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Virtually every charity for which I have worked has raised money by holding a variety of charitable events. Many of these events are fabulous – donors, participants and sponsors alike all have a great time with galas, poker tournaments, golf tournaments, concerts, raffles, auctions, bazaars, fashion shows, wine & cheese (Steak & Scotch is better) evenings, Something-a- thon – indeed the list is endless. But how much do they really raise? Does the ROI, if calculated properly, justify the effort that went into creating the event?

I recently visited a potential client who advised me that her organization nets about $200,000 (for 4 events) but the volunteer group is starting to burn out. Clearly, they need to sustain their current fundraising efforts but need to do something else before volunteer burnout sets in completely. I wonder how many other organizations out there are in the same situation.

I have estimated that to plan a major event (to net $150,000) requires at least 445 professional hours and at least 10 – 20 volunteers that put in 100 hours each over a 6 month period. For this exercise, let’s assume 15 volunteers@100 hours. In total we are talking about 1945 professional and volunteer hours to make this event happen. Let’s assume their combined average cost is $50 per hour. So the labour cost for this event is just over $97,000. Assuming all other costs are factored out by sponsorship, ticket sales, etc. breakeven is $97,000. If the net was $150,000, the ROI would be 1.54. Is this acceptable? At the end of the day, what ROI makes the cost worthwhile? And is there an opportunity cost, that is, could more money be raised for the same effort?

I work with charities and non-profits to help them do what they do better. If your organization is looking to increase its ROI, contact me at 514-947- 3406 or email me: to discuss what we can do for you.