Summertime, and the givin’ is easy. Maybe too easy. With the onslaught of galas, benefits and fundraisers in the warmer months, you can suddenly find you’ve blown your budget on a score of can’t-miss events.

Alexandra Lebenthal

So how do you decide whether to go for the VIP ticket, the regular ticket or just a movie ticket? And should you fund your gala-hopping from your entertainment budget or your charity budget? Here, Alexandra Lebenthal, CEO of family-wealth management advisers Alexandra & James, navigates through the summer benefit season.

How do people generally budget for fundraisers, benefits and galas?

I don’t think people sit down every year and say, “Okay, this year we’re going to spend ‘X’ amount.” But they usually have a charitable budget overall that’s based on the same kind of general number every year.

So whether it’s $10,000, $50,000 or $200,000, people do typically carve out a certain portion of their budgets for organizations that are important to them.

How should people decide how much to spend on fundraisers?

I think you decide it’s going to be, say, four events over the summer. Or – if the tickets are $250, $100 or whatever – you may decide you’re going to spend a certain amount in total.

It also really depends on how charitable you want to be, and if you really want to focus on one or two organizations, rather than attend every single party. And I do think people should be conscious of whether they’re going to every single party.

What about young people with lower salaries? How should they budget fundraisers?

If you’re younger, in your 20s, you start to get invited to a lot of things. And it can be very alluring to spend large sums on benefits. I think one to two percent of a young person’s gross income is probably a good number to work with.

But remember, it’s not just the cost of the ticket. It’s also the clothes and the hair and all that goes along with it. So it really is important to sit down and plan your budget.

Do you file fundraisers under entertainment or charity expenses?

I think 50 percent of people would say it’s charity, and 50 percent would say it’s entertainment – especially if you’re talking to the social world of New York and the Hamptons, where the two do kind of become intertwined.

But also, the tax deduction is important. And if you have the money to buy the ticket, chances are you’re in a relatively high tax bracket.

Any advice on how to save when you spend on benefits?

There are always levels of ticket prices, so you can spend less if you want to go to more events. Also, there are a lot of events that have a lower ticket price for people who are under 40 or under 35.


How do you budget summer events such as galas and fundraisers? Do you consider that part of your entertainment budget or your charity budget?