Tired of the Same Old Bake Sale?
There are plenty of scrumptious ways to plan a food fundraiser—without baking another one of grandma’s famous apple pies. Think beyond the bake sale. Here are some of our favorite culinary fundraisers to whet your appetites:
Top Food Fundraising Ideas
The soup fundraising dinner is a popular church and community center charity event. Just bring a spoon and bowl, and dish up some hot, delicious ladles of homemade soup. Many church groups will do this sort of fundraiser once a month to help the soup kitchen, or a charity that focuses on helping the less fortunate.
You can either ask for a set price per bowl, or let donors contribute what they can—oftentimes the latter works better. To mix it up a bit, if you’re hosting this event on a regular basis, offer themed soup days such as soup and salad bar, a chicken soup for the soul day, spicy chili day, and maybe even throw in a soup and sundae bar.
You can also sell soup mixes and stock to make extra funds for your charity.
These dinners are easy on the organizer and volunteers because everyone only has to contribute one dish each. The potluck fundraiser is accessible to everyone. Just think how many people would like to attend a formal fundraising dinner, but just can’t afford the pricey tickets.
Instead, potluck dinners bring to life an old tradition that has people getting together and sharing food without putting a costly burden on the host. With potlucks, everyone shares in the cooking.
Ask guests to each bring one dish to share. It can be an appetizer, a main course, a salad, a side dish, a dessert, a fruit platter, or a cheese and cracker tray. This makes for an eclectic meal, especially if people from a variety of cultures are attending.
You can ask for donations through admission fees, or you can share food and then collect charity funds by selling the recipes, or a book of recipes, of the yummy dishes offered.
Dress your Potato Bar
Mr. Potato Head sure enjoyed a good dress up day. Try tempting your guests with an all-you-can-eat potato bar for your next dinner fundraiser. This is another charity event that’s easy on your volunteers because it requires minimum preparation.
All you need for a Dress your Potato Bar is baked potatoes, and a wide variety of fixings. Some popular options are salsa, chili, sour cream, shredded cheese, butter, bacon bits, steamed broccoli, chives, grilled mushrooms and onions, hot peppers, ham, lemon, ketchup, and spices.
If your fundraiser is for kids, consider setting up a craft station with potato carving tools, and fixings in fun shapes. You can even judge the best dressed potato and offer prizes. You can charge per potato, or per admission if this is an all-you-can-eat affair.
Barbecue Grill Off
A barbecue contest is a great reason to fire up the grills and break out your best barbecue tools! Come summer, the smell of the barbecue has everyone’s mouths watering. You can grill steaks, ribs, burgers, hot dogs, sausages, or chicken, and if your guests aren’t carnivores you can even grill vegetables such as Portobello mushrooms, corn on the cob, and skewers with chunks of vegetables such as onions, peppers, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, and squash.
Throw further fire on the grill by making your fundraiser a little competitive. Host a barbecue contest and ask guests to judge the top grill skills. You can even make extra funds by selling homemade barbecue sauces. Create various grilling categories—best grilled meats, vegetables, and best sauces.
Make your charity funds through an entry fee, or you can charge hungry donors by the plate.
Spicy Chili Contest
When the temperature dips, everyone is hoping to put some warm food in their bellies. Everyone whips out mom’s famous chili recipe for just this purpose. A chili fundraiser not only brings in needed funds, it’s also a reason to socialize and share your favorite chili recipe.
Chili cook-offs raise funds through an entry fee. All chefs pay an admission fee, but remember you must offer good prizes to the winner. Offer different categories for prizes.
For instance, spiciest chili, vegetarian chili, meatiest, chicken chili, white chili, etc. If the space and facilities permit, allow chefs to prepare onsite, however you can also ask guests to bring their pre-cooked chili to the venue. Take in further donations per bowl, and offer canned chili sauces for the audience to raise extra money.
