It’s Time to Throw a Party!

I live in a town that loves their fundraising events!

It’s true. In the state of Indiana, a total of 9% of fundraising revenue comes from fundraising events. In Evansville, where I live, that number jumps to 13%. We love our fundraisers.

One local business-owner attempts to support every fundraising event in town. That amounts to over 200 sponsorships per year!

I often wonder why that’s the case. More than a decade ago, James Greenfield demonstrated the Return-On-Investment for different fundraising activities, in his book Fund Raising: Evaluating and Managing the Fund Development Process. Here are the numbers:


As you can see, event fundraising has the second highest cost per dollar raised.

Maybe you’re asking now: Michael, I see direct mail acquisition is even more expensive, and you advocate for that, don’t you? Yes, I do. We’re talking about two different approaches. Donor acquisition pays off when first-time givers become second-time donors. By the third renewal, the cost per dollar raised drops to 46 cents.

In the meantime, event fundraising will never drop below 50 cents per dollar. Add to that the complete burnout of board members and other volunteers, the lost time that staff and volunteers could spend on more efficient and effective (and sustainable!) modes of fundraising (ie., major gifts), and you can see why I don’t like event fundraising.

Regardless, you’re probably going to host an event. So here are my keys to event fundraising.

  1. Reduce your schedule to one, premiere event per year. To do an event correctly, it takes months of planning and asking.
  2. Make your sponsorships matter. Find that title sponsor that can match or exceed the event costs. Ensure that gross revenue is at least double your event costs – in other words, raise twice as much as you spend.
  3. Treat the event as an acquisition campaign by collecting contact information. Perhaps you can funnel some new donors into your annual renewal pool, thereby reducing cost per donor over the long-term.

Having been involved in a number of fundraising events, I am happy to help you think through your next fundraising event. Please be in touch with me.

Greenfield’s book is worth a read as well – you can find it in my bookstore on