Low Budget Fundraiser for 200 people
- Gordon Strause
In a month I'm chairing an alumni and friends fundraiser for a service corps called City Year. The alumni for this program are still quite young themselves, mostly in their mid-20s, so the cost of the event is only $25-30 dollars (and just $15 for current students). The event will run from 6:30-8:30 pm, and we are promising appetizers and drinks (not dinner). We are expecting about 200 people.
I think we're going to be able to get the drinks donated (or at least at cost), so now I'm hoping to come up with some interesting ideas for food. However, cheap is key. The goal is to spend less than $5 per person (and ideally about $4).
So one obvious approach is to "do it ourselves". And we will potentially have a number of folks available that day to do some preparation (as well as folk available the weekend before: the event is on a Thursday night). That said, these would be very unskilled volunteers, so it would have be very simple preparation.
Any ideas for a "menu" and where we should be buying? Are Costco and/or FreshDirect likely to be our best options?
Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and many largish local markets/restaurants (Rainbow Grocery in SF, AG Ferrari, Chevy's) have programs set up to donate food to nonprofits.
Your organization needs to have a 501C3 license, or you can get a sponsor to use their license and then donate food to you. I've had food at events catered by all the places I've mentioned, and they have a wonderful selection of everything you could ever want.
Do you care at all what type of food you have? What sort of format do you envision? Indidivual things that can be picked up and carried off, or would things like dips and spreads be OK? What sort of expectation do you think people will have for food quality (quality not necessarily meaning fanciness)? Does all the food have to be prepared literally before it starts or will anyone be able to do on-going prep work.
If your help is seriously unskilled, it's going to be tough coming up with any very interesting. If you have at least a few people with skills and the rest are willing to follow directions and stick to the more boring prep work, you have more options. Also, what sort of facilities and equipment will be available? Will people have to make things and bring them or will you have a central place where you'll have any sort of appliances (or where people can bring them)?
If your organization has any kind of name recognition, it couldn't hurt to call around a little to any bigger, mass-market caterers like Fairway and Citarella's to see if they can do anything for you. If any of you organizers shop regularly at smaller places where they actually recognize you, you could try them too.
Good questions. Here are my best answers at this point:
- We're pretty open and flexible in terms of kinds of food. The folks attending, fortunately, will have low expectations in terms of quality (that hopefully we'll be able to exceed).
- Having some food you can pick up and walk around with we'll be important, but we could certainly have some dips and spreads as well. Probably 50/50 would be good.
- We will have the ability to keep preparing food once the event starts (plenty of volunteers and enough room), but I would prefer not to have (young, unskilled folk).
- Facilities aren't great for preparation. Just one (normal size) sink. Any equipment would be brought by volunteers. That said, there is plenty of space, tables, and a fridge.
- We're definitely looking into donations/discounts from local stores and restaurants.