In my experience I have often heard staff talk about how a special event would raise a lot of money for the organization and this would be a great way to promote the cause. What most people don’t realize is that many special events don’t accomplish these goals. There is also a lot of discussion about the cost of fundraising. There are different opinions on how to calculate costs but I do feel that everyone should be looking at the true cost of running their special events.
Everyone can calculate the hard costs of running an event but what most people forget is the staff time spent on making the event happen. Often it’s more that just one person involved in putting together an event. Think about all the staff that have some involvement in organizing your special event. How much is this time worth? Are you still making money on the event after adding in this cost? Special events often involve the use of volunteers. Despite what you may think, volunteers are not free. They need to be recruited, trained and supervised. Again we are talking about staff time.
People also talk about how their special events raise awareness for the cause as well as make money. Do people that attend your events become future donors or do they come for the party and never have contact with your organization again? Have you done an evaluation of your special events. Once you calculate the real costs you may find you aren’t making a lot of money and in fact may be losing money.
After going through an evaluation process you may decide you are better off reducing the number of events you hold each year. It’s fine to have an event that doesn’t raise large sums of money if you feel it’s important for awareness but you should acknowledge this up front and not pretend this is going to raise large sums of money to cover program costs. Keep this in mind at budget time. If there is a line in the budget for special events you should be asking questions about the projected revenue and related expenses. There may be more effective ways to use staff time to raise money and awareness.