Saturday, October 30, 2010

So...the storeroom

After hosting a successful event last night (our third annual Pumpkinfest) I was reminded of certain items that are valuable to have in storage to be used for events. If you're anything like every church I know you are limited on storage space but if you can find a shelf or two, here's what I would suggest putting on them...

1. Mason jars, these are great for serving drinks, filling with candy, using as centerpieces (we've filled with them with coffee beans before), use them as a vase, fill them with colored water or gels, you can use them to hold pens or collect donations. Hugely versatile, fairly hard wearing and pretty cheap.

2. Rope lights. Definitely not the cheapest thing to have in storage but they are often more affordable than Christmas lights (with individual bulbs), easier to store because they don't get tangled and give a great effect. For Pumpkinfest we used orange but you could buy white to up-light something or line a table with them or even snake them around food on a buffet.

3. Whether you run large events or small events, often or frequently you should consider putting together an "Event tub". Mine has staple guns (which go missing frequently), flashlights, zip ties, caution tape, rope, tape, duct tape, box cutter, glue, permanent markers. It doesn't need to have expensive stuff in it but just basic tools that are super valuable during set up. Try not to pull form this stash between will be grateful you didn't during event set up!

4. Cash boxes. This is fairly obvious but they are expensive (for something that you rarely use) store them well, borrow them if you can.

5. Halogen work lights. Again not the most inexpensive item but worth the investment over time. We use them at evening check-in, to light up signs, to flood light areas and even to create a more intimate environment by pointing them at the ceiling or wall etc. We also use them for work projects on various mission trips. The one pictured is the type I use but you can buy the same set without the tripod which is much easier to store and more durable.

6. Flashlights. Depends on the events that you run but you can often pick up packs of mini LED flashlights like these cheaply at hardware stores (Home Depot often sells packs of 10 for around $15). They're great for leaders to use during a dance party or outside...and judging on the number that go "missing" at every event, they are probably a great volunteer appreciation gift too!!

7. Galvanized tubs. These are fairly inexpensive and you can fill them with ice for drinks, or put candles in them, use them as a drop point for info cards and even store event equipment in them.

8. Hurricane lanterns are pretty cheap (especially online) and with some tiki torch oil are a great addition to a check-in table. They give a little functional light but are perfect decor for many evening outdoor events.

9. Burlap. This is pretty inexpensive and really versatile for table decor especially used with Mason Jars.

10. Extension Cord. You can never have enough of these and multi-socket adapters. They aren't cheap but if you can keep a few long cords (50ft-100ft) stashed away it'll save you in the long run. Put one or two in your event equipment tub.

Any other "must haves" or items that you are pleased you kept and use frequently? I'd love to add to my storeroom!

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Inspired by my last post I started thinking about budgeting....

Here are 25 of my thoughts about event budgets...

1. Nobody will care about your budget, until you overspend. The details of your pre-event budget are for your benefit, to help you succeed and to show your lead Pastor that you have things under control. In the same way nobody will help you protect it either. When you land the budget well, it will be perceived as a team effort; when you don't, expect to take the brunt of the fallout.

2. Start with the big ticket items. I always begin with accommodation, food and transportation.

3. Round up. Always.

4. Be realistic. Despite what your ideal price point is, if it can't be done for $x then figure out what it can be done for. Prepare your team leader with this news BEFORE heading into the event.

5. Factor in tips. When booking charter buses I always ask for the tip to be added to the contract (usually $50 each way per bus). It's one less thing to worry about on the day and another charge that can mount up.

6. Check Toll fares (if applicable). Avoid them if you can but make sure that you drivers know that!

7. Ask questions BEFORE signing a contract. When booking a venue for a large event (like camp) you are likely to be booking a year or so in advance. Putting thought into program and schedule in at the same time will help you in the long run. You will be able to ask about A/V rental, seminar rooms, parking costs, damages policies. Don't feel like you're being a nuisance, remember, you are the client.

8. Add a line for staff costs. You may think that you can do without it, and sometimes you can, but if you have a team of staff or volunteers working till midnight trying to put little Johnny in a cabin with his friends you may want to buy them Starbucks...budget for it!

9. Gas price. Work out your mileage, figure out the gas price then add at least another 50%.

10. Be strict. If you delegate out sections of your event (Chapel program for example) give that team a strict budget (keep a secret buffer if you can)

11. Think about whether you need to make a scouting trip before the event. You may need to factor in money for this as well.

12. Do your research. If you are thinking about providing a "takeaway" at your event (perhaps a water bottle or wristband with the theme Bible verse printed on it) then figure out a realistic cost, don't just guess.

13. Look for fixed cost items (rather than costs related to group size). If you can find items or activities that are a fixed cost this will help you as once you reach your target number, additional registrants will be bonus.

