Event planning is hard...and expensive. Credit unions could make planning sessions and all staff days considerably more productive and affordable if we simply leveraged the sixth cooperative principle.
Just a few weeks ago I helped put on the most unique event in the credit union industry, the CU Water Cooler Symposium. I couldn't be more proud of the results -- the talks were amazing, the audience was engaged, and I left feeling confident that the collective that assembled in Nashville was determined to rethink and reshape their worlds as a result. What that audience saw was a unique mix of some of the most talented thought leaders in North America, a beautiful venue, and the most innovative and thoughtful peers in the industry.
What they didn't see is the basic, untold truth of events: efficacy and efficiency made possible entirely through cooperation.
Renting and equipping a venue costs quite a bit of money. You have the A/V technology, catering, space, signage, invitations, marketing, and countless other expenses that go along with just having a place to put an event. Depending on the size of event, these costs can rise into tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Then you have to get the speakers there. At a bare minimum speakers' travel expenses should be covered, this involves air travel, ground transfers, hotels, meals. This alone can cost over $1,000/speaker.
So, the basic equation looks like this:
Cost Per Ticket = (Space + A/V + Food + Marketing + Planning Time + Speaker Expenses + Profit - Sponsorship Dollars) / # of Paid Attendees
Variable costs do play a role, obviously. More attendees yield a higher food cost. More speakers require higher speaker expenses. Generally speaking, however, for a not-for-profit event like the CU Water Cooler Symposium, the math is simple. As sponsorship dollars or the number of paid attendees goes up, the cost per ticket goes down.
As a comparison, let's consider your credit union's last Planning Session. You probably rented a space offsite, paid for a facilitator, fed and entertained guests, and rented A/V equipment. Nice meeting venues are expensive. Good facilitators certainly aren't cheap. But you spend this money because you know that setting the strategy for the next three years of your credit union is important business.
That silly equation is messed up, though. The cost for your Planning Session is being paid for by your credit union and your credit union alone. Because of this your credit union doesn't always hire the top facilitator. You don't always find a meeting venue that is inspiring and conducive to new ways of thinking.
If credit unions want to make the most out of their Strategic Planning Session, we need to start approaching them as what they are: events. Once we start to think of things in that way, it's easy to see that joint planning sessions are the way to go. By sharing the costs of top facilitators and venues between multiple credit unions, the quality of outputs improve while the price goes down. Even better, credit unions get the benefit of breaking bread with and bouncing ideas off of other boards and executive teams who are looking to accomplish the same things: improving people's lives through not-for-profit financial cooperatives.
Let's make your next strategic planning session the best one ever...with cooperation among cooperatives.