Budget Event Planning:
Guide to Affordable Events
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 some essential tips and tricks for stretching your dollar and creating an unforgettable event.
1. Figure Out Your Needs: 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… best date and venue?
Here are some elements to consider:
- Possible dates
- Time of day
- Attendance numbers
- Will there be meals at the event?
- 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.
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. Cost-free Event Marketing? Yes Please
It’s never been easier to market an event for little to no cost. That’s right, the era of fancy invitations are over. Now, it’s all about engaging 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 their Facebook account, creating a Facebook event is a great (free!) 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, which may not seem like a lot, but will add up with the right finesse. 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, speakers (you name it) —that can be borrowed for the event.
Some of our favorite ways to crowdsource these items are by:
- Writing a Facebook post (on the event page and your personal Facebook Timeline).
- Sharing on Nextdoor, which is a great place to ask your neighborhood for items or recommendations!
- Posting on Craigslist. If you’re looking for free items (for keeps), 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. Dare to Compare! (Prices, That is)
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!
According to Samantha: “I highly recommend 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 campaigns 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.[/t]
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 campaign 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 Community Threw an Unforgettable Prom for Jayce
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 (all dressed up!) 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: The Most Meaningful Mother’s Day Brunch in Columbus
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.
Plan For Success! Start a GoFundMe 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. Don’t let dollars and cents get you down! Plan logistics early, cut costs where it makes sense, and create an awesome fundraiser that might even rival your event. Thousands of unforgettable events have been powered by community on GoFundMe, and yours can be too.