Event budgets 101 blog

Event Budget 101

Budgets are often one of the most stressful parts of your event planning process, but they don’t have to be! Even in the post-COVID world riddled with high inflation, you can set realistic expectations for all those involved. When you are starting out with a new event, your budget may focus on broad categories. A more established event may dive into deeper detail. Let’s take a look at some of those categories: 



Your venue can be a large expense and determine many of your other budget items. Different events require different vendors and can have certain restrictions. An example may be an in-house AV or Catering vendor and if you don’t use that vendor, an additional liaison fee likely will apply. Some venues do offer significant discounts or fully waived room rental rates for a high enough food and beverage minimum. Many of the other categories (ie parking, security) on your budget will hinge on your venue. Be sure to ask lots of questions when having conversations during your venue search.


Catering is likely your highest expense item for an event. This can be especially true if you are including a plated dinner and open bar. Many venues will have preferred caterers or in-house caterers, so when you start looking at venues be sure to ask for their menus and pricing. This will help you determine costs ahead of signing a contract and find the best fit. Additionally, don’t forget taxes and fees! These details are typically explained in the menu and venue details, but can add up to a higher per-person cost than just the prices on the page.

Event Software

There are many software options that are specially designed to help you along the way. Different software have a variety of functionalities and price points; there are even some great free versions that are open to non-profits! Some of the platforms we have used include OneCause, AES, GiveSmart, Auction Harmony, and more. 

Audio Visual

Audio and Visual expenses can vary greatly depending on your event. Your event may have a virtual component or simply an online silent auction available for guests to bid remotely and in-person. Your venue may have some in-house AV equipment. Typical items include: built-in screens and sound systems, stage, podium and mics. Often times, however, you will be outsourcing AV services. This is a big bucket to discuss with your potential venues in your venue search as AV equipment and labor can add up quickly. It is also a very important component – if people can’t hear or see your program, their experience is diminished. 


Making a statement with your decor is key! It is standard for venues to offer votives and mirrors for tables. You may decide to add decor or to let the venue shine through. An event in a renovated vintage theater may not need the same pipe-and-drape or room decor as a modern hotel ballroom. We have incredible decor vendors in the Twin Cities metro area including Festivities, Event Lab, BlomMonster, GirlFriday, Moss Studios, and more. If you have a robust number of staff and volunteers, you may want to consider DIY decor to minimize spend. When doing any sort of do-it-yourself decor be mindful of the time these take to assemble and pack up at the end of the night. While DIY decor may be less expensive, be sure to understand the volunteer labor impact.

Service Partners/Other Vendors

These can include any other vendors needed to bring the experience of your event alive. Some examples are: photographers, photo booth, auctioneers, live entertainment, music/DJ, and keynote speakers. These partners typically operate on an hourly rate that flexes with the number of people performing.


Everything used to promote the event can be considered marketing. Costs in this bucket may include: graphic design, printing, postage, advertising and social media promotion.. 


Track all items that create income for the event, beyond just the amounts raised in the room. Consider the following buckets when looking at the revenue raised.

Ticket Sales

Consider offering a VIP ticket with added perks for a higher cost.


Companies often allocate certain dollar amounts for these types of sponsorship opportunities in their yearly budgets. In exchange for sponsorships, they will receive recognition during the event on marketing materials and more depending on the sponsorship level. 

Onsite Revenue Generation

Keep track of any special items like those on consignment. These are items that need to make a certain amount in order to be sold. Keep track of these the night of to determine if/when that amount is reached. 

  • Live Auction

Consider any items that have costs associated with them (i.e.: The owner of the boat for the “specialty boat cruise” has requested that it doesn’t sell for less than $5,000). Additionally, be aware of what items can be sold twice and make the auctioneer aware so they can read the donors in the room and determine if those funds are available. 

  • Giving Moment

Be sure to keep track of pre-committed gifts and those given spontaneously in the room. 

Raffles, Wine Pulls, Plinko, the list goes on and on!


Many vendors offer non-profit discounts or exchanges of goods/services for sponsorship recognition. 

By creating your budget, you can track expenses and adjust as items come in higher or lower than expected. Don’t be discouraged if your first year’s budget has items that come in higher than expected; accurately budgeting takes time and experience with the event. By using the budget to guide you, you can get the most bang for your buck; from landing additional sponsors, to help with costs, to finding a vendor who is inexpensive and offers a great product. 

Do Good Difference 

Do Good Events believes in supporting our non-profit community through planning exceptional events that help them hit and exceed their fundraising goals. We also come alongside our non-profit partners through reduced rates and sponsorship opportunities.

Each fall, we offer the DGE Giveback that allows us to giveback portion of our profits to current clients.

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