Blue Plate Special
This fundraiser puts a hilarious, retro twist on the food fundraiser. The blue plate fundraiser has guests bidding for their dinner. Meals are prepared by volunteers ahead of time and can be a simple scrambled egg breakfast, meatloaf, shepherd’s pie, or more adventurous fare such as lobster, shrimp cocktail, or surf and turf.
It is up to each volunteer to decide what to bring. Each meal is covered to conceal its identity, and guests bid on the secret meals.
You will need a food warmer to keep dinners hot until the bidding begins. The key is to use a talented emcee, who can keep people guessing as to whether it is a fancy meal or not. You can set the price at whatever you like, but $25 is typical (depending on what it cost to make the plate).
Hot Dog Concession Stand
Everyone loves a quick hot dog on the run. So why not turn your next fundraiser into a food concession and sell hot dogs with all the fixings? The hot dog stand is an ideal charity fundraiser to set up outside social events, sporting events, or concerts. You can rent everything you need to set up a hot dog concession stand, you just need to purchase and sell the food! Make sure you make it obvious you are selling hot dogs to charity to set you apart from any competition and don’t forget the soda and chips.
Rise and Shine Pancake Breakfast
This fundraiser breakfast has participants paying an entrance fee for all-you-can-eat pancakes. It usually includes pancakes, syrup, fruit, eggs and sausage, coffee and juice, etc. Find a facility to host your breakfast and prepare your food, and ask volunteers who have food handling experience to lend a hand.
Bada-boom Spaghetti Dinner
This fundraiser is appropriate for all groups. Big dinners will require a banquet hall, cafeteria, or gymnasium space. Ask local grocery stores and restaurants for donations. You will need spaghetti noodles, tomato sauce, meatballs, Italian bread, drinks, dessert, plates, cups, and plastic dinnerware. Sell tickets for admission, and let guests help themselves to the all-you-can-eat buffet-style dinner.
Best set up near a big sporting event, the sub sandwich sale is a sure winner. Pre-make a variety of subs—cold cuts, Italian, turkey, or ham and cheese. You can ask for food donations from local bakeries and delis. For toppings, you will want pickles, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, and a good variety of sauces so buyers can dress their own subs.
Sweet Chocolate Charity
Selling candy bars is an easy way to make money, especially if it’s 3pm at your office and your coworkers are having snack attacks. Most people have a weakness for chocolate, and better yet, you can put your kids to work selling door to door. After all, chocolate + a sweet smile = loads of donations.
Cooking Class Fundraiser
People are always looking to improve their cooking skills. With a cooking class fundraiser, people can learn to cook new things while giving to a good cause. Find a local chef to donate their time, or if you have a skilled chef on your team, they can hold the cooking class. Sell tickets to the event and once the class is over, the participants get to enjoy the food they prepared.
Wine Tasting Evening
An evening of wine tasting makes a fun and sophisticated fundraising event. Sell tickets to the event (making sure all participants are over 21) and feature four or five different wines. You can contact local wineries about sponsoring the event and promoting their wines to keep the overhead costs down. Don’t forget to include some light appetizers that pair well with the wines you are serving!
Instead of your typical bake sale, hold a pie sale instead. This will put some extra parameters on the bake sale idea and encourage people to be creative with their pies. Make sure to advertise well for the day of the sale so plenty of hungry participants come ready to buy. Funds will be raised through all of the pies sold.
A cookbook fundraiser can be a lot of initial work, but often yields great results. The first step is finding people to donate their unique recipes- you can do this by talking to members of the groups you are affiliated with, such as your church or your child’s school. Once you have the recipes and put together a cookbook, it’s time to start selling! People will love the idea purchasing of a handmade cookbook full of unique recipes.
Gourmet Dinner Party
Gather up some pro or amateur chefs and auction off their skills. While a night out on the town is always fun, it’s a unique treat to have a gourmet dinner party with friends in the comfort of your own home. Chef’s will go to winner’s homes and prepare a full three course meal for them and their friends!