Income From Events

Sections of this topic

    A recent email asked: “What percentage of a non profit’s budget should come from fundraising events?”

    I have a problem with the word, “should.” That implies that all nonprofits should be raising money through events. That is so wrong!!

    That is a question that is (so) often posed by people new to the nonprofit world, people who can’t see very far into the future of their organizations.

    To ensure ongoing/continual levels of income, an organization MUST create/cultivate a constituency that will support it over the long term. And, a nonprofit MUST have a long term fundraising/development plan that sees those constituents as donors, not purchasers of candy or tickets to events, but people who will GIVE to the organization because they want to – because they believe in its mission and they get satisfaction from GIVING.

    That’s what the nonprofit community is all about. Have we forgotten the word “charity”? Have we forgotten that people give because they want to help?

    So, what percentage….: 100%, 0%, or somewhere in between??

    First, to differentiate between “Fundraising Events” and “Special Events.”

    “Special Events” are special !! Whether a Dinner, a Reception, working with the people who are served by an organization (such as the service line at a soup kitchen), or other activity that has an expense line item in the organization’s budget.

    What makes an event special is a combination of three things:
    1. The desire on the part of the (potential) attendees to be there, because
        it is a prestigious event to attend and because being there satisfies one-
        or-more of their needs;
    2. The extent to which event activities support the mission of the nonprofit
        … other than by raising dollars; and,
    3. The extent to which the event is planned and implemented by people
        connected to and who care about the organization. [That does not, btw,
        preclude the use of outsiders to help with the planning and logistics.]

    A well planned/organized/executed Special Event should take in more than the event costs, and many nonprofits have events that are special and raise big bucks; but, a fundraising event is designed with only that goal … with little that happens at the event that relates to the organization’s mission.

    There are, of course, organizations that have perfected the Special Event. I can think of one that raises over seven figures with their Annual Dinner … but their event started small and grew carefully over twenty years.

    A (relatively) new organization that looks to run fundraising events (or fundraisers) to support their activities and the services they provide, will probably not survive too many years. Not that there aren’t some new/small organizations that manage to live on income from fundraising events, but reliance on fundraisers limits their growth and the services they provides to their community.

    So, again the question: What percentage of a non profit’s budget should come from fundraising events? What do you think ??

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    Have a comment or a question about starting, evaluating or expanding your fundraising program? AskHank
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    Want to learn more about the basics of Special Events?
    Take a look at the ebook, Special Events
    Looking for some fundraising Guidance for the New Nonprofit ,
    take a look at that ebook.
    In fact, you should take a look at
    The Fundraising Series of ebooks.

    They’re easy to read, to the point, and inexpensive ($1.99 – $4.99)
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