If your organization hosts a fundraising event in a hotel ballroom — a luncheon, a gala, a fashion show — then you may already be aware of an issue nonprofits are facing in Austin.
We realized it earlier this year when one of our clients wanted to change venues for their spring luncheon. We started calling hotels, thinking that with more than a year to plan the event, we had plenty of time.
But then we started making calls. First once, then a handful of times — then consistently, from no fewer than six different venues, we heard the same thing: no event space can be reserved without a commitment of a quantity of room nights at the hotel.
You might think that as more hotels open in Austin, it would get easier to find a venue. But all those hotels are competing with each other — and during their “busy season” (a season that includes both spring and fall, when probably 90% of all fundraisers take place), they don’t want to tie up a ballroom without also booking room nights.
“We need to keep our sleeping rooms to meeting space ratio even for a variety of reasons,” explained one catering sales manager. “It’s a challenge for us to book an event more than 90 days in advance if sleeping rooms aren’t included.”
What to do? Here’s our advice:
- Become best friends with your hotel sales rep. They may not be able to bend the rules for you, but having an advocate for your organization and your event certainly couldn’t hurt.
- Explore event spaces in town that aren’t located in hotels. Brazos Hall, Palm Door, Saengerrunde Hall and Springdale Station are only the beginning — as our hotel market has expanded, so has the market for these alternative spaces.
- Consider a more extreme alternative: ditching the off-site event altogether. Organizations like Foundation Communities, El Buen Samaritano and SAFE are just three local organizations that have hosted successful on-campus fundraising events that enable their donors to get up close and personal with their work.
Events are a time-honored way to engage with your donors, and we’re here to help make them a success — whether they’re in a ballroom or a parking lot. But lock your ballroom down early if that’s your choice!