Budgeting Expenses

Understand how much money you are starting with and how much you must raise to meet your fundraising goal. See the big picture by listing both the money you'll spend and the money you'll make.

Depending on the activity or event, you will have a variety of ways in which you can raise funds, including:

  • Selling tickets or admission individually or to groups

  • Selling refreshments

  • Holding a raffle or offering a door prize

  • Selling ads in the program or journal accompanying your event

  • Teaming up with a known goods or service provider or vendor to get a piece of its sales

  • Often, you will find ways to utilize several of these methods and others to generate additional income for your fundraising activity. For example, a golf tournament can generate money from greens fees (or admission) and/ or selling refreshments, raffle tickets, and advertisements in the program. Holes, holes-in-one, and flags can raise additional sponsorship dollars. A pre-event dinner can also add revenue. What's more, people can buy items at the pro shop, with a percentage going to your cause.

    Look for as many moneymaking ideas as possible, but stay within the spirit of the event. After all, you want to provide value, and not cause supporters to feel they are just being hit up constantly for more donations. People will buy more and give more if they believe they are receiving quality goods and services.

    It is common for 50 percent of your income from a fundraiser to cover your expenses. Some organizations strive to keep fundraising costs at or below 15 percent of their total income. You can do this through generous donations from your organization's members or supporters.

    Typically, a nonprofit organization may spend 10 to 40 percent of its budget on fundraising activities; with that in mind, don't spend the entire year's fundraising budget on one activity. Also, stay within the boundaries of any start-up money you receive and do not spend any potential funds before you see them. Yes, you may raise $50,000, but if your budget is only $10,000, you are asking for trouble if you spend $30,000 and hope to make up the difference with revenue.

    If funding is coming in from advance ticket sales to your banquet or talent show, you can increase your expenses as needed, but do not build a budget on speculation. Also, remember not to build up your budget based on pledges for participants who will be engaging in an activity. While most people mean well, someone will inevitably pledge $10 a mile for your forty-mile bikeathon when she only has $300 in her checking account.

    The Ever-Changing Budget

    You may be a little more liberal in spending anticipated income if you have staged a similar fundraiser in the past and earned substantial revenue. However, you never know if the night of this year's auction will be the night of a major rainstorm that keeps everyone at home.

    Your budget may change as you plan and conduct your fundraiser. Perhaps there will be unexpected costs that will need to be added to your plans. Or perhaps you will add to or adjust your budget as you incorporate new ways to make money. In addition, you may scrap plans that don't look cost efficient or that are beyond your budget. Flexibility is key as you work with a budget.


    Getting significant portions of your upcoming fundraiser sponsored is one of the best ways to get adequate funds to cover your initial expenses. If you're having a golf tournament, you can have a different company sponsor each hole. You can then put their names on the scorecard and have signs by each hole.

    You can also have sponsors for the lunch you provide or for a demonstration given by the resident pro. You can display their logos on banners or screens. Everything can be sponsored — you just need to let people know you are looking for sponsorship. Call for sponsors through e-mail blasts and posts on your website. Newspapers are another great source; some sponsors may sign up as media partners and donate ad space, enabling you to announce your event and call for sponsors simultaneously.

    In addition to helping you achieve your fundraising goal, sponsorship from a major corporation bodes well when you are seeking additional sponsorship from other companies or grants from foundations. When a major company sponsors your activities, it lends credibility to your event, so aim high when seeking sponsors.

    Most sponsorship is provided in exchange for signage or some sort of mention of the company, which is usually mutually agreeable. However, if a sponsor begins asking for any kind of control over your plans, you may have to say no. Remember, your organization needs to maintain control.

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    4. Budgeting Expenses
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