Chapters should work to become financially autonomous. To do so, chapters may want to plan "no-host" events, where guests purchase their own food and/or drink. No-host events are ideal for newly formed chapters. Purchase large, inexpensive food platters from a supermarket rather than hire a caterer.
To avoid facility costs, look for donated event space from a local company or library, a nearby college or university, a private home or office. If your chapter has a modest bank balance, be more creative! Most importantly, think carefully about pricing your event.
Event pricing is important to the success of both chapters and events. $20 or $25 is the standard fee for a basic social or networking event; $30 to $45 for content events, such as those with a guest speaker or panel. Free events are almost always a bad idea. 'Free' suggests something of little value. Free also encourages a high "no-show" rate.
There can be a number of hidden event costs. As an event budget is created, consider registration fees and complimentary admissions as well as the cost of a/v equipment, parking, furniture rental, janitorial services, and security staff. These expenses are likely to influence the price point of your event. View sample event budget.
Some chapters offer tiered pricing options for alumni, students and guests, or those who register early, as appropriate.
To build an audience and share expenses, look for a partner.