to sell them to you at a super low cost or even give them to you for free. Now look at you, you’re recycling and your centerpieces will be top notch. Thanks Cindy!
I’m sure this seems really unrealistic, however, planning an event the day after a pre-existing event, whether it is yours or not, can really help you save money. Borrowing decor from the night before is definitely a great option and you can even split the cost/work making the decor with the other event’s team.
Tip: Don’t be afraid to ask florists if they would be willing to donate any leftover flowers to your event.
Keep in mind, borrowing should only go so far. Never plan to borrow tablecloths or linens from an event happening the day before yours if they’re having food. You’ll never be able to predict a red-wine spill on a white tablecloth or spaghetti sauce dropping onto a chair cover. To eliminate stress and a day-of-event panic attack, it is best to rent linens solely for your event.
Don’t rule out buying linens and other decor, it can be an investment. Purchasing standard white linens or folding tables and chairs should not be frowned upon in the slightest. If you know these things will be used in most of your future events, then purchasing it is the smart way to go. This won’t necessarily save you money now, but it will definitely save you in the future.
Tip: Work across departments. If what you’re purchasing would benefit and could be used by another department, see if they would be willing to tap into their budget to help pay.
5. Get Sponsors
You don’t have to be a professional NBA player to have sponsors. If your organization or event aligns with a cause such as breast cancer or caters to a large crowd then sponsorships could be the way to go. Often times companies are looking for you to help them sub-market their product to their target audience (students, teens, teachers, corporate executives, etc.) and/or to show their support for a good cause.
If you have a huge event and need to feed 400 people, ask your catering choice if they would be interested in sponsoring the event. You can offer them social media shout-outs, their logo on your flier/invitation or on any apparel you create for the event, day-of-event privileges, etc. in exchange for some free food or catering discounts. Good publicity for them in exchange for some good food equals one big win for everyone!
Want to have a raffle or some sweet prizes for your attendees? No problem, offer the same promotions to stores, hotels, and restaurants in the area and see if they would be interested in trading their product for your marketing.
6. Host Your Event Outside or on Your Own Grounds
Nothing screams saving money like needing little to no decorations for your event! Use nature’s beauty as your decor and plan an event in a garden, at a stadium, or by a lake.
Although permits can still cost you, hosting your event at a park rather than a hotel or conference center will often save you big time. This is an especially good idea if your company or school happens to have available lawn or field space!
If you’re worried about inclement weather or you happen to live in the icy tundra, you should always consider hosting your event on your company grounds whether that be a building or theater on your college campus or a large conference room or ballroom in your office building. If you have the space, utilize it.