As Singaporeans love to say: “Money no enough”. Whether you’re self-funding your groundup at the moment or looking for grants or donations to keep your groundup going (and at the same time trying to be like Superman and earning your keep through a day job), money is always an issue that’s never far from our minds. It’s an instinctive reaction to look for more funds if your situation calls for it, but what we often forget to do is to examine the stuff we’re already paying for (or going to pay for) and testing our assumptions around them. By testing some of these assumptions, we can open up a whole new way of thinking about what we truly need to be paying for and come up with ways in which we can creatively reduce the costs of running a groundup.
1. Rent instead of buy.
You’re running an event for the first time, and you want to capture as much of the social media traction as possible by making sure your event is Insta-worthy. We get that, but how sure are you that you’re going to be needing that hipster industrial-chic crate more than once? For most groundups in the starting phase, a lot of the initial activities will revolve around experimenting and pivoting according to responses. Until you find your activities regularising and taking on a more stable form, you might want to consider renting whatever equipment you need first instead of buying. Renting may be a little more cumbersome in that you have to actively plan in advance to collect and return the items, but the flexibility provided means that you can change your programme without incurring too much sunk costs, and you don’t have to grapple with the issue of storage costs as well. Some great marketplaces to rent from peers include Carousell and Rent Tycoons.
2. Buy second-hand.
If you’ve figured that you’ve come to a point where buying makes more financial sense than renting or if you’re unable to rent what you’re looking for, challenge the assumption that you require purchasing it brand new from stores. Buyer’s remorse has made it on to our list of first-world problems, so chances are you might find the exact thing you’re looking for listed on Carousell – once-used (or not used at all) at a significant discount from the retail price. Some items may not be new, but could also still be in great condition. Do be careful though – for items that have to do with safety and hygiene, it’s always recommended to purchase them new and directly from reputable stores, and for electrical items, it’s always best to test before purchase.
3. Go potluck.
We’re Singaporeans and we love food, so any event without food is nothing short of blasphemous. But just because food needs to be a part of the event doesn’t mean that you, as the event organiser, have to cough up a tidy sum to make sure everyone’s bellies are filled. Start by planning smart and making sure your groundup event doesn’t stretch over mealtimes. Then, mobilise your participants or volunteers by getting them to bring their favourite snack for themselves, and turn it into an opportunity to spark conversations by asking them to go around and find someone who brought something similar and share what they like about that snack as they consume it. What you’ll find is that while saving on expenditure for refreshments, you also create a common topic for your event attendees to network and mutually identify with.
An inevitable part of running a groundup is having to come up with design collaterals, whether it’s in the form of digital EDMs, physical posters or social media posts. But before you go splashing the cash for a designer to do up that stuff for you, try and see whether you can design it yourself. Yes, I know – you don’t have the artistic flair, the creative nous, the inspired form. Neither do I. But I have found a great ally in Canva, a freemium online platform where you can basically use a strikingly designed template and just replace the content with your own words. The free templates are generally good enough, and there are templates for a whole range of design needs from namecards to slide decks. Free image editing tools like GIMP and Pixlr have also come in really handy to edit logos and pictures, and when all else fails, there’s always Microsoft Powerpoint (yes, it’s actually possible to design something on Powerpoint). If Kai can do it, so can you.
5. Use free spaces.
You want a nice, comfortable venue to hold your activity, with air-conditioning, Wi-Fi, AV equipment and water provided. And you want it free. Do such places even exist? Surprisingly, they do!
If your event aims to:
1) Expand perspectives towards a social issue
2) Address these issues in an innovative way
3) Be open to the public
Then congrats, you qualify to partner A Good Space! A Good Space is building a community of changemakers, and part of the perks of being a partner include exposure for your event through their database and free venue space to hold it as well.
If you’re Singaporean/PR and still a youth (35 years old and under), then you can also sign up to be a Youth Corps Singapore (YCS) Member. Being a Youth Corps Member gives you access to the facilities at The Red Box, which means you can book their event spaces to hold your very own event. And if you need a space for a team meeting or to do some planning for your next groundup activity, you don’t always have to pay for a drink at Starbucks just to use the space. Once you’re a YCS member you can walk right in to utilise the first floor of The Red Box, which is set up like a cosy co-working space, no bookings required.
6. Build your own website.
There’s no running away from the fact that the best way to get the attention of Singaporeans is through online means. That means that a website is going to be the fulcrum of all the work that you do, because having a well-run website adds to the credibility and legitimacy of your groundup. But a well-run website does not mean that you have to spend upwards of $5,000 to hire a web developer to build your website for you. The proliferation of website building platforms allows people with absolutely no coding or programming knowledge to build websites of their own, from drag-and-drop web builders like Wix to professional looking templates on Wordpress. If you require ecommerce functionality, Shopify is also a good option. And these website builders charge anything from nothing to $30+ per month for a basic plan, which means you also have the flexibility of cancelling your subscription any time. There’s no need to commit a four-figure sum to build the perfect website right at the very start when many changes are still taking place. Instead, let your website grow alongside your groundup and learn to improve on it as you go.
Resources are always limited when running a groundup, and we’d be loath to see hard-earned funds be unnecessarily wasted when it could have gone to the beneficiaries of your cause. Raising more funds is one way to go about ensuring sustainability of your work, but reducing costs is every cent as important. Being prudent in your spending not only forces you to be creative with what you have, it also sends a signal to your followers that you hold yourself to a high standard of accountability in running your groundup.
Have more creative groundup bootstrapping ideas to share? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org!