Planning events is a tricky business. You have all sorts of incredible ideas floating around in your mind that will make the experience enjoyable for your attendees. However, the process can get complicated when you start putting those ideas into action.
Between the registration process, plans for activities, and the execution of the event, it’s amazing event planners can keep their heads on straight. This makes the planning process even more vital to executing a successful event.
In the midst of this planning process, make sure you organize and stick to your event budget.
For many people, this is easier said than done. When you’re putting together your budget, we recommend starting with these five tips:
- Take inventory of your available software resources.
- Start planning your event and budget early.
- Remember the purpose of your event.
- Prioritize hiring a great keynote speaker.
- Check in on your event metrics often.
Each of these tips will impact the way you plan your event budget. Let’s dive in deeper to learn how you can create an event budget that meets all your needs.
1. Take inventory of your available software resources.
Your association or nonprofit has an entire arsenal of software solutions you use for a variety of tasks. Go back and take inventory of all the software solutions to which you currently have access to see how each one will play a part in the event planning process. Then you’ll know if your organization needs to invest in a new solution to help the event run smoothly, and you can factor that into your budget.
Start by taking inventory of your accounting software. After all, you’ll plan all your budgetary needs using that software solution.
Make sure your accounting software solution has functions to help your organization create a customized budget for this particular event.
If your organization relies on fund accounting software, you’ll also need to focus on making withdrawals from the right type of fund. If you rely on general accounting, you’ll need to make sure you’re allocating appropriately from your annual budget.
Event Management Software
Depending on what type of organization you’re a part of, you may already have access to ticketing or registration software solutions. This is a great start, but you should also make sure your organization has access to a centralized location to store information for your:
- Event attendees
- Event schedule and agenda
- Calendar plans leading up to the event
- Event website or mobile event app
Complete event management is difficult to formulate just by piecing together different software solutions. Look for event technology solutions who have strong partnerships and solid integrations to ensure nothing slips through the cracks.
If you’re planning on fundraising during the time leading up to your event or as part of your event activities, you’ll need software solutions to help make this possible. Think about what type of fundraising will work best for your event. Some of the popular fundraising techniques for event lead-up include:
- Peer-to-peer fundraising
However, if you are fundraising during your event, you may be more inclined to look for fundraising software that helps your nonprofit with:
- Silent auctions
- Product sales
2. Start planning your event and budget early.
Too many organizations plan a basic outline of an event, inform their constituents about the opportunity, and then find themselves scrambling as their planning deadline inches closer and closer. There’s an easy solution to this problem: Start your organization’s planning process early.
When you start this planning process, we recommend the following steps:
Step 1: Create your event’s rough outline. This outline should comprise the features you want your event to include. For instance, your outline may include aspects, such as the registration process, silent auction, and keynote speaker.
Step 2: Expand your outline by writing down how you will incorporate each of your planned event features. In the earlier example, your organization will need access to software that helps you create a custom registration form, implement silent auction bidding, and book your speaker.
Step 3: Analyze each element of your outline and make a realistic estimate of how much each one will cost your organization. If you need to invest in new software, purchase items for an auction (or use resources to ask for them), or pay for your speaker (plus travel), factor in each of these costs.
Step 4: Set your hard and flexible lines for each element on your plan. Your hard line is the maximum you’d be willing to spend on an event feature. Meanwhile, your flexible line should be the range in which you expect it to cost.
While your final budget will be tweaked along the way, this rough outline will give your organization an idea about whether or not you can afford the event. If you can’t afford it, it may not be the right time for you to host that particular event.
Once you’ve established a rough budget and event outline, your nonprofit or association can start diving deeper and allocating money from your annual (or unrestricted) fund account to finance the event.
3. Remember the purpose of your event.
While planning an event, many organizations run into a familiar problem: They get swept away in all the additional, less necessary features of the event and lose their core purpose.
This also shows in their final budgetary review. Organizations may realize they spent more on decorations, entertaining activities, or other inessential attributes than funding the things that actually result in the originally desired outcome. Don’t make this mistake.
When you’re planning your organization’s budget, make sure the core of the budget is dedicated to accomplishing your main purpose.
This doesn’t mean your organization can’t budget for additional ideas that will enhance the attendee experience, but it does mean you should be careful not to allocate too much of your budget to these experiences. To keep your budget in check, your organization can:
- Dedicate a healthy chunk of your budget to your main purpose early on.
- Color code your budget so it’s easy to identify and remember which elements are essential or inessential to the core purpose.
- Set an overall maximum spending limit for inessential activities.
Also, remember there are some event ideas that can enhance the experience while also making a return on your investment. Incorporating fundraising event ideas into your event plan can help ease the budgetary constraints on your organization.
4. Prioritize hiring a great keynote speaker.
One element that ties in well with the main purpose of your event is hiring a great speaker for your event. Your speaker will make a lasting impression on your attendees and will convey the important messages you want them to remember. Therefore, hiring the best speaker can make all the difference for your event.
Prioritize dedicating budgetary funds to hiring a charismatic and relevant speaker for your event.
Finding the perfect speaker can help your organization:
- Draw a crowd for the event
- Make a lasting impression
- Advertise for future events
- Drive home your message
If you find the perfect speaker, but he or she is slightly over-budget, don’t give up just yet. Try negotiating with the speaker to stay within your budget. According to Laura Stack, CPS, CPAE, try negotiating to decrease speaker fees through some effective and creative ways to create a win-win situation for both the organization and the speaker include:
- Bartering and offering in-kind trades
- Asking for a donation of frequent flier miles by the speaker
- Getting sponsorships
- Providing marketing assistance
Hiring the perfect speaker can pull together your event and make it the best it can be. Therefore, don’t skimp on this important event feature. Dedicate your budget with plenty of room for a great speaker. If necessary, take some creative approaches to lower the cost of the hire.
5. Check in on your event metrics often.
One of the beautiful and crazy things about events is they are constantly changing. Even after you’ve planned ahead and done everything in your power for a smoothly run event, things are still likely to change somewhere in the process.
Therefore, staying on top of the important metrics of your event is essential from the time you dream up the event until its execution (and after)!
As things change in the event planning process, you may need to adjust your budget as you go. For instance, let’s say your event draws more attention than you anticipated and you have more registrants than expected. You may have to pull some money from your decoration budget to pay for additional food and drinks to accommodate these additional people.
Hopefully, adjustments won’t be too drastic for your organization. You should always leave a little wiggle room in your budget set aside for these small adjustments. With an effective budget from the beginning, your organization shouldn’t need to stray too far from your original plan.
After your event is over, be sure to send out a post-event survey to gather even more metrics about the event and learn how you can better conduct similar events in the future. You may ask attendees to answer questions to help you assess:
- Marketing platform impact. Which marketing platforms helped recruit the most attendees? Did they hear about it from social media? Email?
- Satisfaction rates. How satisfied were attendees with specific event elements? Overall, were your attendees satisfied with the food? Speaker? Music?
- Open-ended suggestions. Ask one to two open-ended questions to see what people liked the most and least about the event. Get direct feedback to help you make the event better next time.
By collecting this type of information, you’ll have fuel to help adjust your budget to best appeal to the needs and desires of your attendees. Check out DonorSearch’s guide to annual reports to see how you can feature these metrics in final reports.
With the right planning and budgeting processes, your event is sure to be a success. Take these tips and tricks to heart the next time you’re planning a killer event for your association or nonprofit!
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