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101 Guide to Fundraising for Foodies

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Published April 26, 2023 Reading Time: 6 minutes

Formal, sit-down dinners. Candy bar sales. Pancake breakfasts.

Food fundraisers come in many shapes and sizes and give donors a central theme to rally around. With a little planning, you can leverage food-based events to fundraise for your nonprofit while building and strengthening your community of supporters.

Nonprofits can also leverage Classy to make food fundraisers easy and effective. Below, we’ll show you how. We’ll also cover some of the main questions nonprofits have about food fundraisers and offer 18 food fundraiser ideas to get you started with planning yours.

What Are the Benefits of Food Fundraisers?

Sharing a meal or drink naturally brings people together. For example, families gather for holiday favorites during Thanksgiving, friends enjoy barbecues together in the park, and co-workers socialize over happy hours. However, a food fundraiser is an exciting and engaging event that supports a good cause.

Food is a powerful tool for relationship building, and relationships are the foundation of fundraising. Emphasizing food for your upcoming campaign can tap into the jovial connection shared meals create and ultimately increase your fundraising ability.

In addition to leveraging the relationships food facilitates, food fundraisers:

  • Provide a theme that attendees can talk about with each other
  • Draw in new supporters interested in your food theme
  • Give donors a tasty incentive in exchange for their support
  • Offer opportunities to partner with local businesses and restaurants

You’re likely familiar with the food fundraiser model. For example, Girl Scouts sell cookies, high school fundraising may leverage a spaghetti dinner, or restaurants may give a portion of their proceeds to a local charity. This familiarity can encourage supporters to participate.

Food fundraisers can also help spice up peer-to-peer fundraising opportunities via food sales. Your supporters can fundraise on your behalf by selling candy bars or other goods rather than making requests for donations.

How Do You Plan a Food Fundraiser?

Your food fundraiser planning process will depend on the type of food fundraiser you choose. A bake sale will require a different setup and marketing than a fundraising gala dinner.

The basic steps for planning a food fundraising event are:

  • Determine theme and approach: Decide whether to host a food-focused event, conduct a sale, add a food component to an existing event, or launch a peer-to-peer initiative. Consider if there’s a type of food or a theme you want to highlight.
  • Set a fundraising goal and timeline: Note key dates for marketing and outreach, securing event space, hosting the event, and other milestones. Consider how much you hope to raise from the event and create your budget for it.
  • Set up a fundraising campaign page: Use Classy to set up a registration page or allow for a registration with fundraising option to collect entry fees.
  • Secure in-kind donations and sponsors: Partner with local businesses and retailers like local restaurants for donated food items, beverages, napkins, utensils, and plates. Consider securing donated event space, if needed, and receiving corporate sponsorships to cover additional costs of hosting your food fundraiser.
  • Leverage volunteers: Ask volunteers to help you spread the word about your event, then educate them about your goals during a volunteer training. Consider utilizing these individuals to assist with setting up and taking down your event, tapping into their networks for donations, helping prepare or serve food, and other tasks to make your event a success.
  • Invite supporters to participate: Use Instagram best practices and other social media to spread the word about your food fundraiser to community members. Consider using online ticket sales for nonprofits to drive advance registrations.
  • Host event and report on progress: Keep your food fundraiser participants engaged and update them on how they can help you meet your fundraising goal. Consider doing this by displaying a fundraising thermometer at your event.

How Can You Get Creative With Your Food Fundraiser?

A great way to get creative with your food fundraiser is to center it around a theme. You can tie it into a holiday, regional cuisines, sporting events, or other activities and flavors.

Once you pick your theme, create unique marketing designs that relate to it. For example, if hosting a food fundraiser with the theme of baseball snacks, create a name and logo for the event that incorporates baseball terminology and imagery. You can also use a color palette similar to your local home team.

Remember that food fundraisers offer many opportunities for fundraising. Get creative with how you raise money and offer participants many ways to give, such as through:

  • Event entrance fees or sampling tickets
  • A la carte food sales
  • Raffle tickets for local restaurant gift certificates or other great food experiences
  • Silent auction items like food-themed gift baskets

Another fun way to engage your food fundraiser participants is by incorporating some lighthearted competition. Consider offering a challenge supporters can enter, such as a bake-off or your version of “Top Chef.”

However you decide to get creative with your food fundraising event, always try to customize it to align with your mission. For example, if you serve a particular region in the world, consider incorporating foods from that area. If you run a community garden, cook meals that use vegetables your program grew.

What Are the Best Types of Food Fundraisers?

