If you want to start or join a club or organization on campus, you most likely will have to fundraise in one way or another. Thinking up new ideas for events that will be successful can be challenging. No one wants to put in time, effort, and money into an idea that might turn out to be a bust, so it’s important to play it safe and pick something that’s guaranteed to make a profit, especially if you’re just starting out.
Food-centered fundraisers are perfect events for new groups because most require minimal effort, no upfront costs, and anything that has to do with food basically sells itself. Here are some ideas that will bring in funds for your organization so that you can start doing amazing things:
1. Dining for Dollars
This is as simple as it gets. All you have to do is find a local restaurant, such as a pizza parlor or froyo shop, that offers fundraising. Then just pick a day, start handing out flyers, and if people with flyers come on your group’s designated day, the restaurant will cut you a check for a percentage of the proceeds from those people’s meals.
From my own experience organizing these fundraisers, I’ve learned that you should always pick a place that people actually go to regularly that is affordable. The more convenient it is for people to attend, the more money your fundraiser will make.
You should also make sure the restaurant will accept pictures of the flyer on customers’ phones, and make sure people know that this is an option. This way, you don’t have to worry about missing out on profits just because someone forgot to bring a flyer, and you can easily advertise on social media.
Here is a list of some chain restaurants that offer fundraising, as well as some extra tips.
2. Bake Sales
There’s a reason just about every sports team and charity ever has held a bake sale. They’re simple to organize, and people can’t resist cupcakes. Traditionally, everyone in a group volunteers to bake something different and brings it to the table to sell. However, this can not only be time-consuming and difficult for members that live in dorms, it can also get you in trouble. If you want to host your bake sale in a populated downtown area rather than on campus, homemade products may not be permitted. Here’s how you can have a no-bake bake sale that can be held anywhere:
Start contacting local bakeries to ask for donations at least 2 months in advance. Some bakeries with multiple locations, like Sprinkles Cupcakes, may require you to submit a donation request at least 6 months in advance. In your donation request letter or email, introduce yourself and your organization, explain your mission, give details such as the date and location of your bake sale, let them know exactly where the funds will go to if they are intended for a specific project, and offer to advertise their business on all your flyers, social media, and of course, at the bake sale itself.
Plan on requesting way more donations than you would ever actually need, because you’re most likely going to get a lot of no’s. You can find local bakeries by searching under “bakeries” , “desserts”, and “cupcakes” on Yelp, but be sure to contact a wide variety of places so that you don’t just end up with dozens of cupcakes.
Also, pick a high-traffic area that doesn’t already have a lot of dessert places nearby, and make sure your set-up is attractive. With all of the baked goods being donated, your bake sale can cost next to nothing, but be sure not to be too cheap. Decide on a color scheme and buy matching tablecloths, napkins, dessert plates, cupcake boxes, and treat bags if you have cookies.
Be sure to price your items reasonably. A really fancy cupcake can go for $3, but any higher and you probably won’t sell much. Keep most items around $1-$2, and offer 2 for 1 deals on items that you have larger quantities of.
In order to help you gain more moolah, you can also offer delivery. When you advertise your bake sale on social media, offer to reserve certain desserts for people who can’t make it to the actual event and deliver them after you’ve sold everything else.
If you end up with a lot of leftovers, lower your prices and post more photos offering to deliver the discounted treats to people’s dorms and apartments. I’ve hosted three successful bake sales, and I’ve been able to sell almost all of the leftover desserts after each one, so don’t think it isn’t worth it.
3. Brunch or Dinner
If you have a lot of members and your school has a room or hall that is rented out to student organizations for a reasonable price, this may be the perfect fundraiser for your group. Once you have the room reserved, start contacting local catering companies or restaurants that cater to see if any are willing to donate their services or offer a discount. After your menu is finalized, you can start selling tickets to your brunch or dinner. You may want to consider having a raffle or live entertainment as well.
4. Food Truck Night
A food truck event is just like a Dining for Dollars fundraiser, but the food comes to you. If you have access to a large parking lot or other patio area on or near campus, you might want to consider organizing a food truck night. Contact local food trucks to see if they offer fundraising.
Some may require that you have a minimum of 100 attendees so that it will be worth it for them to come, so be sure to advertise everywhere, both on and off campus. Most trucks offer between 10% an 25% of the profits they make at the event, so as long as you have a large amount of people, your group can make a decent amount of money without putting in too much time and effort.
5. Food Festival
It sounds daunting, but an on-campus food festival can be fairly straightforward to organize if you have access to great vendors, a large space, and a good marketing plan. Here’s what you need:
A theme. Around the country, there are bacon, ice cream, and beer festivals that draw thousands. Find a popular food your area has a lot of, and center your festival around that. Ice cream or cupcakes could be great starting points, or you can get creative and try something like boba tea or chocolate. It may even be easier to pick a broad, general topic, like desserts.
You’ll also need vendors that are willing to give out free samples in exchange for exposure. Look for businesses that are just starting out, like a student’s cupcake or cookie dough business, or new dessert shops that aren’t a part of chains.
Having a big space is also a must. Find out how to go about using a large outdoor area or multipurpose room on campus. In order for the event to really be a festival, you’ll probably want to aim for at least 10-12 vendors, so you’ll need a fair amount of room.
Having social media accounts and a ticket page is also a big plus. Make a Facebook page and Instagram account for your festival and set up an Eventbrite page where you can sell tickets to your festival in advance. Most food festival tickets are priced between $5-$20 and allow attendees to get a certain amount of samples.
You can also sell tickets at the door, but don’t rely on those sales alone. Send press releases to local news and radio stations as well as to food bloggers to get the word out.
Lastly, you should consider having seating and live music for guests, and, if you have the budget for it, you might want to consider putting together grab-bags for the first 50 or so attendees. Each bag could contain coupons to each vendor at the event, and any accessories that go along with the food theme, such as ice cream bowl and spoon sets for an ice cream festival.
A fraternity at the university in my city recently held a wildly successful boba tea festival, so it’s definitely not impossible if you have the resources.
6. Door-to-Door Sales
If nothing else, there’s always the Girl Scout method. Several companies give organizations the options to purchase food at a discounted price and resell it. You don’t literally have to go door to door, you just need to set up shop in a popular area. A few popular options for these fundraisers include Krispy Kreme Donuts, See’s Candies, Coldstone Milkshakers (I recently sold these for a nonprofit and they sold out within a few hours), and boba tea (several shops allow you to purchase tea for a lower price and resell it).