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Guide to Booking a Venue

What do we look for when we book a venue? What are the important questions to ask? Read this article to find out more!

by at Friends of NRA posted on May 29, 2024
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Friends of NRA Field Representatives span across all 50 states, holding fundraisers in more than 700 different venues each year. With the help of local volunteers, NRA Field Staff search for the perfect venue to host events. From community centers and hotels to golf clubs and airport hangars, our events have seen it all! So, what do we look for when we book a venue? What are the important questions to ask? Read below to find out more!

  • Location
    Location is KEY when it comes to picking a venue. You need to know your attendee demographics. If your venue is far out of town, do you think your guests would drive that far to attend? If you are holding your event in a swanky downtown hotel, what is the parking like in the area? Will it be a nightmare for your guests to park and get into the venue? Is this a venue where fundraisers are held often? Does the address populate correctly on Google Maps? These are great questions to ask yourself when picking a venue for a fundraiser!
  • Price
    • Is there a price difference between weekdays and weekends?
    • Non-Profit Rate?
      • Ask if they offer Non-Profit rates. There is a chance your venue offers a Non-Profit rate that is less than the normal rental rate. Worst case scenario is that you must pay the going rental rate.
      • 501(c)3 Non-profits are tax exempt so with some purchases, including venues, you need to send a federal tax-exempt form to your venue contact.
    • Overage Fees?
      • In the contract, it may be stated that your event runs from 6-10 p.m.; however, always make sure the venue knows you will need to set up prior and cleanup afterwards. Give yourself plenty of time to set up. Most venues allow you to set up starting at 8am. Some venues charge fees for every hour past a certain time (i.e. some charge a fee for every hour after 10 p.m.).
    • Do you need to put down deposit? If so, by when?
    • Ask for their payment schedule and mark these dates on your own calendar.

  • What is the venue capacity?
    • You may have many elements that will reduce the capacity (i.e. catering, silent auction, raffle, live auction).
    • There is a difference between the number of people you can squeeze in a room with one stage and rows of chairs versus a room with dining and auction tables. When it comes to Friends of NRA events, we estimate the capacity to really be 2/3 of what venue capacity is.
  • Catering
    • Can we bring an outside caterer for our event?
      • Some venues may require you to use their catering.
      • Hotels may have a higher food and beverage minimum, and overall higher cost per meal.
      • Bringing in outside catering will typically save you money.
    • How will the food be served?
      • Plated meal or buffet? Self-serve or food servers? How many food servers do you need?
      • Will you have multiple food lines?
      • Ideally, you want food to be served in 25 minutes or less, from first plate to last plate, regardless of crowd size.

  • Alcohol
    • *Friends of NRA does not provide alcohol.
    • Questions to ask your venue:
      • Is alcohol allowed? If holding an event on a school campus, you need to ask about serving alcohol including beer, wine, and liquor.
      • Can a local distributor donate to the event? Ask your contact about Liquor Licenses and liability.
      • Does the facility allow for outside bar service?
      • Is additional insurance needed?

  • What Is Included in the Price?
    • Tables/Chairs?
      • If not, find out if they have a company they work with regularly for equipment rental.
        • If third party is required for table/chair rental, find out when you would be able to have the equipment delivered.
      • If yes…
        • How many chairs?
        • How many round tables and what size (64” [8 top] or 72” [10 top])?
        • How many rectangle tables and what size (6’ or 8’)?
    • Linens?
      • Do you need to bring your own table linens?
      • How much will the venue charge to use theirs?
      • Sometimes, it is easier and cheaper to buy your own linens.
      • Ask when the linens will be available the day of your event! You don’t want to be ready to set up and the venue contact tell you it will be another 3 hours before they get the linens on the tables!
    • Sound?
      • Sound includes any and all equipment needed to play music, make announcements, conduct live auction (i.e. speakers, sound board, microphone, etc.).
      • Ask for a sound check when you book the venue or a few weeks prior to your event.
        **Sound provided by venue is more of a luxury and convenience. Bringing your own set up is cheaper in the long run if you hold several events throughout the year. Friends of NRA Field Representatives have sound systems to bring to events!
    • Projector AND Projector Screen?
      • Ask if you can test this in advance. If you have never used this venue before, plan to visit the venue at least a month ahead of time to test the projector and screen. If you run into issues this still gives you a month to make other arrangements.
    • Stage?
      • Ask if they have a stage to use, or if you need to bring one in. Depending on your event, you may not need a stage!

  • Staffing
    • Staffing is important! Make sure you obtain the contact information for the person in charge or who you can always call with questions as well as who would be the point of contact the night of the banquet.
    • Always ask how much it will cost for them to provide staff to set up and break down tables/chairs IF this is not included in venue cost. Also ask your venue and caterer about busing tables at the end of the night. Who will clear off all the tables? This may be an extra charge if you don’t want to do it yourself.
    • Will there be a crew to take out trash after setting up and before the start of the event? When you set up, there will likely be a number of boxes, plastic wrap, and more that will need to be thrown out. Will there be staff to take out the trash after the event or does that fall on you?
  • Security
    • Do we have to use venue security? If so, how much?
      • Can you hire an off-duty police officer?
      • Hosting a fundraiser usually involves a lot of cash at the end of the night. Make sure security stays until the end of the night to walk the person with cash to their vehicle.
  • Venue Schedule
    • Available on the date requested?
      • Always put two or three reservations/hold dates in their books before you sign a contract on the exact date.
    • Ask if there will be any other events going on the day of your event. This can increase your risk of theft or disturbance. If you are using a popular wedding venue for example, they may schedule a “rehearsal” during your rental time and people will be walking through your set up.
    • Ask if you can unload the day before the event or if you will have access to start setting up the day before (usually dependent on venue’s event schedule).

Friends of NRA events are typically 4-5 hours long but can take months to plan! A lot of work goes into planning these event fundraisers, which is why we rely so heavily on our amazing volunteers. We are truly a grassroots fundraising organization! Our friendly NRA staff and volunteers hope to see you at an event near you soon!

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