What Benefits Really Cost

May 22, 2002, 12:00 AM EDT

So how much do the city's big fund-raisers actually raise? Not as much as many patrons might think, according to a story in The New York Times' Style section. Many invitations state that “all but $150 of each ticket” is tax-deductible--meaning that's the price of putting on the party, and the rest goes to the charity. But when the Times looked into some nonprofits' tax filings, the numbers didn't match up.

Invitations to the New York Botanical Garden's June 6 Conservancy Ball say all but $150 of each $1,000 ticket is tax-deductible, but the cost of the garden's 2000 ball was $461.50 a head--almost half of the ticket price. But the charity execs say most of their patrons understand how they pay for things. “I think we're dealing with pretty sophisticated people,” said J. V. Cossaboom, a botanical garden vice president. “The fact is, we raise roughly $2.40 for every dollar spent, and that's not bad.”

Similarly, the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute benefit used the $150 tax figure for its $2,500 tickets, but the party cost $980,903 for 850 dinner guests. (Or if you add the 2,500 people who paid $250 to go to the after-dinner dance, the event cost $292 a head.)

“The bottom line is, the money has to come from somewhere,” nonprofit expert Peter Swords told the Times. “The big issue is, are donors aware that part of the money they thought was a contribution isn't necessarily supporting the charitable mission?” They are now.

Posted 05.22.02

If you plan benefits, do your costs match the figure on your invitation? And do you think it should? Let us know. Email

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