Are You In Charge of Organising A Fundraising Dinner?

Anyone who has ever planned an event like a wedding, bridal shower or baby shower might cringe at the thought of volunteering to organise a fundraising dinner. Your first thought might be “where do I start?” But fear not, organising a fundraising dinner can be as easy or as difficult as you make it, and there’s no Bridezillas to deal with. It’s a sure-fire money-spinner if you follow these points.


Typically ten is a good number of a table. Charge by table rather than individual seats – this will get tables selling more quickly. You could also charge more for “better placed” tables – dependent on the type of event and entertainment you have in mind.


When setting the date, make sure it doesn’t clash with any other event that may impact on your ability to sell tickets.


Get a committee of people together – choose people who are passionate about the organisation and also consider those who can commit the time as well as skills. Allocate roles like sponsorship, marketing, operations to these people to reduce double handling. Set meetings and make sure the meeting times are productive and remain focused.


Make sure you have a budget for the event that accurately reflects how much people will need to pay to attend and how many people you will need attending to cover the expenses.


Some venues will have their own entertainment options – some even included in venue hire. Gen recently booked a cocktail party fundraiser at the local golf club. Being a Saturday night, the venue already has a band contracted so for no extra charge, the fundraiser now has a live band. A motivational speaker may also be appropriate for a dinner – depending on who and how you are selling tickets. You will need a Master of Ceremonies to keep the even moving along and have a set program for any additional fundraising events during the night.


First of all, decide on an appropriate theme that will reflect the spirit of the night and what you’re charity is all about. People can tend to get carried away with theming though, so make a budget and stick to it. There’s no point spending thousands on decorations and floral arrangements and not raising enough money to cover costs and raise money. Always remember the aim is to raise money, not to have the most fabulous charity dinner ever held!

I heard about one organisation that had an ‘around the world’ theme, and to secure a certain country, you had to be the first to book in. Normally, they would have been chasing ticket sales up to the last minute, but in this case, they sold more early on!

Check out our Theme Ideas that can give you some inspiration!

Pricing & promotion

The price of tickets to your event is crucial to getting bums on seats. Do some research on how much tickets were priced at for similar events. But don’t just look at the cost, look at what was offered – three-course meal, drinks, dessert, ticket in an auction – there are many ways to adjust the price to make people feel it’s a good deal. Selling the tables rather than seats will help you to sell tickets more quickly but it might be an idea to have a “captain’s table” where people may be able to purchase individual seats.

Think about how you will promote the event – social networks can garner a quick response and through the club or organisation own mailing list.

Donations / Prizes / Raffles

Get donations to auction off on the night or sell tickets in a raffle drawn on the night. Get appropriate donations of prizes according to the nature of the event – sports memorabilia for a sports dinner. Also, try to get things like decorations and invitations donated or at least for a discount as this can save a lot. Get the word around in your local community and see who is willing to volunteer time to do the master of ceremonies role or help out on the night. Also, talk to people who own their own business, you never know who might have something useful that they’re willing to donate or offer at cost price in exchange for some free advertising.

Format for the evening

• Start with drinks where everyone gets a drink.

• The MC will invite guests to take their seats and introduces the event’s organiser who should explain the purpose of the event

• Dinner

• Think about how you can present the aspects of the organisation throughout the night to reinforce why everyone is there. Maybe a slide presentation or a table or flyers on the table.

• After dinner, have a guest speaker or an auction/raffle

The Practical Fundraising Handbook has more information on organising fundraising dinners and other fundraising activities.

Have fun!!!


Mandy Weidmann is Australia’s ‘Fundraising Whisperer’ – publisher of the Fundraising Directory and author of the Practical Fundraising Handbook for School and Club Volunteers. Mandy believes that parent volunteers shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel all the time and is passionate about providing resources to make fundraising easier (and more fun).

Follow the Fundraising Whisperer Facebook page to take part in great information sharing with Australia’s school and club volunteers.

Originally published 9 August, 2017

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