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Managing Event Expenses in Blackbaud CRM™

Hosting an event can be a costly affair. I’m sure all you event planners out there monitor your budget and expenditure very carefully, both during the event and at its conclusion, because no-one has a limitless budget, and expenses are an item (through post-event reporting) that definitely contribute to the success or failure of an event.

In Blackbaud CRM™ entering your expenses is optional when you create an event; it doesn’t affect how the event runs, but it’s a way of keeping all event related information in one place, which may help you stay on top of it all. By taking advantage of the optional tabs such as Expenses, and Documentation, you’ll have everything to hand should you be away from your desk (perhaps at the event with a tablet in hand), and not a lot of opportunities to search elsewhere.

Linked to the Expenses tab is an expense thermometer (located in the event summary panel). The expense thermometer is a visual representation of where your event expenses stand in relation to your budget. It compares the amount budgeted for expenses and the amount agreed upon so far (not the amount paid so far, but rather what you have agreed to pay each of the vendors). My question to you is, as an event coordinator, are you using the expenses thermometer in a way that you find useful, or have you shied away from using it because it doesn’t seem to accurately depict where your budget stands?

The prescribed way of using it is to add the budgeted amount, agreed amount and amount paid for each expense. And that works well, as long as you add a budgeted amount for each of the items right up front. The problem occurs when you enter your expenses in dribs and drabs.

If we look at the screenshot below, we’ve entered budgeted amounts for both Flowers and Entertainment, and we’ve added an agreed amount for the Flowers. According to the thermometer, we’re at 25% of our budget. But are we? We cannot really say that this is an accurate picture of where we stand because we haven’t considered the budget for Catering as yet. Our total budget is probably a lot more than the $3000 shown, therefore 25% is not accurate.

So how do we get the thermometer to reflect the true picture? There are a couple of options open to us.

The first option is to religiously enter each of the expense items at the get-go. Don’t leave anything off the list – if it’s part of the overall budget create an expense item for it, even if you don’t know what price you will agree upon, you do know what your budget is, and for the thermometer to accurately calculate where you stand it needs to know this total budget amount.

However, if you’re going to enter budget items in a sporadic “when they come to me” manner, the thermometer is not going to work for you without modifying the way you use it. So the second option is to enter expenses in a slightly different manner. First create a Total Budget Expense. Don’t concern yourself with breaking the budget down into individual line items. When you do this, enter a budgeted amount figure and nothing else (no agreed amount). Next create your individual expenses, entering only the agreed amounts (don’t add a budgeted amount for the individual expenses as that would add to the total budget and adversely affect the thermometer).

This approach allows you to enter expenses as they crop up – as long as your total budget doesn’t change, you’ll have an accurate indication of where you stand.

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