Sunday, October 2, 2011

Fundraiser Review-Apple Gift Card Drawing/Pasta Dinner/Jazz Concert

I have been working with my good friend Kerry, who has been involved in fundraising for my band program for the entire time (all nine years) even after her daughter graduated over 5 years ago. We wanted to do an event with food that could make us some money.

After several years here's what we have come up with....


Let's start first with Pasta Dinner.  Here's the run down....
-We set up tables on an outdoor area of our campus. Tables for folks to sit at and tables to serve. We cover the serving tables with tents. Those are all things that we already own at school and are free! (We do cover the tables with our rolls of plastic tables clothes that we cut and tape on the tables). (No facility rental)

-We do not prepare the food ourselves but purchase it from a local Italian Restaurant. They gave us a great deal on the entire meal for $5 per person. That's two kinds of pasta to choose from, salad, and bread. We purchased cakes from Costco for dessert. We got ice donated for the drinks. We purchased the drinks/had families donate them. We did get some donations of paper products and drinks from some of our band families which did we reduce some our costs. 

-We had volunteers from within our organization (parents & students) who set the event up, served etc.

The dinner starts at 5:30pm and lasts until 6:45pm. Towards the end of the evening we start selling seconds for a $1

We hold a concert at 7:30pm that opens with our top jazz band and then follow that up with a guest artist. Sometimes we have local groups that volunteer and some that charge. The guest artists works with our jazz band and does perform with them so it is really an educational experience for the students as well. We have parents and students that do everything for that concert: sound, lights, ushering, ticket sales.

This year we had the pleasure of having the Kristen Strom Trio perform.  Kris came out and worked with our jazz band and sat in a few tunes for the concert that were outstanding. Her trio was amazing and well received by the audience.

So for those two events you can purchase a concert ticket or a dinner ticket for $10. You can purchase a combo ticket (dinner & the show) for $15 or you can purchase a 4 pack (4 concert tickets/4 dinner tickets) for $50. 

We give each student in the Jazz Band to comp tickets to the show. Any volunteer (parent, student, Jazz Band member) a discounted dinner ticket at the rate of $7 (so we cover our costs). We also provide free dinners to our guest artists.

The event falls under some guidelines that I like to consider when planning a fundraiser:
-How much effort/planning/man power goes into the event?
-Based on the work put into the event is the profit worth it?
-Is there an educational component for the students?
-Is it provide a service of any kind to our community?
-Are the students able to perform music as part of the event?

If I can answer yes to many of the above questions than I typically will give the event ***** (that's 5 stars). In this case this event fulfills this!

And our event has LOTS of room to grow....advertising is the big thing that will expand our event. With more effort into the advertising we could easily expand our size of the event as its not at capacity. We also have been doing it outdoors because we have no on campus space to host one (we have no cafeteria) and we did NOT want to pay/could not make money on the event if we were paying for the venue.

I'm not sure we will stick with pasta but the infrastructure for the event is really great, adaptable to many different organizations. You can pair this style of event with other activities going on on your school campus or add a dinner element to an event your group is already doing. 

We did expand the event in other ways. Last year my mom (maker of Nifty Handbags) sent us a few handbags to have drawing for. We sold tickets for a $1 and actually made a few hundred dollars off the bags.

This year we did something else and paired it with the event (brace yourself because this is a good one). Its the APPLE GIFT CARD DRAWING.

We were selling $10 drawing tickets with the prize being a $500 Apple Gift Card. We also decided that for every 250 tickets we sold we would purchase a gift card. This year we sold enough drawing tickets to purchase 3 Apple Gift Cards for the drawing prizes. 

Now here's what you do:
-First check your state's fundraising guidelines because in California you can not have a raffle. We are not having a raffle. We are having a drawing. Everything we publish, everything we say, everything we are doing is a drawing, drawing, drawing....
-We purchased ticket printing using (that meant we had really snazzy tickets to sell folks)
-We passed out an informational form to the students. They could only check out ticket books if they had parent permission. On that form we gave families the options of donating $25 if they would like to instead of participating (I always like to provide that option, some will, some won't but its always the gesture and effort that do go along way).
-I had then had a parent volunteer assist me in checking out the ticket books to students and parents using the online system from the company we ordered the tickets from
-We would check out one ticket book of 10 tickets at a time to each seller.
- We asked that each ticket book be completely sold (ie you can't return just one ticket). At the very bitter end of the sale we allowed people to turn in half sold books. Most everyone did comply, especially because they signed a form saying they understood what they were being asked to do.

Incentive for sellers: for every 10 tickets sold the seller received a ticket to be put in a special "seller's drawing" for one $500 Apple Gift Card.

Our drawing ended up being for 3 Apple Gifts cards for the public drawing and 1 gift card for the sellers. It was really great to see people we all knew winning.

Without the drawing the pasta dinner and jazz concert was not as successful as I would have liked to see it (from a financial perspective). However, paired with the gift card drawing all three events made about $4500 profit which is great. We are planning on making some modifications for next year. I want to see an improved venue (we are going to move our event into our new multipurpose room). I want to see increased promotion and get more people in our program involved in selling tickets to the event (perhaps by having more incentives for the students to participate). I also want to see us sell even more tickets for the drawing.


  1. Last year I resurrected an event similar to this. RIS Instrumental Dinner & Auction. We include: symphonic band, jazz band, marching band, color guard, drumline, orchestra, and percussion ensemble. Each group does 1-2 pieces, and between each group we open the silent auction. The auction then closes while a group is performing.

    We start the dinner portion at 6:00pm, but those who ordered togo plates can pick up as early as 5:30 or sooner.

    Since we include just about every ensemble, it's much easier to get everything donated from the spaghetti noodles all the way down to the table decor. Parents contact businesses to get auction items donated. We use our schools MPR which costs little to nothing--since our parents do the cooking at home, the food is satellited in and we just use the kitchen to heat and prepare some of the other dishes.

    Dinner includes: Spaghetti (meatballs optional), salad (with choices of dressings), dinner roll, cookies or cake, beverage, and more.

    We made over $2,000 profit last year because we had no out of pocket expenses. That's a lot for a Jr HS program! Having parents cook, serve, and donate saves! Your local grocery stores may donate Like ours did, if they know the cause!

    $2 - just to watch the show only

    Below is show and dinner:
    $5 - to go plate
    $7 - per plate if less than four in a party
    $5 - family meal deal/per plate (if four or more)

  2. Like the fundraising idea...I would like to use it for Discount Card fundraiser when use it.