Archive for October, 2010

Budgeting for Sports Events – Part 2

October 25, 2010

By Bill Hanson, Associate Executive Director, San Antonio Sports

Our last post defined most of the revenue items for a sports event budget, with promised follow-up on the expense items. Sports Commissions, CVBs and local youth organizations all face the same challenges when creating a realistic budget for a bid or for  a potential event. While your budget will certainly begin with very generic categories, it is the detail within those categories that creates frustration and, eventually, large deficits. The most experienced event managers know that they must constantly ask the question, “what other expense can I expect”, but the most inexperienced person benefits greatly by asking the same question.

Here’s a simple, but very common, example: Accommodations. Having determined the number of persons needing rooms, you call the hotel, get a daily room rate, enter your calculations into your budget, and move on to the next item. Upon receiving the hotel’s final billing, you find this category as much as 30% over budget. Why? Because you did not ask about additional expenses and take the measures needed to control them or to budget for them. Besides the basic room rate there is a room tax of 8-15%, plus the possible add-ons for parking, telephone, internet service, in-room movies and games, laundry and room service. Asking that aforementioned question could have remedied the problem.

Budgeting, like event operations, is a matter of details. The success of your budgeting effort is dependent upon the amount of detail put into it. Two of the most common downfalls of event budgeting are “clumping” and “miscellaneous”. Clumping 12-15 possible expenses into the Administrative category, for example, will give you a seemingly comfortable budget number, but it is an excuse for not thoroughly researching expenses for communications, computer services, postage, office equipment, office supplies and printing, just to name a few. Allocating a number of small items to a Miscellaneous or Other line item is both easy and widely used, until that time when that amount becomes the largest in the category.

We wouldn’t presume to know all of the basic categories for an event budget, but based on experience, here are 21 of the most common:

  • Accommodations
  • Administrative
  • Ceremonies
  • Contingency
  • Exhibitions/Trade Shows
  • Food Service
  • Hospitality
  • Insurance
  • Marketing
  • Media & Public Relations
  • Medical
  • Merchandise
  • Officials
  •  Participant Services
  • Printing
  • Rights Fee
  • Salaries
  • Site Visits
  • Transportation
  • Venue
  • Volunteers

Each of these categories will consist, on average, of four to ten specific line items. Each of these will be specific to your particular bid or event. When considering the Contingency amount, 10% of your expense total is usually a good number. Administrators who are constantly expected to format budgets might find it useful to create a budget template starting with the listed basics and adding related line items to each. Formatting a specific budget then requires the deletion of non-related categories.

There’s no doubt that experience is the best teacher, but we can shorten your learning curve by sharing ours. Here are some tips about various expense categories:

Postage—There’s an obvious difference between the current 41-cent per piece rate and a bulk rate or temporary permit, but be sure to research the regulations regarding bulk mailings. Errors in the printing, sizing or sorting of your mailer could easily result in the entire shipment being held at the post office and eventually returned to you.

Insurance—Whereas General Liability is the most common insurance required for renting a facility for your event, you must be aware of the coverage requirements and whether Excess Liability or Participant Medical coverage is needed. If you’re borrowing vehicles for VIP use, that’s another consideration, and special  coverage may be required for events such as dodgeball, trampoline and equestrian.

Printing—There is no shortcut to learning about the various methods and costs of printing. Items ranging from simple flyers to multi-page programs need research and competitive bids if you want to keep expenses under control. Color-on-color versus full color processed, standard sizing versus custom, and photo copying versus offset printing are just a few options you should explore for any of your printed items.

Salaries—Contract labor is probably the best way to handle temporary labor needs, but if your organization wants to hire one or more persons for a project, don’t forget to budget the payroll taxes and social security on those wages.

Finally, there are Venue Costs. We cannot nearly enough impress upon you, the budget manager or the event manager, the need to carefully read the venue contract. Signing that contract and paying the rental fee most likely won’t even open the facility doors for you.  Extra assessments are possible for tables and chairs, security, ushers, supervisors, sound and lighting, scoreboards, signage, decorating, rigging, merchandise sales, catering and corkage, janitorial and parking, just to name a few.

And that’s it for sports event budgeting. Your revenue projections need to be conservative and realistic, and your expenses should be thoroughly researched.

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Budgeting for Sports Events- Part 1

October 11, 2010

By Bill Hanson, Associate Executive Director, San Antonio Sports

While wanting to conduct an athletic event in support of an amateur organization is admirable, getting a grip on the financial side must be the first priority. Whether you represent a sports commission, a CVB or a local youth team, putting yourself or your organization in financial debt is no way to keep your job or keep a good relationship with your fellow team parents. Many of our readers are new to the sports event industry and are likely members of a two or three-person staff, so developing an event budget may well be the task of a single person.

