How to Plan an Event on a Budget

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No matter how much cash a group has in its coffers, looking for ways to save money on events makes good business sense -- and even more so if that event intends to raise funds for the organization. Keeping costs down with smart, creative planning involves additional meeting time and prioritizing instead of indulging. The payoff might bring in more money than you've shelled out -- or at least help avoid starting the next quarter in the red because of a party.

Plan ahead. The best way to lock in prices and find good deals requires getting your event committee together at least six months in advance to hunt for bargains. Trying to throw something together at the last minute doesn't provide any negotiating room, leaving you paying full price for something you may otherwise have gotten at cost or less.

Make a budget and stick to it. When doing things inexpensively is the goal, coming up with a solid number before getting started offers boundaries when the brainstorming begins and allows a group to prioritize where those dollars go.

Discuss ways to save money right out the gate. Look at options such as asking a committed donor to offer up her home for a house party or bartering volunteer hours at the local community center in exchange for free use of their facility. If a cooking school is nearby, post flyers looking for students eager to try out their new culinary skills to cater your event or ask a professional if you can lower costs by supplying your own waitstaff or bartender.

Research the cost of checklist items before committing to an idea or contract. Rental halls, caterers, musicians, printing costs and party favors add up quickly. Before getting everyone excited about a certain facility or a band you know, get the lowdown on the actual price.

Use the resources at hand. Look to your board or volunteer base to help with the event, whether printing and delivering flyers to save printing costs or asking someone to donate or offer up AV equipment for the evening's presentation. Tapping into your core base might create significant savings.

Team up with another like-minded group to co-host an event. This not only allows sharing cost and duties, but also promotes your event to an extended audience and may garner added exposure.

Make use of free networking materials. While online promotions are quick and easy, your group can also make use of community bulletins offered by radio, television and newspapers. Write and distribute press releases of your event and promote an angle that may get your event a spot on the local news.

Don't assume you are going to get something for nothing. You may have the most beloved non-profit or community organization in the area, but that won't necessarily equate a free ride for goods and services. When asking for discounts or donations, offer something in return such as a highlighted mention in all promotional materials, newsletter invitations and visibility at the event.


  • Watch for hidden costs such as additional rental charges, late fees or gratuity surcharges and do your best to factor them in or avoid them all together.