5 Areas to Consider When Planning a Fundraising Event

Planning a fundraising event such as a gala or golf tournament can be a daunting task, but with a little direction and planning, your event is sure to not only be financially rewarding for your non-profit but also a memorable experience for the organization and the donors. As you begin thinking about what your event will entail, consider these five steps:

Mission – Identify what the primary purpose of the event is. Is it to raise much needed funds for a new building, to fund a new and exciting program or maybe just for general operating support?  Ensure that all of your materials for the event are consistent and concise with what the message and theme of the event is meant to be.  The clearer your message, the clearer the reporting and accounting treatment will be.

Timeline – Work backwards from the time of the event, to determine the proper timing for all of the planning that goes into an event. It generally takes several months, up to a year, to properly plan for an event, depending on how elaborate it is.

Delegate – A great event has great teams behind them. Ensure that all tasks are divided among the various needs, such as marketing, vendor relationships, expense budget, entertainment and food, staffing, ticket sales, social media communication, cash management and credit card processing, data entry/tracking, etc. This will ensure that all tasks are being addressed timely and by the right people.  Importantly, to reduce the risk to your organization, make sure there is one committee or person assigned to gathering information regarding regulatory items, such as permits for a raffle, police detail, credit card processing or other town regulation.

Communicate – This is likely the most critical item contributing to the success of your event.  Make sure to communicate your mission and financial goal of the event well in advance and in multiple mediums to your membership, donors, stakeholders and community. Using email, social media, mail, phone and maybe even texts all can help reach as many varied prospective attendees as possible.  Also, communicate multiple times to ensure your invitees respond as early as possible to help you with securing a solid headcount for the event in advance.  Also, remember the tip from the first bullet above, be consistent and clear with your message and purpose of the event, to ease the burden later when trying to classify the revenue and expenses from the event.  Don’t forget to report back to supporters of the event regarding how the event measured against the goals and what will be done with the funds raised.

Tracking & Reporting – You should have a database of all of your attendees, with number of tickets sold and price, additional donations given, sponsorships, etc. Also, keep a comprehensive list of all non-cash items donated for auctions or raffles. IRS reporting requires you to break out the fair value of the items donated, then separately state the amount those donated items were “purchased” at auction for. You should also be able to report the type and number of items donated. Finally, if you have different appeals at your event, ensure that you are tracking these separately, as accounting and reporting treatment will vary based on the purpose of the gifts given. When in doubt, call your auditor/990 preparer to find out what information is needed to be tracked separately so you know ahead of time.


Jeanne Pagnozzi Boston AccountantJeanne Pagnozzi is a manager in BlumShapiro’s Accounting and Auditing Department, based in Quincy, Massachusetts, Jeanne oversees attest and tax engagements and is responsible for engagement planning, staff supervision and coordination with client personnel to ensure successful completion of projects.

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