So where do you start if this is your first budget? Experienced event planners will tell you that you’ve got to have a complete budget anyway, so it shouldn’t matter whether you start with income or expenses. But because the list of income opportunities is far shorter than that of expenses we’ll start with income, and we’ll divide the income categories according to being event-generated and pre-event-generated. The objective is to provide you with a list of income categories, and inspire you to think of others pertinent to your situation.

The most common line items for income generated prior to an event are SPONSORSHIPS, DONATIONS and ENTRY FEES.

Whatever your organization or the size of your event, if there is public exposure, some businesses are willing to give you money in exchange for visibility. For small events, these businesses will likely be parent-owned and generated through goodwill. The obvious target market for these sponsorships is the immediate membership of your organization.  A sports commission must think bigger and find local businesses that will benefit from an association with your event. In addition to title, presenting and general event sponsorships there are items such as ticket-backs and lineup sheets that offer sponsor exposure.

Donations are another membership target no matter the size of the organization. A sports commission goes straight to its own Board of Directors for donations while a small amateur group again goes to it’s own parents or members.

Generating advance income through team or individual entry fees is not only financially advantageous, but is also the primary factor in estimating many of your expense items. This would be especially true if entries were capped and you could generate a demand for entry into your event. First-time budget-makers should, however, be conservative when estimating their number of entries.  We’ve all heard the claims of “I know 50 teams that will participate, no problem”. These become the famous last words of a wannabe event planner.

Pre-event income can also be generated through ADVANCE TICKET SALES, SIGNAGE, SOUVENIR PROGRAM ADVERTISING, PUBLIC ADDRESS ANNOUNCEMENTS, VENDOR FEES, PARKING PASSES and HOSPITALITY PASSES.

There are a number of budget line items that generate income during the conduct of your event, some contingent upon your competition venue and its own policies, and others directly dependent upon the capabilities of your local organizing committee. The primary obstacle to any event is the inability of the event organizer to recruit capable workers or to delegate responsibility to these workers. Capable workers translate to on-site income opportunities in GATE TICKET SALES, FOOD & BEVERAGE CONCESSIONS, SOUVENIR MERCHANDISE SALES, SOUVENIR PROGRAM SALES and PARKING FEES.  These line items must also be discussed with the management of your potential competition venue because, in most cases, there are policies in place governing what you can and cannot do during your event. If you don’t ask up front, you could find out the hard way, in the small print after signing the lease contract.

Your income likely will be either participant-driven or spectator-driven, and you should be conservative with either estimate. The easiest way to balance or enhance a budget is by arbitrarily increasing entry fees or ticket sales, yet most planners find that preferable to reducing expenses.

Identifying your income opportunities is one thing, but putting the proper budget number to them is quite another. Estimating line item amounts certainly comes easier with experience, but to the relative novice, conservative thinking should prevail. Don’t try to do it all yourself. Researching similar events is the most obvious and the quickest way. If your organization is a member of the National Association of Sports Commissions, you have many peers willing to assist you.

The best way to approach the expense items in your budget is to “expect the unexpected”, and we’ll cover those in the next post.

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VOLUNTEERS: A Key Ingredient for a Successful Event

October 5, 2010

By Bill Hanson, Associate Executive Director, San Antonio Sports

Volunteers are the foundation of nearly every successful nonprofit organization and competition organizing committee. This article will define the factors involved in organizing a volunteer program that will support a large-sized activity or competition, and for maintaining it as a fulltime program to support future events and activities.

But be forewarned–building and maintaining an effective and successful volunteer program is hard work and, like fundraising and public relations, requires a talented and committed person to accomplish it.

We’ll look at the process in three operational time periods: pre-event planning, event conduct and post-event communications with its lead-in to the next event or to an ongoing program

The PRE-EVENT PLANNING phase starts with the hiring or recruitment of a Volunteer Coordinator. This person needs to possess a variety of skills and personality traits and to settle for less will eventually result in an ineffective program or a coordinator who quits. Your selected person should have excellent organizational skills and be attentive to detail. Past experience tells me that your coordinator should be all of the following: self-motivated, even tempered, a good mediator/have good people skills, patient, able to see the big picture, able to handle multiple projects simultaneously, able to function with little sleep, and able to prioritize, maintain focus and delegate. Is it impossible to find someone fitting all these? Perhaps, but don’t venture far from the total list or you’ll be back to square one.

Once the Volunteer Coordinator has been identified, work can begin to create the Volunteer Services Plan. There are a number of items that must be included in the Plan, such as:

1.    What committees need volunteers and how many are needed?
2.    What will they be doing and are written job descriptions available?
3.    Where will they need to be and how do they get there?
4.    When do you need them and for how long?
5.    What services/benefits/parking/uniforms are available?
6.    Fully define the Recruiting Process, to include:
a.    A Volunteer Registration Form
b.    An established information bank/database
c.    Target markets for recruiting, i.e., people, groups, businesses, etc.
d.    Processing and screening of applicants and, finally
e.    Contacting and Verifying the selected volunteers

This plan should be in place before any public announcement is made of an event or activity because, as with ticket sales, interested volunteers will assuredly start inquiring immediately.