14. Factor in leader/volunteer cost. If you cover the cost of volunteers at your event, make sure you factor that in early.

15. A large event needs a buffer of 5-10% of the total budget. This will hurt to add but it will hurt you more if you don't. If it's the first time you've run this event or the first time at a new venue make your buffer ~10%, if you've done it before you might get away with ~5%.

16. Once you have you cost per person, look at what the most attractive closest number is....if your cost is $300 could you get away with $299? If your cost is $354, consider going to $359.

17. Remember scholarships and prizes. If you (or your lead Pastor) like to give away a ticket to camp figure out where that money will come from. Don't fool yourself into thinking that you wont do this if you know that in 6 months time you will!

18. Use cash. When we are on a mission trip we often take cash and avoid using credit cards. Once the cash is gone then you're done. The downside of this is you have to keep receipts.

19. Office Supplies. Sounds trivial but if you want everyone to write a prayer request on a post-it note and stick it to board you'll suddenly find yourself buying post-its and sharpies...these costs mount up.

20. Think about printing costs. A camp notebook might be tradition, but do the printing costs and labor involved outweigh the benefit? If the majority of your students doodle in them and throw them away, consider writing a "Camp daily" and post it through the dorms every morning. It'll give you more last-minute flexibility and save you on expensive printing and binding costs.

21. Combine costs. Is there any other events on you calendar (or another ministry's) that could benefit from sharing a cost. Could the Junior High ministry use your recreation equipment and would they be willing to split the cost?

22. Beg, borrow (but probably avoid stealing). Does the children's ministry have equipment you can borrow?

23. Check and account for any "hidden" fees. I used online registration for Summer Camp last year without confirming the processing fee for credit cards. We assumed it was around $1 per person, it actually came to about 3% of all charges made (a difference of over $3000)!!

24. Negotiate discounts early. Last Summer we spent around $2000 on Pizza at Little Caesars (this was budgeted for) in appreciation of our business they gave me an anticlimactic free pizza(!), when I asked for can of coke they obliged and charged me an additional $0.80!!! Negotiate, get it in writing if you can.

25. Review your budget constantly. Your projected budget is only the beginning.

Let me know if you have any more to add!!!

Friday, October 22, 2010

So...The big 5 of Youth Ministry Events

I currently work on the High School Ministry team at Saddleback Church. My primary role on the team is that of "Event Coordinator". I love pretty much everything about this role. Much of the organization and big picture thinking of events comes naturally to me and so, even though I feel like I'm making it up most of the time, I thought I'd start sharing some of my learnings here.

So..what are the big 5 of Youth Ministry Event Planning:

1. Know the purpose of the event

Why are you doing what you are doing? You need to figure this out early on. It may be an event that you've come up with yourself or one that you're planning for another team member. If it's the latter, ask! If it's the former, check that there is a point and it isn't simply something that you will find fun (though hopefully that will play at least a part). Write a mission statement, one sentence that sums up the event that can come back to to help you stay on track.
Even for a simple parent reception ask yourself what the intended outcome you hope to meet parents yourself, present something to them, help them connect to each other, honor them as ministry partners or just take a moment to pray.
Never put an event on the calendar simply because it was there last year.

2. Know WHO the event is for.

Parents, Students, Staff, Volunteers, Newcomers, well connected students, Christians, the whole youth group...
This is vital. If you plan a camp and invite non-Christians then your teaching must reflect that. If you want to run a discipleship retreat, figure out how to attract the specific demographic you're after and tailor the retreat for them.

3. Work out a budget
Do this early on. Don't fall into the mindset of "money doesn't govern my ministry" because in many situations (like on the paper report you present to your senior pastor) it does!
Start with the big costs like Venue, Transportation and catering and then add in the next level of costs like a guest speaker etc.
Remember to ask questions when booking all of these, never assume anything - your budget will hate you for it. Check what you should tip a bus driver (I always ask to have the tip included in the contract), factor in room tax, check to see what A/V equipment is available and whether there is an extra charge. Don't feel like you're asking too many questions, remember, you are the client!

4. Promote
Be strategic. If students don't know about it, then they wont come to it. Promotion is the first step to success, it takes time, effort, energy and enthusiasm. A good promotion campaign is effective and forgotten once the event is done. A poor one is disastrous. Be creative, be clear and once you've grabbed their attention make the next step as simple as possible. Consider online registration (but factor in a cost if there is one).

5. Get the team on board
You may have come up with an incredible idea for an event that you want to reveal at the last second. But if you keep your cards close to your chest you will struggle to pull it off. Share your ideas with your team (whoever that is: paid staff, volunteers, parents), get them excited about what your planning. Give them chunks of the event to own. Delegate as much as you can of the big events. Share the vision, don't assume the team is on board...nobody is as excited about your event as you are and it's your job to change that.