In-person events are making a comeback, which means you’ll need a fundraising event venue in which to host those events. Because you might be out of practice when it comes to securing a fundraising event venue, here are a few recommendations.
When vetting locations for your event, it helps to have a list of questions you want to ask or a list of features that you need in the space. Additionally, you should be very clear with the venue what the event is and what it’s for. Tell the event planner and staff what you intend to do throughout the evening as early as possible to rule out any venues that aren’t a fit.
Take it from me: I’ve had venues tell me we weren’t able to sell auction baskets with alcohol in them at the last minute or sell auction baskets at all. Sound can also be a factor. Or parking. Or set up/arrival time.
Before I go down that rabbit hole, let’s just dive into what I recommend considering when looking for a fundraising event venue to host your next in-person event.
Ambiance and capacity
A fundraising event venue can make or break your next event. Consider your event theme. How does the venue you’re considering add or detract from that theme? Are there cool features your guests will enjoy that won’t be available somewhere else?
Speaking of guests, be sure to check for capacity to make sure the venue won’t be too big or too small for the number of guests you anticipate having. See how many guests can be sat at a table and request a layout of options for how the tables can be laid out.
Sticking to a budget is important. When looking at the cost for a facility, factor in things like their room rental fees, their catering minimums, and their gratuity policy. Other factors that will impact the cost will include guest count, what kind of food you’re hoping to serve, and if you’re having an open bar or a cash bar. Some facilities also charge for parking, WIFI, Audio Visual, Stages, etc. Check with the facility to see what kind of extras may be added on so you can budget accordingly.
Accessibility to guests
Consider where your constituents live. Is the venue a central location for many or is it out of the way? Will your guests be looking for a “getaway” or something close to home?
Also consider the parking situation. Is the venue easily accessible or is it a long walk from the car? As I just mentioned, some places charge per car for parking. Will parking be covered by each guest or will your organization “foot” the bill?
In terms of accessibility, also think about the experience your guests with mental or physical disabilities will have. Will guests who can’t stand for long periods of time be able to sit? Are there wheelchair ramps available? Consider the people who are coming to your event and make sure the venue is accessible for many different needs.
Many venues have a specific caterer they contract with. If you’re hoping to get any of the food donated, this may be a factor. Try to look for the catering reviews as well. While a facility may be everything you’re looking for, a poorly-rated or vetted catering company could be an Achilles heel for your event.
If you’re planning to serve alcohol, check with the facility and the caterer about any alcohol policies. If you’re having a silent auction in which you are planning to have baskets or items with alcohol in them, be sure to ask what is allowed.
You should also ask if the alcohol can be sold on site or if something else needs to be worked out. Additionally, if you’re planning on getting your liquor donated, discuss this with the caterer up front. Some caterers will allow alcohol donations as long as you help coordinate the delivery with the liquor provider.
Many fundraising events now use software to run their auctions or donation appeals. Guests can place bids from their phones, donate with the push of a button, or get updates and texts on what is going on through the evening with the use of technology.
But for all of this to work, your event will need a strong WIFI connection. Some guests may be okay with using their own data, but some may not. Check with the venue on the WIFI availability and speed.
Setting up your fundraising event venue
What is their staff going to take care of and what will your staff be expected to take care of? When can you get in to set up? Some events allow set up the day before and some require same-day set up. Depending on what you plan to bring to your event and how many volunteers you have to help set up, this could be a big factor in the event’s success (and your sanity!).
Hopefully with some of these tips you can avoid the last-minute headaches and pitfalls of choosing the wrong fundraising event venue!