People celebrating at an event

Events 101

If you want to host an event solely to raise money, you are wasting your time. Events are the least cost-effective way to raise money, but hosting a fundraising event for your nonprofit is a fantastic way to raise both awareness and tap into financial resources that might not otherwise be available through other avenues.  This type of activity typically requires a lot of front end investment but you can generate a high amount of revenue if you do it properly. offers a plethora of resources to assist you with executing a successful event.  

Planning your event properly is key.

There are several pieces to the planning portion of the process and one element is your event budget, which is an estimate of costs:

  • You need to know your financial goal and with it, projected revenue and expenses. Not only is a budget important as a road map, it can help you calculate your overall goal. It includes both actual income and expenses, but also in-kind donations.
  • The value of donated items requires an FMV – fair market value – in order to properly provide the information for a tax-deductible donation to your donors.

There are different types of income for your event. Listed below are those types of activities and a suggested percentage for a revenue goal:

  • Sponsorships – Target: 35%

    It is optimal to have an existing relationship with potential sponsors before asking them to support your event, so create a prospect list of those businesses you wish to develop a connection with and start working on creating a rapport well before the event. Do not forget your own vendors.

Be sure to start your solicitation of sponsorships early. Businesses take longer to make decisions than individuals. They also typically have a budgeting cycle to consider. Your sponsorship is likely to be higher if taken into consideration at the time the budget is being created. Ideally you will finalize your sponsorship packet in September to properly approach those making budget decisions in the last quarter

  • Ticket Sales – Target 20%

    Be certain to count all costs associated with this line item.  For example, always check the cost per person provided by your caterer.  This is not just the cost for the food but the labor, supplies, corkage and gratuities that are part of the quote.

  • Auction – Target 15%

    By working with your board members and businesses, you can secure items like vacation homes and packages that contain fun items for donors to bid on. Volunteers are a great help in reaching out into the community for donations. Seek the assistance of a benefit auctioneer. This may seem like a large expense, but having the guidance and talents of a true professional is likely to dramatically increase revenue and cover any costs of the auctioneer.

  • Paddle Raise – Target 20%

    A great practice is to use a story conveying your mission and a successful outcome just prior to the paddle raise. The moment before the paddle raise should be the emotional highpoint of the event. It is also helpful to include a donor’s matching donation for this portion of your event. Once again, a professional benefit auctioneer can make all the difference in reaching goal.

  • Other activities – Target 10%

    This can include your raffle prize, program ads, games, and miscellaneous donations received in response to the event.

Each event will have individual and unique expenses associated with it. A recommendation is to use ticket sales and sponsorships to cover the costs of the event and then all other funds raised become the net revenue raised. 

For example, here is a breakdown of potential revenue targets to reach an overall financial goal of $100,000 with expenses projected at $55,000:

  • Sponsorships – $35,000
  • Ticket Sales – $20,000
  • Auction – $15,000
  • Paddle Raise – $20,000
  • Other activities – $10,000

This could lead to a net revenue of $45,000. As long as you have the expenses covered, all funds raised become your net profit.

In closing, knowing what your ultimate destination is (aka your target financial goal) helps you create a road map of options to reach that goal. By doing the work of mapping out the plan at the start, you can focus on executing a successful event that will please your guests while supporting the important work of your nonprofit. Of course, you will not be in auto-pilot mode but it will certainly open up some much needed mental space so you can engage with your guests so the ultimate success is a fun event.


Posted in Events, Fundraising, Sponsorships.