How to Plan a Barbecue Fundraiser

by Fern Morris

A barbecue is a great way to raise funds to support an organization or charitable cause while providing an opportunity for people to participate in an inexpensive and family friendly activity. Depending on how much time you have and how many people you want to attend, you may need a larger support network of volunteers and local vendors offering in-kind donations. Begin planning the event a couple months in advance to allow plenty of time to coordinate the food and logistics.

Delegate Different Tasks

Consider the different priorities for the barbecue and find someone to take responsibility for each task. You may want someone to be in charge of decorations, take responsibility for promoting the event, run ticket sales or supervise purchasing and preparing food and drinks. Some of those volunteers may need more help, so be prepared to recruit more volunteers to serve each specific committee.

Establish a Fundraising Goal

Before you begin organizing the barbecue, decide how much money you need to raise. Then you can work backward from there. For example, if you decide you need to raise $1,000, figure out how many tickets that represents. Working backward from your goal helps you determine how widely you need to promote the event and how much you should charge for each plate of food.

Find Sponsors and Donors

Research potential donors and sponsors so you can make a strong case for how your organization is aligned with their values. Call in advance to speak with the manager and say you would like to come and see her to tell her about your organization. Briefly tell her about your cause and say you would like to find ways to work together. She may donate supplies herself. If you are seeking corporate sponsorship, ask for a specific amount. Present local companies with a sponsorship package that includes the name of their businesses in advertising and promotional materials. When asking for donations from grocery stores and butcher shops, try to stay local. Neighborhood stores often want to support community events. Start with local independent businesses and tell them about your organization and your goal for making this event a large community celebration. Also try approaching local bakeries, wholesale meat distributors and coffee shops. Offer to promote businesses in exchange for goods and services. For example, if a local potato-chip company donates bags of chips for the fundraiser, make small signs on the chips table that express gratitude for that company’s support.

Choose a Good Location

Find a good venue with plenty of parking. You likely want an outdoor location with room for plenty of tables enough distance from where smokers and grills will be set up. Consider a place with accessible restrooms and space for setting up the event. A well-appointed public park is a good choice. Whether you choose to serve the food indoors or outdoors, pick a place that feels casual, as a barbecue rarely is a formal event. If you are hosting the barbecue indoors or choosing a contingency location for a rainy day, choose a location with easy access to an outdoor cooking area. The fundraiser might be held in a church hall, community center, local social club headquarters or school gymnasium.

Promote the Event Widely

In addition to fliers and posters, promote the barbecue in local newspapers and on community-focused blogs. Write a press release that describes your charitable cause and the kinds of food you will have at the barbecue. Clearly state the ticket prices, time and location. Include a rain date if applicable. List the names of your sponsors at the end of the press release. Also include a method for people to donate directly to the organization.

Renting a Grill

Rentals of equipment such as grills and smokers often are priced with daily and weekly rates. Party supply rental companies often carry grills, and some areas have specialized grill and smoker rental companies. If you decide to hire barbecue caterers, they will have their own grills and supplies. Alternatively, you may recruit volunteer grill masters willing to bring their own equipment.

The Food

Order meat in advance from a butcher, grocery store or specialized wholesaler. Reserve your order at least a week before the event. If you are cooking barbecue chicken for the fundraiser, allow about an hour and a half for cooking. Chickens can be split in half, and a large barbecue fundraiser might aim to sell at least 300 halves. Begin cooking before the official start time so food is ready when people begin to arrive. Side dishes such as beans, cornbread, coleslaw and macaroni salad can be prepared in advance. Each member of the food and drinks committee can take responsibility for one or two side dishes and make them at home or purchase them in the necessary quantities. Corn on the cob is another classic side dish. Corncobs should be cooked on the grill on the day of the party.

About the Author

Fern Morris has been writing about the arts, culture, etiquette and society since 2004. She has published her work internationally in various magazines, websites, exhibition catalogues and academic journals.

Photo Credits

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