Food fundraisers are some of the best fundraising ideas because these can take so many different forms depending on your budget, needs, and interests. The best types of food fundraisers are engaging, fun, memorable, and low-cost.

Below are 18 food fundraising ideas to get you started.

1. Bake Sale

Selling baked goods is a great way to leverage the power of small donations. You can also call on your volunteers to help create tasty items for your event.

2. Pancake Breakfast

Since you can buy pancake mix in bulk and make many hotcakes quickly, pancake breakfasts offer a low-cost, tasty way to socialize and raise funds for your cause.

3. BBQ or Grill Competition

A grill-off is a great summer fundraising idea. Invite your supporters to a local park and enjoy the day and some barbecue.

4. Food Truck Event

Another favorite, food trucks, have grown in popularity over the years. Consider partnering with some of your local favorites to organize a tasting event with music and other activities. Setup is easy as long as you have an available parking lot. You can charge an admission fee or ask food truck vendors to donate some of their proceeds to your good cause.

5. Eating Contest

A silly way for your supporters to connect and have a little fun is through eating contests. Host a pie-eating or hot dog-eating contest to see who in your community has what it takes to win.

6. Cakewalk

A fun idea to incorporate into events is a cakewalk, especially for those with a carnival theme where attendees purchase tickets for different rides and games. Have volunteers bake cakes or get them donated from local bakeries. It’s simple to play: attendees walk in a circle of numbers while music plays. Then, when the music stops, if the announcer calls their number, they get to pick out a cake.

7. Cooking Class

Center an event around a cooking class. A local chef can donate their time for an evening, with all purchases of the experience benefiting your nonprofit.

8. Wine Tasting

Partner with local wineries to host a wine-tasting event. It can take place at the winery or as a happy hour at a local bar or restaurant.

9. Dine Out for a Cause

Partner with local eateries and ask those businesses to donate a percentage of profits from a given night to your cause. These drive business to the restaurants while getting your nonprofit brand out there as well. You can include a QR code on table flyers or menus during the event that links diners to your donation form.

10. Chili Cook-Off

A fun competition for the winter months when your donors want to stay warm is chili cook-offs. You can charge an entrance fee to join the competition and for supporters to sample the chilis and vote for their favorites. Consider getting gift cards donated as prizes for the winners.

11. Cookie Dough or Candy Sales

Candy bars, lollipops, and cookies—there’s nothing like a sweet treat. Selling these items works well for online fundraising and peer-to-peer campaigns.

12. Ice Cream Social

What’s a better low-cost, fun way for supporters to come together and build connections than an ice cream social? You can sell the ice cream dishes a la carte or charge an entry fee. Consider partnering with a local ice cream shop that can provide a coupon to attendees for a future ice cream treat as a thank-you for supporting the event.

13. Halloween Festival

Among the holiday-themed ideas, Halloween festivals offer many ways to incorporate food fundraisers. You can sell pumpkin pies, caramel apples, and other treats. Include a spooky cookie decorating contest or other seasonally-themed food activities.

14. Valentine’s Day Gifts

Consider a Valentine’s Day fundraiser to sell heart-shaped chocolates or other treats that donors can have delivered to their significant others, friends, and family. This lets you both raise funds for your cause and get your message out to potential new supporters who receive the gifts.

15. Snack Bar

Concession stands at various events—whether yours or another community event—are a simple way to work a food fundraiser into an activity. You can partner with local sports teams to sell food at their games or set up a snack bar at a car wash, benefit concert, movie night, or 5K charity run.

16. Cookbook Fundraiser

Whether a food bank, community garden, or another related cause, cookbook fundraisers are a great idea for nonprofits working within the food space. Everyone on your team offers one of their favorite recipes to go into your book, then you can sell those books to your supporters.

17. Potluck Dinner

A perfect idea for small nonprofits that want to emphasize a sense of community among supporters is a potluck dinner. Attendees pay a small donation to join and bring a dish to share. Supporters can then mix and mingle and enjoy each other’s generosity.

18. Gala Night

If you want to host a more formal fundraiser, a gala event is a perfect option. Attendees typically receive a nice, sit-down dinner as part of the experience. Work with local caterers to have meals donated. Participants’ registration fees also cover keynote speakers, music, and other activities to enjoy throughout the evening.

Get Creative With Food Fundraising Ideas to Engage Your Supporters

If you’re looking for easy fundraising ideas for your next event, consider incorporating food into the experience. Food fundraisers allow nonprofits to get creative, build community, and drive traffic toward their donations website.

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