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If it is Spring, It must be Event Season

While reading through the CNRG Daily Digest recently, one post caught my eye.




Elisa Klein, Editor of PortlandSocietyPage.com posted that there were ten fundraising events scheduled for April 14, of which seven were dinner/gala/auction events.

Over the many years I have helped organizations and schools raise money for their programs. I have taken part in the planning and execution of many of these events.  While I have enjoyed doing everything from planning the events, choosing the menu and hors d’oeuvres, procuring necessities like beer, wine and auction items, setting up tables and chairs, meeting and greeting guests and speakers, and the inevitable clean up the next day, I am well aware of the labor and costs involved in fundraising events.  They are not cheap!  They are a lot of work and they can be budget busters for a fundraising department.

The rule of thumb for special events like dinner/auction events is that you must budget about a third of the amount you hope to raise.  If you are hoping to make $100,000, expect to invest about $35,000 or more on a place to hold the event, the caterers, the food, the alcohol, the entertainment, the printing, and a host of other things that are needed.  Many organizations hire a professional auctioneer or a guest speaker.  Then you must consider the cost of the labor and benefits for the employees who plan the event with the help of volunteers. One can only hope that the event is well attended and, if you are lucky, you have found some businesses willing to help underwrite the cost of the event with sponsorships. 

I may sound rather critical of big events, so don’t get me wrong.  Gala events can be fun to attend. They can help bring new donors to your organization, and give you the chance to tell your story to more people. I have had the opportunity to meet mayors, congressman, former governors and local business leaders that I would not have been able to meet otherwise.  I have gotten some great buys at auctions and supported great programs.

However, there are more effective ways to raise money for nonprofits.

There are ways to cut the cost of these events, but that will be the subject for another post.


Feel free to comment and share your thoughts, whether you agree or disagree.  This is just my first blog entry, and I am willing to take advice and criticism.


Richard Freedlund

CNRG Development Chair