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January 13, 2017 EATS! What Puts the Most Money in Your Nonprofit’s Pocket?

Nonprofits ask us all of the time which type food service is best for a fundraising event.  You may think this is a silly question but there is actually quite a lot of logic to picking the right food service when it comes to raising the most money possible at your event.

There are three types of food service most often used at a fundraising event; a seated dinner, a buffet or a heavy hors d’oeuvres setup.  Let’s look at how each of these plays into your event:

Heavy Hors d’oeuvres – Let’s face it, this type of food service is almost always the most economical option for your nonprofit. But while this is usually the least expensive way to feed the crowd at an event, it may ultimately wind up costing your organization a lot of money in the long run.  This casual food service type sets a tone for the evening that causes guests to mingle, talk and eat – while the fundraising is taking place (gulp).  Not good. There are usually a few tables where guests can sit but for the most part they are standing during the event.  From a fundraising stand point, this format is the most challenging situation because of the difficulty it creates for keeping the guests’ attention. I urge my nonprofit clients to avoid this type food service if there is any way they can.

Buffets – This is the financial “halfway” point in event food service; buffets are more expensive than hors d’oeuvres but less expensive than a seated dinner.  Most buffets have a specific opening time with guests being invited to eat at their leisure.  Some groups have enough tables for everyone to sit and eat while others have limited seating.  While this format is not as treacherous for fundraising as the hors d’oeuvres scenario is, it is only somewhat better and then ONLY when all the guests are seated.  The next paragraph will explain why.

Seated Dinner – Having all your guests seated at tables with dinner service provided is always optimum from a fundraising standpoint. Why? Because seated guests more simply more inclined to focus on the program. Their conversations are also more controlled in this environment.  Yes, this meal service is the most expensive option but you will make more money in the end with a seated dinner. And don’t forget you can pass the expense of a seated dinner along to your guests by incorporating those costs into the ticket price so you won’t feel that economic pinch.

No matter which of these meal service options you choose, in all cases the program should be short and sweet prior to the live auction. Why is this? I’ll give you two reasons. When you place the live auction and Fund-A-Need at the end of the evening, after a lot of speeches and/or awards, it sends a message to your guests that fundraising is not your priority.  Additionally, you’ll avoid “guest fatigue” if you don’t cause your patrons to be sitting for extended periods of time during speeches and such. Programs that drone on and on cause guests to become disengaged and also allow the opportunity for them to become intoxicated.  (I’ve addressed this point in a prior blog – read that good info here.)

Make your meal service choice a priority when planning your next fundraising event. The money you raise depends on it.

Make every minute a revenue generating minute!

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