The organization that takes the time to format a detailed Volunteer Services Plan will find the second phase, EVENT CONDUCT, that much easier and most certainly more efficient. We’ll discuss event logistics in future articles but be assured that many last-minute challenges (we never say “problems”) are avoided by having such a plan.

Your organizing committee must have a clearly defined staff structure and lines of communication. Volunteers must know to whom they report, especially in an emergency situation. If you’re organizing a large event that requires many volunteers over a period of days, then a volunteer handbook becomes almost a necessity. It would include information about the event itself, venue information with a diagram showing key locations, a venue evacuation plan, event schedules, transportation schedules and key contact phone numbers.  One very useful list would be Important Names to Know, so that a volunteer who came into contact with a VIP could be extra friendly. A list of Volunteer Policies and Procedures is essential and should emphasize dress code, conduct and shift information. Local information should also be a section in the handbook, to include restaurants, entertainment and shopping areas, and local modes of transportation and especially a taxi phone number.

Participants with questions will approach the first recognizable volunteer. The golden rule for a volunteer is this: “If you don’t know the answer, find it or send them to someone who has it”. This leads to the primary source of information, your own staff. There is nothing worse than an organizing committee staff member who is unable to answer simple questions about the event. With months of preparation and committee meetings, all staff members should have a basic knowledge of every other area of operation. Just as important, your staff needs to be instructed to constantly acknowledge and show appreciation to volunteers, both individually and as a group. Public mention of volunteer support will shows them that they are appreciated and it results in good work performance.

Volunteer Training is most helpful when provided in advance of the event, especially a few days prior. An orientation not only provides important information to them but it gives the organizing committee leadership the opportunity to motivate them and to explain the importance of their support. All of the basic information, uniforms, parking passes and job descriptions can be distributed this orientation.

With all of the aforementioned accomplished, the event itself is a snap. Volunteers show up, report to their work stations, do their jobs properly, and leave. Staff members must do their jobs by providing excellent supervision and, most important, giving the volunteers the support items needed to do their jobs. While realizing that large events are often challenged to fill all volunteer positions, creating a contingency pool is recommended. Our organization has called these reserves the Fifth Wheel or the Rapid Response Team, and they can be sent quickly to a trouble spot. A final helpful item is a critique by the volunteers, using a form at their check-out table. Getting input from them has been extremely valuable to conducting future events.

It’s important to remember that whatever you provide in the way of volunteer services, it will always be far less than what you’d pay for comparable labor. Items such as t-shirts, caps, vests, pins, parking, a lounge area, meals, snacks and beverages, and event tickets will all appeal to volunteers and make them feel appreciated.

Finally!!! It’s over!!! The participants have departed, the venue has been vacated, the event has been declared a success, and you’ve got hundreds, maybe thousands, of volunteers totally excited about staying involved. Whatever POST-EVENT COMMUNICATIONS projects you do or don’t do will affect both your organization’s future and theirs.

Before thinking about the future, however, finish up this event. Your volunteers need closure in the way of an appreciation letter, certificate or gift, and possibly a party. A party or pep rally immediately upon completion of an event is nice, but often not feasible due to event tear-down, but staging something soon after is a way to express your appreciation as well as announce future events.

Establishing an effective communications system should be a priority if you plan to utilize this group of volunteers again. Using emails is certainly the most economical means nowadays, but a direct mailed newsletter is just as effective. Maintaining the list be it email or direct mail, now becomes very important. If your organization maintains the ability to do some quick-recruiting of volunteers, then you have an efficient volunteer program. A word of warning about recruiting volunteers for outside events or organizations. Not everyone treats volunteers the same, and your volunteers will notice the difference, especially if they don’t receive proper treatment from others. When sending recruitment notices for outside events we make it very
clear that we are not involved in that event.

As for ongoing projects, our organization utilizes volunteer receptionists with each one working a specific half-day each week, and we naturally have a group of key volunteers who do various office projects. A Volunteer of the Year program is a great way to show appreciation and generate interest in the organization.

Lastly, the best method of maintaining an efficient volunteer program is to include volunteers in an assessment process and provide them with a channel for their suggestions. We have found a Volunteer Action Council to be very effective and most helpful for developing policies and procedures.

If this whole process sounds complicated to you, it should. There is nothing easy about managing an effective volunteer program and it requires a special person as you can see. We’re happy to provide whatever assistance we can to get your program established.

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