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Planning a charity conference on a budget? Here's how.

Many charities run conferences, seminars and other educational events, and these can be a highly effective way to raise awareness of the cause, offer networking opportunities for delegates and, of course, raise valuable funds. Yet charity conferences can be expensive to run, so here are a few ideas for keeping the costs down without compromising on quality or content.

Presentation

Budget first

The first thing to work out is the budget, and how much you have available to spend. It’s a good idea to break this down into the different components of an event, such as conference venue room hire, refreshments, IT equipment and stationery, speaker expenses and additional entertainments. Pick your colleagues’ brains as well to make sure you have thought of everything and won’t be surprised by any hidden costs later on in the process.

Maximising income

Work out whether you are going to sell tickets and if so, the amount they need to be sold for to cover your costs and maximise the funds raised for your cause. You may want to include other money-spinners, such as a raffle or charity auction, in which case these must be sorted well in advance to allow enough time for donations to be sought and prizes confirmed. Can you sell charity-related merchandise at the event, such as T-shirts, bags or books and literature?

Venue shopping

Next job on the list should be choosing the right venue. Again, start early so you have enough time to visit your shortlisted venues and that you can have a wider choice of dates – popular places can get booked up months or even years in advance. Make a list of questions to ask the conference venue and don’t be afraid to try and negotiate, e.g. on costs or equipment or services that will be included. Some places offer charity rates, so there is no harm in asking.

Top Tip: Ask the venue to break the pre-set packages down into individual elements such as room hire, catering, etc. 

Timing is everything

Another way to cut costs is to see if you can book your chosen conference venue at a cheaper time – often, mid-week slots are less expensive. Consider booking in the school or university holidays for even further discounts. Can you get away without full-day room hire? Again, keep the conversation open with your venue representative to see what can be agreed.

Clever communications

Make the most of digital resources when inviting and interacting with your delegates. Send invitations out via email or post details online. Use social media to advertise your event and to post photos and resources afterwards. Your speakers may well be happy to share their slides online as well, or host a special follow-up Q&As session online. Don’t forget to look into the possibility of corporate sponsorship too. Local businesses are often keen to align with charity events to help raise their CSR credentials.

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