Fantastic Food + Fundraising
Fabulous food at fundraising events matters! We hear complaints about food too often – it’s cold upon arrival, inedible, only half the table has entrees, rubber chicken, a server spilled something on a major donor – the list goes on and on! Food can impact the amount of money raised at fundraising events. Bad food equals a bad guest experience, and THAT means money left on the table. When guests are happy, they give more.
Know Your Donors
Get to know the folks you call donors. Are they religious, health conscious, allergic, or restricted in their eating? Just knowing the answers to these simple questions will help you avoid a number of menu mishaps and keep your crowd content and in the giving mood. If you’re unsure, ask!
Vet Catering Companies
Who will cater your event? It’s likely the biggest factor determining donor satisfaction, in terms of the quality of food served, the service itself and how happy (and GIVING) your donors will be as a result. Caterers and servers have an incredibly tough job, and a lot of companies are understaffed right now, meaning service is slower than ever. Your best recipe (pun intended) for success is to choose a catering company that’s intimately familiar with fundraising events. One that understands the program is waiting for THEM to start. One that already knows to leave the floor during the special appeal, so you don’t have to tell them. Do major reconnaissance and select wisely. Check references and find out how satisfied former customers are/were. Put service and quality at the forefront of all fundraising decisions for happier donors.
Taste a New Trend
Lately, some orgs are opting for an event that’s strictly dessert and cocktails. Others are going with heavy hors d’oeuvres and passed appetizers, instead of a sit-down dinner. Some guests prefer getting to sample a variety of yummy little bites, instead of a traditional dinner. If you think this is something your crowd might enjoy, give it a try but make certain you communicate the change clearly so donors remain in the know.
Another trend we’re seeing more of is food carts at events. Our friends at The AV Department provide this option at their new venue Avenue. Portland is famous for food carts, after all! And other markets are starting to follow this trend.
Just Say No to Buffets
Seriously. No donor wants to stand in line – EVER – especially if they have to work to serve themselves the meal they paid a premium for. Don’t make guests work at anything while attending your fundraiser.
Furthermore, buffets are MOMENTUM KILLERS. They take far longer than any other type of service. This delays the start of the live program, and consequently, the velocity of the entire night. You never want the fundraising to start AFTER your donors have peaked energetically.
Many clients argue that buffets are cost-effective. Are they, though? It may be a bit cheaper, overall, to go buffet-style, but they devalue your event and donors won’t like that. If it’s not a great experience for guests, they don’t give to capacity, nor will they tell everyone how great your event was. A buffet might save you a few dollars a head in the short term but your bottom line will surely suffer in the long run. Trust us. Buffets are momentum-killers. Just say no.
The days of two meal options – “meat or vegetarian” – are over. These days, you have ovo-vegetarians, lacto-vegetarians, pescatarians, vegans… it’s imperative to offer options for folks on most any diet. Not to mention food allergies – peanuts, lactose, gluten and caseins are common – it’s not easy to accommodate all of your guests! You must know who they are and if they can eat what you provide.
Culturally or Religiously-Insensitive Menus
Again – you must know who is in the room. Consider your demographic before booking your catering company and determining the menu. You certainly wouldn’t want to offer shrimp and ham to kosher Jewish donors or beef to your Hindu guests. Are you raising money for a Catholic school on a Friday during the season of Lent? Be sure to have vegetarian options.
Hard + Soft Drinks
Not everybody drinks alcohol. Keep this in mind when planning your drink menu. Not everybody drinks soda either! You can do much better (when it comes to nonalcoholic drinks) than soda. Consider offering a signature cocktail and a related “mocktail” – ideally, something that aligns with your mission or night’s theme. Add sparkling waters and juices (can double as cocktail mixers. Bonus!) to keep everyone happy.