Hackathon Budgeting

Know the costs associated with your hackathon.
Budgets are the main starting point in determining how much your sponsorship requirements for the hackathon will be. It also helps determine the logistical load your organizing team is looking to take on and which tools and services can help you do your best and most productive work in an economical way.
The best starting point of making a budget is always using an excel sheet writing down the main tools/ services you're taking into account and the different other things that will make up the best experience for your hackers.

Major Costs to Consider

  • Food: Providing hackers with food is one of the major costs associated with any hackathon. Everyone expects their dietary restrictions to be fulfilled alongside having high quality good at the hackathon. This comes in as one of the major aspects of hacker experience at almost any hackathon we have seen.
    • You want to make sure you have enough food, but are also not being wasteful. If you plan on ordering extra food talk with a nearby shelter you could bring extras to after meal time. Keep in mind that you will have to do this quickly to keep the food at the right temperature to still be safe for consumption.
    • You also might want to order less food as the hackathon progresses to be cost efficient.
      • The HackUTD team shared these stats with us using information gathered at checkin and each mealtime with QR code scans from their platform called HackPortal. "At a high level theres usually ~90% claim rate (out of total registrations) for 1st day lunch, ~80% Dinner, midnight snack ~70%, ~30% breakfast and 60% day 2 lunch. These stats are not including what we give to sponsors, volunteers, mentors and organizers, so depending on those numbers we usually order a fixed amount of more food for each meal. These are generalized stats from the portals I have access to. Most of them are in a +/-10% range to these numbers. The location of the hackathon can impact these numbers - for instance, [if an event] didn't let anyone leave the building... I suspect their %s [would be] higher."
  • Communication Platform for building up conversations within the hackathon. It can also be used for announcements or updates and to share resources with hackers. This is usually free but if you want to upgrade the platform(for example paying for Discord Nitro) you should budget the costs. Recommended Platform: Discord
  • Swag: "Stuff We All Get" T-shirts, stickers, water bottles, lanyards, etc.
  • Prizes: Though giving out prize money might seem like an easier option, we recommend giving out something that can help hackers learn, grow and utilize for their personal development.
  • Web Hosting/ Internal Toolings: One of the starting costs for any hackathon. Though these are one of the most important costs which might get overlooked we recommend checking out the GitHub Education Student Developer Pack and different open source alternatives for the tools you might be paying for unnecessarily.
Before you can begin asking for money, get a sense of how much cash you need to pull off your hackathon. Create a budget template based on estimated costs and your expected number of attendees.
Note: We recommend you build in a buffer of $1,000 to $3,000, depending on the size of the event. In our experience, organizers will always need this extra money. If you don't, you now have a head start for next year!

Helpful Figures

Over the years we've found the averages costs for major budget items are as follows (US Hackathons):
  • Food: $8-10 per person per meal
  • Snacks & Drinks: $10 per person
  • T-Shirts: $5-8 per person (dependent on volume)
  • Buses: $3,500 per bus