When nonprofits think quick-win fundraising, they often jump to the idea of throwing an event for their nonprofit. While many events can be great ways to evangelize for your cause and raise funds, a high-caliber event is not as easy to pull off as you might think.

There are a ton of hidden costs associated with throwing a nonprofit event. Don’t underestimate the investment of time, money and people that goes into a successful event–or you’ll end up losing money or only breaking even.

Watch to learn why you should think twice before throwing a nonprofit event:


If you’re thinking about starting a new fundraising event for your nonprofit, think again.

In the experience I’ve had working with nonprofits for over 20 years, only a few events have realized ongoing success. Here’s why you shouldn’t consider an event:

For every dollar you raise, you’ll spend at least half of that in expenses, if all goes well. I say if there isn’t potential to more than double your money after expenses and volunteer hours, then it isn’t worth your time. And that’s because you’ll burn out your volunteers who could otherwise be doing something better to help your cause. You can find friends for your organization doing less time consuming activities.

That’s not to say that events don’t have their place in your nonprofit. Small nonprofits can find success in small group gatherings, maybe hosted at a friend’s home. Or try building events around other programs you’re already producing. If you’re a theater company, for instance, host an opening night fundraiser where donors get special attention.

But before you commit to a major event, make sure you have a posse of committed board members who can recruit volunteers and find sponsorships, because that’s where the money is. Your staff needs to stay on the work of the organization.

The best nonprofit fundraising events are unique to your mission, creative and guaranteed to make money. No more live auctions and golf tournaments, please. I once helped out at a children’s museum event where they converted their boring silent auction into a carnival where in order to bid you had to play a game. What you’d expect from a children’s organization.

As a reminder, your major events will need a facelift about every five years in order to maintain your donors’ interest. 

What successes or failures have you had for an event? Post in the comments below.

Want More Nonprofit Videos?

Here are some of our latest: