Are Fundraising Events Worth It?

We’ve all heard it before…..“Let’s add a new event!” or “We have too many events!” or ”Our organization is suffering because our annual event did not raise the money it used to.”

Events serve an important avenue to increase awareness, involve and cultivate prospective donors and raise net proceeds towards an organization’s fundraising goals. The answer to whether or not an event is worth planning and carrying out depends on how much money the event is raising and by comparing event income to other revenue sources. Event net proceeds should be part of your organization’s revenue portfolio along with donations from individuals, corporations, foundations and public funding. If events are bringing in more revenue than funding from other donor constituencies, you could cut back on events and concentrate on other types of support to ensure diversity. When planning an event, staff and volunteer leaders should ask the question “Is the purpose of the event to acquire new donors or simply increase awareness?” The answer will help define staff time and whether or not to include the event in your organization’s development plan.

Corporations seem to be moving away from goods and services donations and are more interested in making a contribution that will produce a direct impact. When asked why a non-profit has been holding an event each and every year and the net proceeds are not increasing – typically the answer is “Because we’ve always held the event and people are counting on it each year.” The truth of the matter is that event attendees will always be drawn to something new and also want their contribution to make an impact.

Food for Thought: If an event is raising $25,000 net, one person could ask five individuals for a gift of $5,000 each and bring in the same amount of money with less staff time and without the efforts of holding an event.

An Event IS Worth It If:

1. Net proceeds from the event generate at least 50% more than the cost of staff time and event expenses. (If an event raised $100,000 but cost $60,000 to put on, your net income is $40,000. Now figure out what staff time costs were and subtract that from $40,000. Now you have your true net proceeds amount.)


2. A deeply engaged, committed and truly working committee of volunteers plans, markets and solicits donations for the event. (Too many times events are staff driven and event volunteers are in name only.)


3. Some portion of the facility, catering, prizes, auction items, signage, audio-visual needs, beverages, decorations are donated or discounted.


4. Attendance and revenue increases by 10% or more annually.


5. The event creates media coverage increasing awareness of the mission of the organization.

If your organization is thinking about a new event, be creative and come up with a new idea that will draw a large number of attendees and create a buzz. Road races have declined nationwide in dollars raised. Galas and golf tournaments are a dime a dozen. When thinking of adding a new event, research whether or not other organizations are already holding the event. When choosing a date, research who else is having an event that same weekend or evening. For some organizations breakfast events work well, for others a Saturday night event draws a crowd. Also, find out if anything big is happening in town that would conflict with your event such as political campaign events, concerts or sporting events.

Pop Up events are a new and fun way to raise dollars. Organizations promote an event, attendees register but the location is not announced until right before the event. The Jamie Kirk Hahn Foundation does a great job with pop up events I’m also seeing them being used for Farm to Table chef events locally. Two years from now – some other type of event will be the rage. In the 90s I worked for an organization who held an “UnGala” annually. Instead of people dressing up and attending the gala – people simply sent donations in. Donors told us they were invited to too many dinners and gala events and appreciated supporting an organization without the hassle of actually going somewhere. Nowadays auction items can be bid on virtually, people can text to pledge without being at a venue at all.

If you are interested in April's 3 ways event net proceeds should be counted towards revenue, please email me at or call me at (919) 274-9567.

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