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!!!