How to Budget for Your School Carnival
When your planning committee decided to throw a major event like a school carnival or festival, your main goal was obviously fun. Unfortunately, a successful event budget can’t focus entirely on entertainment, fun, and food. Marketing, sponsorship recognition, and custodial services are all costs that you may not have considered.
Here’s a guide for balancing those essential expenses with a barrel of fun that won’t disappoint. The percentages below are based on actual event budgets; it’s okay to shift your budget around to some extent, but try to make sure that all of these expenses are properly accounted for as costs for your event.
Carnival Entertainment Expenses – 86%
While you can’t spend all of your budget on fun, it’s fair to expect that the bulk of it will be focused here. This portion of your budget will include games, activities, entertainment, and all of the set-up necessities to make those things possible.
Here’s a sample of how this portion of your budget might be broken down even further:
- General Setup – 17% – To make your carnival run smoothly, you’ll need the standard tables, chairs, and tents, but you may also need other supplies like tickets, tokens, and wristbands, depending on how you decide to manage access to activities.
- Prizes – 10% – Don’t forget that games need prizes!
- Actual Games & Activities – 73% – This category includes the games themselves, if you’re renting arcade games, for example. But it also includes the specific game setup supplies. Want to run a cake walk? If you aren’t able to have parents donate sweet treats (due to school guidelines), be sure that you budget for purchasing cakes. Want to have a dance floor? Be sure to include those activity-specific materials here. Renting activities from a company, like a mechanical bull, rock climbing wall, or inflatable obstacle course, can be a great way to bring in unique and fun attractions.
Marketing – 3%
Your planning committee can handle most of the marketing for a school carnival through the school itself; morning announcements, cafeteria menus, school social media, and website messages are likely all at your disposal. However, just to be sure that the word gets out to parents, you may want to create some signs to post near the school drop-off/pickup line or flyers to send home in children’s folders. Having a sign or flyers printed can be inexpensive, but it’s better not to overlook these potential costs. Collaborate with school administrators to see which options are allowable, and then be sure to leave enough room in your budget for these minor expenses.
Sponsorship Recognition – 4%
Getting sponsors is an excellent way to reduce many of the costs associated with your event. However, in return, sponsors will expect some recognition. You can provide sponsorship incentives that don’t impact your budget, such as social media shout-outs or live announcements, but a standard expectation is that the sponsored activity will have a branded banner displayed near it. A standard vinyl banner, measuring 2.5 feet by 4 feet can cost up to $55, so be sure you’ve reserved enough of your original budget to recognize sponsor contributions.
Custodial Services – 7%
A carnival will leave quite a mess for the school to clean up, and it’s a mess that goes well beyond the school maintenance staff’s standard duties. You should expect your school to charge an additional custodial fee for the overtime employees will work during and after the event. Don’t forget that a nice gesture of thanks would also be to ensure that the custodians are able to enjoy the event for free — not just work at it. Find out how many custodians your school is allocating to the event, and set aside tickets for them to enjoy the food and activities. (Providing tickets to teachers and staff is another nice gesture to consider!)
Utilizing This Budget
Whatever the size of your budget, raising funds is an important goal for your event, so let’s walk through what it might look like to implement this plan. If you set a $10,000 budget, the next questions to ask yourself are: what are my sponsorship contributions? And, how many people can we expect to attend?
Any amount that you bring in through sponsorships from local businesses will reduce the cost that you need to charge per ticket. So, if you have $2,500 in sponsorships, your 350 expected attendees only need to cover $7,500 of your costs. To break even on your budget, you would need to charge about $21.50 per person. However, to be sure that you are fundraising successfully, you should charge $25-30 per person, depending on what’s affordable for your school’s families. Take a look at the carnival budget template below:
Affordability is an important consideration to keep in mind when planning your event. The ticket will include a number of rides and games, but it won’t include additional rides, games, food, or drinks from the vendors or rentals you bring in. If $25 per person is too expensive for many families at your school, consider lowering your overall budget or finding additional sponsors to help mitigate costs. You can also see if the food vendors you hire will donate some portion of the proceeds to your project as another means of raising money in addition to your basic costs.
The important thing to keep in mind is that while this budget breaks down your expenses, you’ll need to be sure you’re charging enough to cover these costs. With any luck, at $25 per person with the scenario above, your event could at least $1,225!