For any event, choosing the right venue is essential. But for non-profit organizations (NPOs), choosing the right venue could be the difference between donors showing up in droves — or an empty house.
Your event venue needs to attract generous donors and influential guests — without costing so much that you have less money left for your cause. To strike the right balance, here are six critical venue questions you should ask.
1. Does the event venue offer a special rate for non-profits?
If your organization has 501(c)3 status, many venues and vendors will discount your rental rate. Some do this out of the kindness of their hearts, but they could also get a tax benefit from doing so. If you’re working with a space that isn’t versed in the tax benefits of donating to an NPO, recommend that they talk to their tax advisor before quoting a price.
2. Are there certain days of the week or times of year that cost less than others?
Many venues book far into the future and have limited availability during popular times. Sometimes, a venue that needs to fill a slower window will reduce the rental costs for a specific day or date, like a Monday night or a weekend in August.
The more flexible you can be about your timing, the higher the likelihood of getting the right space for the right cost. So when you approach venues, come armed with a few different dates in mind.
3. What’s included in the price of the venue?
A venue might throw out what seems like a great number, but look out for hidden costs or things you may not have thought of. For instance, will you need catering? Cleanup? AV or IT support?
Make sure you have your needs well determined in advance so you can approach potential venues with a checklist, and don’t forget things like lighting, parking, and insurance. If you will be responsible for bringing in food, equipment, or other supplies that you’ll have to rent elsewhere, factor that into your overall budget as you compare venues.
In addition, some venues will offer the option of providing supplies and services up front, or allowing you to bring in your own. Make sure you know the rules and options for each particular venue.
4. Will the event venue waive costs on any of your services?
Once you know what’s included in the price, never be afraid to ask for an exception. They might have connections with a DJ or a catering company willing to do pro bono work for the right cause.
5. Would the venue consider donating or discounting the space in exchange for sponsorship placement?
Events, particularly NPO events, rely on sponsors. But this isn’t one-sided relationship; sponsorship is symbiotic. Businesses today cleave to sponsorship options because they offer valuable marketing opportunities, and your venue is no exception.
Basic sponsorship packages could include your venue’s logo on physical collateral like menus and signs at the event. But there are plenty of ways you can extend the promotion of your venue outside the usual means. Offer them space on your advance marketing, including flyers, email campaigns, your website, and especially your social media.
Get creative with your sponsorship package. The more promises you can make in terms of sponsorship, the more attractive your event becomes to that venue — and the higher the likelihood of a discounted rate. You could even consider creating a one-time Snapchat geofilter so that attendees of your benefit can tag themselves at the venue.
6. Will the venue donate a portion of the bar or food tab back to your cause?
One way to get your venue on board as a sponsor is to ask them to donate a portion of their own profits from your event. After all, if your event were not happening, they wouldn’t be making money off your patrons in the first place.
Aside from asking potential venues all the right questions, there’s also a valuable venue question you can ask yourself.
Have I thought about alternative venue options?
Ask the right venue questions, and don’t be afraid to get creative. These days, event organizers are hosting events in non-traditional spaces that may be less expensive and definitely add a “wow” factor. For instance, consider hosting your NPO event in an airport hangar, a country barn, or an urban rooftop garden.
For more ideas on unique venues for memorable and profitable NPO events, read Thinking Outside the Ballroom: The Rise of Nontraditional and Unique Event Venues.