Wednesday, June 20, 2012

How to be a Productive Member of the Community without Losing Your Shirt

Have you ever been in charge of a sheva b’rachos? Have you put together a sports team? Have you ever needed to lay out money for an event and need to chase down people months (or even years) later? Frustrating, right? For some reason, people get lax about paying back money when they power a friend.

Throughout the past few months, I have been a part of/helped organize/ran various events that involved many different people and somewhat significant amounts of money. Unfortunately, the organizer (s) of such events often lose(s) money. I, myself, have come out as the loser. I used to lose between $50-100 each time. I chalked it up to the “well, that’s the price you pay for being in charge,” or “being a nice guy,” or my personal favorite “well, that’s my gift to them.”

“No more,” I said. (Literally, I said that out loud.) I decided that just because I am in charge doesn’t mean I have to lose money. And if you have fallen victim to the same issues when organizing an event, here are some helpful tips for you to follow so that it doesn’t happen again. All of these rules are obviously for situations in which it’s clear that the costs will be split equally amongst those invited.

1) Lay the Groundwork Early
Have two separate dates. The first is to reserve a spot, and the second is to receive the money. If either one of these terms aren’t met by an individual, he/she cannot be guaranteed to be involved.

2) No Guarantees
Make sure you use the term “can’t be guaranteed.” You don’t want a situation where a person didn’t meet one of the requirements and you told them that they wouldn’t be allowed to come, and then change your mind. That does not do well for the future. Leave yourself some wiggle room in case his/her accommodations can be met. (Good rule to live by: don’t make false threats.)

3) Over Charge
The major mistake everyone makes is that they forget to take something into consideration when setting the final price. When it comes to a sheva b’rachos, you may get a deal for $20 per person from a takeout place, but that doesn’t include drinks or utensils. If it’s in a restaurant, you might forget tax and tip. If it’s an order for supplies such as t-shirts or prizes, people often forget tax and shipping. If you over charge, you avoid these problems and, if you find out that you have left over money, you can split it amongst the participants (everyone loves that), or in a case of a party, give to the newly married couple/birthday celebrator, or save it in your slush fund for the next party.

4) Don't Lay Out Money
I know this is going to be the hard one, but the only way make sure people actually pay is if they do it before the event. If you have a sports team, make sure you have all required fees before the season. If it’s a party, have the money before you go shopping. Companies won’t let you owe them money, and you aren’t there to pay for someone else’s fee. If you are organizing something that you won’t find out the cost of until it’s over (such as a road trip), see Number 3.

5) 80% Rule*
If your event includes catering (not in a restaurant), a great way to keep costs down is to UNDER-ORDER!!! If you’ve ever ordered for 20 people from a restaurant for a 20-person affair, you know that by the end of the meal, you will have a TON of leftovers. That’s where the 80% rule comes in. Order enough food for 80% of the guests. If you are having a party of 20, order for 16. You will still have leftovers!

*NOTE: If the party is more than 80% guys, it becomes a 90% Rule.

6) Don't Work Alone
I know it’s tempting to do everything yourself (if you want something done right), but if you have someone who can help you with anything –online ordering, food shopping, money collecting –it makes your job so much easier. Every group usually has the one guy/girl who is eager to help. He/she always wants to be part of it. But he/she lacks the capacity to deal with the whole thing. Give this person one job. If it’s satisfactorily completed, give another job. The less work you have to do, the easier it becomes.

I have followed these steps for the last three sheva b’rachos, two baseball teams and one road trip, and in one of those situations I was even able to return money to people. Nobody backed out because of the price and I didn’t lose money. Hopefully this helps.