“How do I do events when there’s no money in the club?” First, you have to think about how to keep costs low. The best way is to plan ahead of time (weeks to months in advance) and ask for help.
For meeting rooms
If you’re a school or library club, ask your advisors for help. They can tell you where to reserve free rooms on campus or they may offer their room for use. Recognized university clubs may get assigned rooms through Student Services or they can book rooms in the libraries and around campus.
If you’re a community club, you can ask local cafes or restaurants to hold meetings. This gives cafes and restaurants a chance to get more customers. Mom-and-pop shops and small cafes are more likely to allow your club to meet there.
For places to hold a big event
If you’re a university club, there are many places on campus to hold a big party or event. Usually your Student Union is the best place to start because they offer recognized clubs discounted rates for good rooms. However, if you want to keep your costs down, use a classroom or a member’s place.
Your club can ask restaurants and businesses for food donations. Make a small solicitation packet (only two pages) that says what event you’re doing and what your club will do for the business if they donate food. It’s better to meet the manager of a restaurant than to email the packet. Sometimes, restaurants give club discounts or coupons instead of a food donation.
If the restaurant or business will donate food, you must go through your student government (middle schools and high schools) or on-campus Food Services (universities) to get permission to serve their food.
Another option is to do a potluck-style event (best for small events that are not open to the public). Make a sign-up sheet with food categories (appetizers, entrees, sides, and desserts) and have members and officers write down food they can bring.
Banners, signs, piñatas, and labels can be made by your club members with paper, cardboard, paint, and markers. You can also find free printables from event-planning blogs and websites. For food placements (warming trays, cake stands, table covers, and serving utensils), borrow them from a local caterer or ask members to bring them. Flowers, vases, corsages, and ribbons can also be donated by a local florist. For balloons, all you need is helium, so go to a party shop and ask if they can blow up your balloons for a discount.
Ask your members or friends to perform or DJ. If you decide to get a performer or DJ from outside of your club, try to find performers from schools in the music department or performers from other clubs (ex: traditional dance performers from the Pacific Islander Student Association). They usually do performances for free or at a very low cost. No matter what performer(s) you go with, always negotiate any prices or pay-rates (money per hour). Also, university clubs can apply to their Student Services or student government (usually Associated Students) for an event sponsorship or grant.
Use social media. It’s free and fast. The number one free and most effective way to spread the word is by visiting other clubs’ meetings and events and telling their members about the event. The most costly way to market an event is by using fliers. Ask your advisor(s) if they can print some fliers for your club. Another alternative is if each member prints a small set of fliers. Of course, this saves the money bank account, but you don’t want to spend money right out of your pockets, right? Again, use that solicitation packet and go to any local printing shops and businesses for sponsorships or discounts. Usually printing shops at universities tend to give clubs more discounts than chain printing shops. Also, don’t be afraid to go online and find some deals. Just make sure that you have a lot of time to receive the materials.
Getting custom T-shirts made are very expensive. It could be anywhere from $10 per T-shirt to $25 per T-shirt depending on the design, colors, and print style. The cheapest way to make custom T-shirts is making them yourself. You can buy a pack of iron-on transparencies (around $8), print the design on the transparencies, and iron it onto a plain T-shirt ($5 to $10). There are no hidden fees such as design fees (usually $20 per design), color fees (adds $5 per color in the design), T-shirt fabric ($3 to $5 for low-quality cotton, $20 for organic cotton shirts or polos), or print style fees ($10 for heat transfer, $15 or $20 for screen-printing).