5 Tips on How to Financially Plan for a Retreat

Posted on July 31, 2019 by Erin Culleny in Retreat Planning

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Proper Retreat Planning Helps You Cover Your Budget and See Profit

Careful retreat planning can produce positive outcomes that are affordable and relatively straightforward. With Christian retreat centers, conferences, and other seasonal events, there’s a lot of built-in potential.

Depending on the resources and demographics of your retreat, you may need to establish the event as a yearly or biannual event for the necessary profit. This will depend on factors unique to the priorities of your church.

Remember: plans fail for lack of counsel. Consultation with financial planning groups can be wise. In general, they’re likely to advise retreat planning steps such as the following:

  1. Carefully Read Agreements
  2. Make Conservative Guest Reservations
  3. Understand the Financial Responsibility of Your Group
  4. Produce the Right Amount of Advertisement and Promotion
  5. Use Deposits to Confirm Attendees Who Sign Up for Your Retreat

1. Carefully Read Agreements

If you’re conducting a retreat at a conference center your denomination doesn’t exclusively have rights to, you want to ensure you know all the little details. Some spaces are only designed for a small gathering in terms of architectural code. Sometimes there are local noise restrictions.

There may be local cleanup available, this may be something your group has to do once the retreat has finished. Also, there may be items in your agreement which are negotiable. Transportation may or may not be provided by a given venue; you’ll have to factor those costs in. Regardless, knowing all the ins and outs of an agreement will give you a better idea of how to budget.

In general, it’s always wise to give yourself as wide a margin of error as you reasonably can, financially. If you expect something to cost a minimum of $20k, plan for it to cost $22k-$25k if the funds are available. Should you come in under-budget, you’ll have more solid numbers for a future retreat. Should you spend more than $20k, but under $25k, your margin of error saves you from going in the red, and now you know true costs. 

2. Make Conservative Guest Reservations

Again, err on the side of caution: if you expect 100 guests at minimum, assume seventy-five, and budget profit margins around hitting that number. Just ensure you’ve got proper provisions for a maximum number as well. How big your margin of error is will depend on your group. Certainly, you don’t want to make it too large, but especially when you’re doing a first-time event, the larger the better.

3. Understand the Financial Responsibility of Your Group

When retreat planning for a large body of attendees, oftentimes they’ll have individual cost responsibilities, and there will be others your organization manages. Basically, you’re offering a package. Break down what attendees pay for. Separate hotel costs, food costs, transportation costs, and anything else relevant.

It’s important for groups to know their minimum financial responsibility.  For us, groups are responsible for 90% of what they book.  Essentially if a group books for 100 people and they only show up with 80, they are still financially responsible to pay for 90 people.  Groups should be mindful of revision dates in which they can lower their numbers without financial penalty.

4. Produce the Right Amount of Advertisement and Promotion

Part of selling your retreat may include cost break-downs. Depending on what you’re offering, and associated costs, you may or may not want to lead with this. Chuck Swindoll presides over a cruise to Alaska on a regular basis, and there’s some cost to that retreat on the sea, but it’s all packaged together, and there are many selling points in terms of faith, experience, and relaxation.

Especially as concerns denominational retreats for varying church congregations, there’s ample opportunity for in-house advertisement. Make full use of weekly announcements, etc.

Include a note in the church bulletin, on varying information boards, and on your website. If you’re conducting a retreat focused on bringing in new local NJ believers, you might take out some geo-targeted PPC (Pay Per Click) ads online or develop a content blog to give yourself digital visibility. Consultation may be appropriate here to find the best outreach balance.

5. Use Deposits To Confirm Attendees Who Sign Up For Your Retreat

Include in your retreat planning a required sign-up deposit. This helps you be sure those who say they’ll attend will. If you don’t ask for a deposit, someone who signed up has no personal investment; they can change their mind more easily.

Necessary deposits don’t have to be large. If you’ve got a very big group, they can help you fund the retreat itself. Additionally, you’ll be able to more accurately project what kind of return to expect, and so design your budget more precisely. 

Successfully Managing an Enjoyable Retreat

Retreat planning that’s approached in the proper time can be rewarding to all involved. Especially in church leadership, getting overwhelmed is easy. The scriptures advise orderly conduct not only as a means of conveying God’s grace but as a means of diminishing stress on leadership with more on its shoulders than many other social institutions.

Organization experience is hard to acquire except through trial by fire. However, if you know the fire’s coming, you can prepare, making the experience easier for you as a leader and those you’re leading. The end result can be empowering, energetic, memorable, fun, and a positive portent of things to come.

If you’re planning a retreat, consider America’s Keswick Retreat and Conference Center. America’s Keswick has been hosting overnight group retreats for over 80 years. Check out our group retreats page to learn more about options for your group. 

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Want more tips on how to plan a retreat?

Check out our Complete Guide to Retreat Planning.

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