Updated: Sep 15, 2020
I would say that, in general, it's much more common that I coach a Vision Dinner where the staff are too worried about the budget than ones where they're not worried enough. And that shouldn't be too surprising. Most teams are used to working on a budget that is too small, already. The idea of putting on an event that costs $5,000+ is daunting and a step of faith in and of itself. Mix in the fact that they're spending money that was probably given to them by financial partners and it only makes sense to look everywhere you can to save a few bucks.
Like I said, though, many worry too much about saving money. The age-old principle rings true - you've gotta spend money to make money. Over the thousands of dinners we've seen throughout the past decades, it's a very strong trend that the dinners that raise the most money also procure larger gifts from the same audience. You can't let yourself fall into the trap of thinking about this in terms of ROI (return on investment).
The age-old principle rings true - you've gotta spend money to make money.
Let me give you a hypothetical example to show you what I mean. Say you're planning an event and you have two choices in front of you:
Option 1: You plan the dinner with a budget of $3,000 by cutting corners everywhere you can (more on those methods in a bit). 100 people attend and they will $9,000.
Option 2: You increase your budget to $50,000 and plan an elaborate, over-the-top event. The same 100 people attend and they will $75,000.
Too many staff choose Option 1 because, hey, it's a much better investment, right? For every dollar you spend, you're getting 3 back, whereas every dollar spent on Option 2 only gets you half that. Here's the thing, though: Option 1 only gives you $6,000 next year. Option 2 leads to a budget over 4 times that size. On top of the larger budget, guests who attend the second dinner feel far more appreciated and are better developed as partners of your ministry.
Here are some ways that I've seen teams try to save money and end up hurting them in the long run:
Choosing a Cheap or Free Venue - I've been to these events and, trust me, it's clear to all of your guests that you skimped on the venue. That isn't to say that you should pass on or not look for a great deal, but the ballroom on campus, your partner's backyard, or the church fellowship hall aren't great options. Find a place you'd be excited to attend an event in.
Going Cheap on Dinner - We have an entire separate blog dedicated to why you should choose a beef entree over any other type of meat - I'd encourage you to read it. The meal is the best way to make your guests feel special appreciation. Don't go chicken. Don't go buffet. Don't skip coffee. Don't skip dessert.
Using the House Sound - many venues (especially hotels) will offer you complimentary use of their A/V system. There's a reason it's free - if it was worth charging you money for, they would. These systems are often over a decade old and haven't worked well since a few months after they were put in. They're also only meant for presentations and aren't optimized for music or video. Many dinners have made this mistake and ended up with technical issues or partners missing part of the program because they couldn't hear. You can always ask a local church to borrow their equipment.
Charging Guests - this is another topic covered well in other areas of TeamGold, but I'll leave it at this: there's nothing more counterproductive than making someone pay for your to ask them for money. Our model is a free-to-attend event, and it's been proven over time.
Not Mailing Invitations - it's tempting to think that email will be enough but not everyone has or uses email. Even if they use email, you might not have their address. Mailing is always worth it - view it of an investment and not a cost.