When she wanted to taste some of the microbrews, she purchased a cup with five tokens. To taste our popcorn, she submitted her money to pay for it. Of course, many of us tried to give it to her for free for her gracious hosting of the event as the city's mayor.
We discussed her willingness (and sometimes insistence) to pay, and she indicated she was honoured to offer capital to deserving business owners. We talked about how this was a similar piece of advice I gave my board when serving as president or chair, and to nonprofit clients during leadership retreats.
And it's true. If you want potential or existing members or donors to value your organisation and its offerings, this message should be similarly exemplified by an entity's leadership. Though some directors are volunteers and that effort is very much appreciated, it is not in lieu of paying for an organisation's hosted events.
Indeed, I have had board members ask "Do we really have to pay?" when we were hosting annual summits or business breakfast briefings. My response is typically: "If you want others to believe our programme is worthy of the investment, why wouldn't you be wiling to make it and set the example?".
It didn't always go over well. Nonetheless, if you have the right people on your team, they will want to step up and not only pay...but convince others to do the same. On the other hand, if your directors are really put off by the idea of paying their way, at least you know what you're dealing with.