Financial planning for a special event -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Financial planning for a special event

By Aileen Pistone

Key to a successful special event is your finance team and its game plan. Oftentimes, it is assumed that this particular area will simply merge with the existing national program finance systems. But this is not often the case. Here are a few tips that many of us take for granted, but that need to be addressed individually when putting a special event together.

1. Create your own budget:
Use other special event budgets as guidelines, but take the time to do your homework. Collect several quotes for each line item and determine what the real cost will be for your national program. Talk to others who have hosted special events and determine what line items could be missing and then incorporate them.

2. Hire additional staff:
A special event will place enormous stress on existing finance staff. It is always a good idea to hire extra finance or accounting staff to handle the additional workload.

3. Proper purchasing:
If your organization doesn't have a defined purchasing procedure before a special event, it will need one. A minimal level of purchasing controls includes the use of purchase orders, purchase requisitions and an approval matrix. Learn from those who have hosted past events, and contact their offices to obtain samples.

4. Good accounting systems:
The system can be on paper or using software but the information and the procedures input should be of the highest quality. A good starting point to see whether your organization has good accounting systems would be to look at the results of your latest external audit. You should not consider hosting a special event if your latest external audit was negative. In addition, consider asking for an internal audit to ensure that the proper internal controls are in place.

5. Additional reporting:
Besides a good accounting system, your organization will be required to create and manage an increased number of reports due to a special event. Make sure that your staff is prepared to take on the additional work and can turn in the additional reports on-time.

6. Clear communication:
Finally, make sure that everybody involved in the special event is aware of the rules of the game. This is not a matter of a simple communication in writing, but a matter of sharing directly with the people involved, what is really important and to be taken into account, even if it is a simple, “taken for granted” fact. Clear communication will help avoid misunderstandings and disagreements in the future.

Aileen Pistone has been involved with several major HFH special events over the years and has been responsible for the logistics and/or project management of the events.