Restaurant Fund-Raising Events: How to Find the Right Nonprofit to Support

March 27, 2018

Restaurants are givers – with 94 percent making charitable donations totaling $3 billion a year, the National Restaurant Association says.

Whether it’s sponsoring restaurant fund-raising events after a disaster or contributing to the needy regularly, restaurants are known for stepping up and helping their communities.

But the requests can be overwhelming, and it’s hard to know which organization to help. Eateries can help in a number of ways, generally by hosting events or by committing a night’s percentage of proceeds. For a business wanting to get involved, be sure to sponsor a group you’ve chosen as carefully as you would any other business partner.

Be the Change You Want to See

What do your customers say about your community’s needs? Matching a nonprofit organization to your customer base will build their support for any future restaurant fund-raising events, as well as strengthen your connections more broadly.

For example, the owner of King Eider’s Pub in Damariscotta, Maine, is one of the founding members of the Community Energy Fund, which helps neighbors pay their energy bills through winter.

Aligned Vision and Goals

When starting out pick one major organization to start building a relationship with, review its website and check, a database of nonprofit information.

Just like any other business, the nonprofit should have actionable and measurable goals, and be able to show results. It should also be able to freely discuss its programs, and how your sponsorship dollars will be spent. Ask for its Federal Tax ID number and/or a current IRS 501(c)3 determination letter, as well.

What Can Your Staff Handle?

Your staff’s buy-in is critical to the success of restaurant fund-raising events. While many larger non-profits may hire an organizer, the job sometimes falls into the restaurant’s hands, especially if you’re hosting the event in-house. Find out what skills your team can offer and what resources you can commit, and discuss what size event you can reasonably hold — then call your charity of choice and start planning.

Make sure to incorporate your charitable activities into your overall business and tax plan; this will ensure you’re prepared for next year and make it easier to turn away unsolicited queries for nonprofit funding.

Planning and Execution

Restaurant fund-raising events can be costly and time-consuming. But you must make them memorable and profitable for both you and the non-profit. Be honest about your budget and don’t be afraid to make a little money, yourself.

Points to consider when meeting with the organization’s representatives, depending on the type of fund-raising event is being planned:

  • Will the event be in your restaurant?
  • Is this a family event, or formal? Will there be alcohol?
  • How many attendees are expected, and how much staff will you need? If volunteers will be serving, who will manage and train them?
  • Will there be other sponsors? Securing additional sponsors to cover the bar and provide auction items or table prizes can increase the event’s interest and overall success.
  • Who’s marketing the event? The marketing plan should touch both your customer bases and all local media outlets.
  • How will final payment be made? You may wish to cover everything and invoice the nonprofit after, or they may want to handle the finances up front.

Splitting the Check

How the profit is shared depends on the event’s size and style, but 10 to 20 percent is the norm. Local restaurants sometimes give higher percentages than chains. has a list of 55 restaurant chain nonprofit fundraising programs worth checking out.

Get the Word Out

There’s nothing wrong with wearing your heart on your sleeve and promoting your charitable activities. Chains like Cheesecake Factory, Panera and KFC devote a section of their websites to their charitable efforts, and promote them over social media. These sites also include guidelines to the types of organizations they support.

Summary: Restaurant Fund-raising Events

Charitable giving is a great way for restaurants and non-profits to market to each other’s customer bases, especially considering up to 70 percent of consumers are more likely to recommend a brand that supports a good cause over one that doesn’t.

Find a cause or organization that speaks to you, your employees and your customers, and get involved.

More restaurant content: Internal Controls to Boost Your Business

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