Should you charge for your women's ministry event?

A couple of weeks ago I posed this question on Facebook, “Do you charge for women’s ministry events? If so, what’s the cost?”

Some women responded that they charge for bigger events, but not smaller events.

Most charged for workbooks for Bible studies.

Others offered significant discounts over the cost of the event.

Deciding whether or not to charge for a women’s ministry event or activity isn’t always a straight forward yes or no answer.

There are a lot of things to take into consideration.

Let’s walk through some things you’ll want to keep in mind as you make this decision.

10 Things to consider when deciding whether or not you should charge for your women’s ministry event or activity:

1. Your Church Culture

What is the expectation from the Pastoral staff as well as the congregation? Are “love offering” baskets the norm at events? Are you expected to use your budget for smaller events and only charge for bigger events? Does the church supply Bible study books or do attendees always pay?

If your finance committee is unaware of the realistic costs of your ministry, you may need to meet with them, prove your case, and respectfully request a budget increase.

2. Budget Constraints

If you choose not to charge for an event, you’ll be tied to the budgeted amount. That may prevent you from bringing in a paid speaker (by the way, anyone who speaks should be paid). You may have to ask women to bring food rather than catering an event.

Your team must be aware of and abide by the budget for an event – don’t neglect to communicate this! Or you may have a team member purchase Chick-Fil-A mini trays that blow your entire event budget out of whack! True story.

If you’re blessed with a generous women’s ministry budget this may not be an issue.

3. Income Levels in Your Community

I live in the Charlotte, NC area and it’s typical to see church members purchase or bring a cup of specialty coffee into the church service or Sunday school. Many families I know also grab lunch at a restaurant after church. It’s reasonable to expect that charging $5 or more for an event shouldn’t be a burden for most of your women. I also realize many people live paycheck to paycheck and the cost of a retreat or conference would be a burden.

I was thrilled to hear on Facebook, that so many of you provide scholarships for women in need and often have women cover the cost for another.

4. Precedent

When you’ve offered an event for free or at a price that is way under the actual cost, it can be difficult to start charging or raise the price.

For years a church we attended was able to keep their retreats at a crazy (my opinion) minimal cost. They had been blessed by members with rental homes that donated lodging. They had found a family-run hotel that was willing to slash their rates for our group. As the group grew and needed a dedicated meeting space they were shocked when they researched conference and retreat centers. Which brings us to…

5. Fair Market Value

Whether it’s paying for meals and lodging or speaker fees, an awareness of fair market value is necessary. If you found a speaker that’s undercharging and was fabulous, don’t expect the same quality at that same price going forward. If a woman from your church is speaking, she should still be paid for her time (at the event and in preparation).

As expenses rise, your budget and fee for the event will need to rise.

Do some research and find out what are fair and reasonable rates for hotels, speakers, meals, etc. in your area.

6. Fundraisers

Some churches allow women’s ministries to fundraise in addition to or instead of creating a line item in the church budget.

If your fundraiser is to cover the costs of all of the women’s ministry events for the year, than you need to be women of your word – don’t charge for a single event. If your fundraiser is offsetting the cost of a larger event, make certain you communicate that to your women so they understand they are getting a price break and why.

7. Perceived Value

Charging for an event adds value to an event. Things that are free are almost always perceived as having less value than the equivalent item that costs. That being said, you need to deliver an event that exceeds expectations. If I’m paying $10 for breakfast event, I expect more than just doughnuts, coffee, and an okay speaker.

8. Head Count

Charging in advance for an event lets you know exactly how much food to purchase, how many programs to print, tables to set up, etc. We are called to be good stewards and it’s difficult to do when we have no idea how many women plan to attend.

Unfortunately registration attempts for free events often far above the actual attendance because…

9. Personal Investment

When women invest in your event (even at a cost of $5) they are more likely to attend AND more likely to participate. It’s easy to skip an even that is free as it costs the potential attendee nothing. Women must choose to attend your event – whether it’s opting to attend something else or just opting to stay home and sleep/finish the laundry.

10. Donations

Donations can be a blessing and even a necessity when it comes to holding an event. Donations of all kinds should be tracked by your team. Donations should also never be expected year after year.

Handwritten thank you notes should be delivered and thanks given publicly at the event (unless the donation was given anonymously).

Take great care to make your need known to all church members so that no one feels slighted that they weren’t given an equal opportunity to donate goods or services.

My personal opinion…

I prefer to offer a mix of free and paid women’s ministry events. I don’t mind asking women to bring food to a game night or fellowship. I prefer to request donations for a service project (such as making pillowcase dresses or care packages for the homeless) than to use budget monies.

My hope is always that the women’s ministry budget will be used to benefit the greatest number of women possible. So if we’re hosting a Workshop Fellowship, I’d rather charge for supplies than spend a large chunk of the budget.  If you’d like to see how we have divided up the budget and cost for our retreats, check out this post.

I’m very budget-conscious. I shop according to what’s on sale each week at the grocery store. I’m going to opt for moderate hotel accommodations so more women can afford to attend. If early-bird ticket prices are an option, you can bet I’ll purchase my tickets early!

No matter what your personal preferences, what and if you should charge for women’s ministry events and activities should always be a team decision.

Don’t forget, before you make any changes, be sure to run them by the Pastor who oversees your team.

I’d love to hear, do you charge for women’s ministry events and activities? If you do, what do you charge?

You may also want to read:
Is your event budget realistic?
What should you charge for your retreat?
Budgeting for an Event (Free Printable)
10 Ways to Stretch Your Budget

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Three years ago: Publicity Form (Free Printable)
Four years ago: $10 (or less) Door Prize Ideas