Budget Event Planning: A Guide to Affordable Events

| 8 min read Fundraising Strategy

You want to plan an event that will live on in the memories of your attendees, and we want to help you figure out how to pay for it. Whether you’re thinking about how to run an annual community event, or considering planning an unforgettable retirement party, you’re going to need a way to cut costs in the right places. Below you’ll find our budget event planning guide to help you stretch your dollar and create an unforgettable event.

1. Map out the event basics way ahead of time

A great event starts with early planning. Do your future self a favor, and organize a comprehensive list of the event’s basic logistics as early on as possible. You know what they say: the early bird gets the worm.

Here are some elements to consider:

  1. Possible dates
  2. Time of day
  3. Attendance numbers
  4. Will there be meals at the event?  
  5. Roughly how much money you’ll be working with 

2. Set your event budget: let’s be realistic

Be sure to think through all costs, even the little ones—which can add up. A solid budget will help you determine how much you have to spend on the different parts that make up your event. Check out this great article on how to write an event budget.

Professional event planner Samantha Joy gave us some top-notch tips for staying within budget: “Decide on a budget range from the very beginning. If spreadsheets work for your personality type, they definitely help to organize where all of the pennies are going. Things add up quickly, and it is always smart to have a small portion of your budget saved for last minute items that you will need for the day-of the event, or even a couple of days before.”

3. Discover lower-cost options: Be flexible

When considering these logistics, take note of areas where you have more room for flexibility. For example, is your date not set in stone? Come up with a few possible dates, so you can compare costs. Is the time of day not locked in? Keep in mind that different times of day may mean different costs. For example, ending an event at 6 p.m. rather than 7 p.m. may affect whether or not your event serves dinner.

4. Look into cost-free event marketing

It’s never been easier to market an event for little to . Fancy (and expensive) invitations are no longer required. Now, you can engage with guests by being savvy on social media.

Our top tip? Create a Facebook Event

With the average person spending 50 minutes a day on Facebook, creating a Facebook event is a great, way to get the word out about your event. Choose a compelling event image and title, and make sure to encourage guests to share the event on their own Facebook Timeline. The average “Like” for a Facebook post about an event drove an increase of $1.34 in event sales according to Mashable, which may not seem like a lot, but quickly adds up. A Facebook event also makes for an easy way for stakeholders (like speakers, vendors, etc.) to share the event with their own community.

5. Use your resources: crowdsource items

Ask for the items you need from your community. Crowdsourcing the items you’ll only need once means you can spend more money in other, more fun areas.

If you’re planning an event at a popular venue, collaborate with any events scheduled before or after, to save money on things you both need. It’s a win-win. We recommend writing a social media post asking the community if they have any items—like chairs, tables, or speakers—that can be borrowed for the event.

Crowdsource these items by:

  1. Writing a Facebook post (on the event page and your personal Facebook Timeline).
  2. Sharing on Nextdoor, which is a great place to ask your neighborhood for items or recommendations.
  3. Posting on Craigslist. If you’re looking for items, we recommend checking out the “Free” section under “For Sale.”

Samantha Joy let us know that her favorite way to cut costs “is to find ways to ‘repurpose’ items. Of course this completely depends on the type of event, but in a wedding—when there is a ceremony first, cocktail hour second, and the party last—the flowers and parts of the decor have the ability to travel from one part of the event to the other, rather than leaving them behind and purchasing more flowers/ribbon/accent pieces for each part of the event.”

6. Compare prices

Though it will take some time, it pays to compare the prices of multiple options (for anything). Having multiple price quotes also gives you negotiating leverage. For physical items you may need, check out Shopify’s list of the ten best price comparing search engines. This will help you save the most and get the best deal.

Samantha Joy recommends  “getting quotes from as many vendors as you can, and figuring out where you need to spend the most money and where you would like to save. Remember, there are places where the price can be negotiated down if you aren’t looking for the most elaborate package.”

7. Save big with an event sponsor

Go local. Reach out to local businesses whose theme or brand is somehow related to your event. Local businesses are often the best option for sponsorships, because larger companies receive more requests. Here’s a great article on how to get a sponsor.

Make sure to let the business know that you will make this special for them. You can promote their business at the event, as well as before as a part of your marketing strategy. We also recommend requesting that the organization does the same on their social media. If your event will benefit a good cause in some way, businesses will often love the opportunity to share their connection to the event. It’s a win-win.

Remember that you can ask sponsors for specific items, and not just money. Need to serve breakfast? Ask your local bagel shop for donations. An exchange of goods is a great way for sponsors to support your event without a direct donation.

8. Raise money for your event with GoFundMe

Start a fundraiser to reach out to the network of people who already support you and your cause. We’ve seen incredible fundraisers raise money for their events, and GoFundMe can work for your event, too. Event crowdfunding links are super shareable, so they double as an excellent marketing tool. They also serve as a way for people to donate to your event, even if they can’t attend.

Throw an event to support a great cause

Be inspired by Jason, who made 150 people smile. With the support of his network, Jason organized a pop-up restaurant event for 150 homeless individuals living in his neighborhood. Not only did his fundraiser raise over $20,000 towards the event, it also gave the community a way to connect around the important issue of homelessness.

Create a great experience

This special family started a GoFundMe to throw a prom for their special needs son, Jayce. With nobody else to ask, Jayce asked his sister to accompany him to his school prom. They were turned away when they learned she exceeded the age limit. The community came together to throw Jayce a new prom by sharing and donating to a GoFundMe. Make sure to check out that awesome Facebook event page.

Celebrate a holiday

On the second Sunday of May, an elegant Mother’s Day Brunch—brimming over with flowers, gift bags, and delicious baked goods — is hosted in Columbus, Ohio. Attendees of this special brunch are homeless mothers and children that have received services from Columbus area shelters. The Columbus Coalition for the Homeless used GoFundMe to raise over $7,000 to make this meaningful event happen in 2017.

Check out more fundraising event ideas.

Plan for success: Start an event fundraiser today

While figuring out how to pay for an event might seem daunting, we’re here to make it a little bit easier. This budget event planning guide is designed to help you throw a memorable event. Plan logistics early, cut costs where it makes sense, and create an awesome crowdfunding fundraiser that might even rival your event. Thousands of unforgettable events have been powered by community on GoFundMe, and yours can be too. Start an event fundraiser today.

Start an event fundraiser

Written by GoFundMe