6 Tips for Planning a Dinner Fundraiser

Tim Ahern | April 27, 2015

Dinner fundraisers are great for getting the word out about your organization, as well as a way to raise a large amount of money quickly. Many organizations find that one event each year is enough to give their campaigns a boost, leading to weeks of calls afterward, as attendees tell others about the event. In an age of social media, it’s also a great way to get marketing exposure for your organization, since attendees will usually post pictures from the event.

A successful dinner fundraiser doesn’t have to be a major undertaking. You can even start off simple if it makes you more comfortable. Here are six tips to planning a successful dinner event for your fundraiser.

1. Select a Theme

Your event’s theme is a big part of your marketing. Choose a theme that matches your organization’s mission but make sure it’s something that makes your dinner seem like a fun event to attend. If you’re a youth-oriented organization, make sure to involve the children, perhaps putting together a performance or demonstration. This will bring parents in and ensure everyone remembers the reason they’re all there.

2. Choose the Right Date

If your nonprofit sells products as part of your fundraiser, make sure the event date coordinates well with product order placement deadlines. Seasonal products like Christmas wreaths, for instance, require that orders be placed by October or November. You’ll want to make sure you allow extra time for orders to be placed in the weeks following your event, when excitement is high.

3. Plan a Menu

Your menu for the event will likely rely largely on your planned audience. A more casual group might merit a buffet, while more high-end groups require multi-course meals. Make sure you include a card with the invitation that allows attendees to specify special meal requirements when they RSVP, since many individuals now have dietary restrictions.

4. Set Up Donation Tables

In addition to the money you’ll raise by charging for tables and seats at your event, you should set up a table to capture orders and donations. If you’re selling products as part of your efforts, have those products on display. In addition to taking orders, have plenty of order forms for attendees to distribute to friends and co-workers after the event is over.

5. Consider Additional Moneymakers

There will be local people who can’t attend but want to participate. A silent auction is a good way to raise money while also helping promote local businesses. Many individuals and businesses will donate items for the publicity they’ll get.

6. Organize Volunteers

You’ll need people to help out with your dinner. Recruit and assign volunteers based on their own interests and abilities. You’ll need people to help with planning, setup, cleanup, and manning tables during the event. If you aren’t paying for table service, you’ll also need help with distributing and picking up plates throughout the evening.

A dinner fundraiser is a great way to bring in extra money and spread the word about the work you’re doing. When planned correctly, you can kick off an event that your community looks forward to throughout the year.