How to Hold a Fundraising Cocktail Party

by M.J. Salamone

Charitable organizations large and small benefit from asking supporters to party for a purpose. Organizing a cocktail party fundraiser builds awareness and raises money at the same time. From a small cash bar event to the gala of the year, plan your fundraising party for success.

To Theme or Not to Theme

Charitable cocktail events come in all shapes and sizes. Work with your staff and volunteers to flush out a clear vision for what yours will be. Theme events can be as simple as black-tie or as complex as a masquerade ball. Bar-based fundraisers might involve wine tastings, beer samples, champagne toasts or full-bar bashes. A holiday cocktail party could be black-tie with Santa hats. A summer-themed gala could incorporate a Mad Hatter tea party concept. Your concept determines what sort of food, drink and entertainment you would like to offer up, so you can identify which sponsors to go after.

Asking for Donations

The heart of fundraising is the ask. Depending on your type of fundraising cocktail party, you will want to ask for donations of food, drink, entertainment and advertising. If you want to have beer and wine, be sure to ask local breweries and wine makers to partner on the event by serving samples at it. Reach out to musicians about donating performances. Local restaurants will sometimes give samples at a cocktail event as part donation, part marketing for their business. Approach media and websites to see if they would consider being a branded sponsor of the event in exchange for helping publicize it. Depending on liquor laws in your area, liquor distributors sometimes have promotions going on that allow them to donate as well. Ask everyone and ask big. If you are rejected, thank the potential donor for their time and move on to the next potential donor.

Booking a Venue

If your organization or charity does not have a space appropriate for holding a cocktail event, you will need to find a location. Make a list of your ideal places and ask them if they can accommodate you. Ask them for a donation or a reduced rate. Unique locales like a botanical garden, a tour boat or community theater help develop interest for your event because they offer their own draw. Restaurants and nightclubs may have private rooms available to you. Many hotels still have ballrooms. But be careful to choose a venue that is the right size for the number of people you reasonably expect to entertain.

Budgeting and Price Setting

Now that you have donated goods and services, you can determine how much you will need to spend on supplemental food, drink, decor and advertising. Once you have a clear idea of how much it will cost for food, drinks, venue and entertainment, determine how much you will spend on decorations and advertising, including printing costs. Divide the total of all of these by the number of tickets you are confident that you can sell. The resulting number is your cost per person attending. If you are selling tickets, you will want to think about doubling that number to determine a ticket price. If you are just doing a cash bar, this number might be your average drink cost. Factor in the amount that you hope to raise, trim your budget everywhere you can and focus on selling out your event.

Marketing and Selling Tickets

If you are selling tickets, ask your staff, volunteers and sponsors to all help sell tickets to the event. Take advantage of every free community calendar option online and in print throughout your community. Reach out to media and websites in your town and ask them to mention your fundraiser. Give out free tickets as a promotion. Put up fliers and if it is in your budget to do so, advertise as much as you can.

About the Author

M.J. Salamone is a newspaper journalist and editor with expertise writing about society and culture, media, politics, the arts and more. With 20 years of experience as a writer and journalist, Salamone enjoys digging into a multitude of topics.

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