Non-profits use special events to raise large amounts in a short period of time. Most often, the donor receives a direct benefit from the event — such as dinner or participation in a gaming activity. But special events don’t always meet their fundraising goals. In fact, organizations can lose money on them. Here are five steps that can help boost your event’s potential and enable you to decide whether to hold it again in the future.
Step 1: Create a budget
Every successful event begins with a budget. Begin by estimating what revenue you can expect and what activities your event will require to raise those funds. If your costs are likely to be greater than revenue, consider forgoing the event. As you develop your budget, consider options that minimize your costs, including looking for sponsors, donations, or even a less costly event space.
Step 2: Create a marketing plan
Determine the target audience for your event and the best way to reach that audience. For example, digital ads might reach one demographic while ads in a local newspaper will reach another. Create a list of strategies that will reach your audience and bring the target number of people to your event.
Step 3: Track everything
You can only improve and optimize what you measure. To be able to fully evaluate your event, track all of your event’s costs to arrive at an accurate net profit amount. For example, an event’s costs could include:
- Total paid to market the event overall including printed invitations, paid advertisements, and time your team spent developing the event campaign.
- Total paid related for the donor experience products such as food, drinks, and giveaways.
- Other actual event costs, such as rental space and wait staff.
Step 4: Review the event
After the event, review a detailed statement of its revenue and expenses, and compare them to what was budgeted. Take a look at the revenue from ticket sales and in-event donations from auctions or other activities: Did you raise the amount you had anticipated? Did the number of people you expected attend? Did you make more than the fair market value of the items donated?
Also review unexpected expenses. Were these “one-time” or “special” costs that aren’t likely to occur yearly, or are they recurring? The answers to these questions can help you determine if the event was a true success.
Step 5: Crunch the numbers
Consider your event’s results — along with changes in your organization and evolving economic conditions that could affect profitability in the coming years — to determine whether your event is likely to be successful in the future.
Ernst Wintter & Associates LLP specialize in California non-profit audits and tax preparation. Contact us today for help with your non-profit audit or tax prep needs.