How to Run a Restaurant Fundraiser

You'd be hard pressed to find many people who don't enjoy a meal out with friends and family, which makes a restaurant fundraiser one of those ideas that's guaranteed to be a sure-fire hit for your organization.

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By working out a deal with a local restaurant you can bring them customers, raise funds and enjoy a special night out all at the same time.

Another benefit of this type of fundraiser is that it doesn't need much in the way of preparation, beyond getting the word out about the event. The restaurant will already be equipped to prepare all the food you need (and to clean up everything afterwards), so all you need to do is supply the people.

The Restaurant

The first stage is to look for local restaurants who might be willing to get involved. Focus on venues with enough space and flexibility to accommodate all of the guests that you're expecting to turn up. It's a good opportunity to do your bit for the local community by supporting independent eateries or one that could use the extra customers.

Of course, the food and the menus are important considerations too: will your chosen restaurant have something to suit every taste? Is the food going to be of a decent quality? Having to deal with badly cooked dishes or underwhelming portions is going to put a real dampener on your event, so opt for a venue where you know the quality of the food can be relied upon.

Then there are the logistics — is your chosen restaurant going to be able to handle a huge influx of visitors in a single evening? Make sure you make arrangements with the owner and chef so that both you and they know what to expect.

Work out a percentage level of the takings that the restaurant can keep, but appeal to the manager's better nature: emphasize that the event is for a good cause and any money they can send your way will be much appreciated. Don't forget that your event may well provide them with repeat customers for many weeks and months to come.

Event Promotion

With the restaurant on board, it's time to turn your attention to promoting the event. Consider an angle that's going to appeal to as many people as possible: this could be a particular type of food (“pizza night!”) or a particular theme (“Californian cuisine”).

Be sure to underline that there's something for everyone, including vegetarians and vegans, so that no one uses the excuse of not liking the food as a reason for not coming. Settle on a time and a date that doesn't clash with other local events and which gives people plenty of time to get there after school or work (if you're holding the event on a weekday).

Promotional flyers are the best way of getting the word out about your event: they should be succinct, to the point, and informative, so that even someone who only takes a glance at the flyer will know what's happening. Try and make sure that there's no ambiguity and no need for people to request extra details, but also leave clear contact information just in case.

It's vitally important that your guests are clear about the good cause that you're raising funds for. This acts as an incentive for people to come along, and acts as a way of differentiating your fundraiser from other similar standard events.

Again, be as clear and concise as possible on your promotional materials, but give people a way of finding out more should they need to (via a website link, for example).

Fundraising Letters

Letters to members of the community (such as the school or church congregation you're working with) can also be a powerful and effective way of getting everyone involved with the fundraiser. A letter gives you more opportunity to add details about the good causes that your organization supports and the very real and tangible benefits that your guests will be bringing about by coming along.

A letter gives you more space to explain who the fundraiser is for and to pre-empt any queries that guests may have. You could use the opportunity to relay some feel-good stories from fundraising events in the past, or to add more detail about the specific projects and people that the money will be going towards.

Logistics

If you think there's a danger you might fill up your chosen venue, you'll need some form of booking or ticketing system in place. This could be as simple as getting guests to return a paper form or register their interest via an email.

If you have a good idea of the numbers you're expecting, then this makes life easier for the restaurant in terms of working out the logistics of the night.

You'll also need to agree on a way of working out which guests have arrived for the fundraiser. Again, this could be done via a ticket system, or guests could simply state that they come from the school or organization you're fundraising with. Make sure the restaurant is keeping a note of the takings that have been generated by the event.

Take time out to enjoy yourself and sample some great food too — it'll taste all the better knowing that you're raising funds for a worthy cause at the same time.

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