Popular fundraising events like T-shirt fundraisers, car washes, and coupon book sales will certainly help you raise money for a good cause. But if you think food is the key to your supporters’ hearts, here are 14 food fundraising ideas that they’re sure to enjoy.
1. Cooking class
Take a page from Food Network and host a cooking class for all the foodies and home cooks in your community. You don’t need to be Julia Child to host this culinary affair. Reach out to local restaurants, cooking schools, and chefs to see if they’ll donate an hour of their time. Or, ask a talented friend, family member, or co-worker to lead.
Sell tickets to get a headcount, and then pick up ingredients from the grocery store. Making it a virtual event can also lower costs. You simply provide an ingredient list ahead of time and then guide attendees through your recipe in an interactive live streamed event. Check out this real-life cooking class fundraiser for inspiration.
2. Dinner and donations
Everyone has to eat, so why not raise money at the same time? Many national restaurant chains and local eateries have donation programs to support nonprofits, schools, clubs, sports teams, and more.
All you need to do is partner with a restaurant and ask your supporters to eat there and mention your cause. Chipotle, for example, will give you 33% of the proceeds brought in by your guests. Out of the many food fundraising ideas out there, this one might be the easiest. Restaurants benefit from extra sales, and you hit your fundraising goal.
3. Chopped competition
A chili cook-off is a fundraising mainstay, but there’s an easy way to update it for the 21st century: Turn it into a “Chopped” competition!
The TV show “Chopped” pits four teams head-to-head in a culinary showdown. In each of the three rounds, the teams receive a mystery box of challenging ingredients and compete to make the best appetizer, entree, and dessert. Contestants must use all mystery ingredients and can supplement their creation with a well-stocked pantry.
You’ll need a kitchen, seating area, host, judges, and cameras to record the action. See if any restaurants or stores will donate ingredients to stock the pantry and ask local chefs to participate or judge. You’ll charge an admission fee to raise funds.
4. Bake sale
The classic bake sale needs no explanation. You sell irresistible baked goods and bring the donations rolling in. That said, there are plenty of ways to enhance this tried-and-true fundraising event:
- Add on a build-your-own-sundae station. That way, you sell to-go goodies, like cookies and brownies, but also have a quick option for people who want to chow down right away. You just need ice cream, toppings, bowls, and spoons.
- Turn it into a delivery service. This citywide virtual bake sale was a huge success. Work with local bakeries to arrange treat bundles with tarts, pies, cupcakes, cookie dough, and more.
- Make it a candy gram campaign. This works well for school fundraising. Let students write notes to each other and attach lollipops and candy bars. Candy-centric holidays like Valentine's Day, Halloween, and Christmas are best.
- Create a top-notch concession stand. Host a movie night and sell snacks, or set up a stand at a local sporting event to sell treats throughout the season.
5. Wine pull
We’re focusing on food fundraising ideas, but we can’t leave out beverages. A wine pull is the perfect addition or standalone event to fund your cause. Here’s how it works:
- Collect bottles of wine. Ask local wineries to donate a few bottles each in exchange for advertising at your event.
- Wrap the bottles up to disguise the label. Decorate them according to your theme or cause, like using pink paper for a breast cancer nonprofit event.
- Attendees buy bottles at random and discover what they’ve won.
Generally, wine pull tickets cost about $25. Broaden the appeal by offering a craft beer pull or adding a raffle or silent auction for exciting prizes, like a winery tour or getaway for two.
6. Food trucks
A fleet of food trucks will attract hungry fans and supporters from all over town, making it an effective campaign for large fundraising goals. Secure a high-traffic location, like a parking lot in a busy area or a major street near a school or university.
Have each food truck donate a percentage of each meal back to your cause (most restaurants offer 10-20%). Or make it a family-friendly event by adding on activities, such as cornhole or face painting. You can charge a flat entrance fee to enter your mini festival.
7. Pancake breakfast
Pancake breakfasts are versatile and wallet-friendly, whether you’re hosting a personal fundraising campaign or working with a large nonprofit organization. Pancakes and eggs are easy to make in bulk, and you can request donations of juice, meat, and other sides.
Choose a convenient location for your target audience, such as a high school, food hall, or park, and set up a buffet-style breakfast. Offer all-you-can-eat tickets for adults and children using customizable ticket types. You can’t go wrong with an endless supply of popular food. Spaghetti dinners and fried chicken are also crowd-pleasers.
8. Seed and plant sale
Who says the food has to be cooked in order to raise money? Hold a seed and plant sale for seasonal herbs, vegetables, and fruits. Local gardening clubs, farmers’ markets, and community gardens often have excess produce they’re looking to donate or sell.
Source a variety of seeds and plants, like tomatoes, pumpkins, melons, and pots and watering cans. Set up a pot-decorating station as a bonus for the kids. And you can quickly take payments online or in person with a free fundraising tool like Givebutter.
9. Cake walk
You’ve heard the expression, but did you know that a “cake walk” is also an easy food fundraiser?
First, reach out to your community members and see if they’ll bake and donate one or two cakes each. Another option is to ask for donations from bakeries, cafes, and grocery stores.
Place numbers in a circle on the ground and start playing music. Your participants walk in a circle until the music stops. You’ll then pull a number from a bowl, and the person beside that number wins the first cake. Repeat until all your cakes have a new home.
It’s important to give detailed descriptions of the cakes (local ingredients, vegan, gluten-free) and promote them online ahead of the big day. That way, people can decide which cake walk rounds they want to buy tickets and compete for.
10. Count the jellybeans
If you need an easy fundraising idea, look no further. A jellybean jar fundraising campaign requires just three things: a big bag of jellybeans, a jar to hold them, and pen and paper where people will write down their guesses. Snap photos or take a 360-degree video and invite people to participate on social media, too.
You can try this with other food or objects, like chocolates, marbles, or rubber bands. Charge money for each guess, but make sure you’ve got a prize that makes it worthwhile. A $50 gift card or prize donated from a local business could do the trick.
11. Community potluck dinner
A community potluck can connect unfamiliar neighbors, students, teammates, church members, co-workers, and loved ones over a good meal. That makes it a powerful fundraising campaign event, especially around Thanksgiving and Christmas, when some community members are isolated.
Have each person contribute a dish, drinks, or utensils and invite at least two people to dinner. Charge a small entry fee or ask for donations of any amount. Later, you can compile all the dishes — and photos of the event — into a cookbook and raise extra money through book sales.
12. Eating contest
To round out our list of food fundraising ideas: a classic eating contest. Contestants stuff their faces in a race to the finish. Popular food candidates include hot dogs, burgers, and pies. Give a minute to win it, or let it go as long as your contestants’ stomachs can hold out.
You can even offer multiple eating contests at one event to attract as many contests as possible. Sell tickets to watch and participate in this feat of eating. Just be sure to have clear contest rules and medical staff at the ready.
Fuel your fundraising efforts
Whether food is the star of the show or the perfect side dish to your main campaign event, you can’t go wrong with these food fundraising ideas.
Now for the pièce de résistance: An all-in-one fundraising platform like Givebutter. You can easily promote your campaign, manage donations, collect payments, and update your supporters anywhere you go. See for yourself — it’s free to sign up.
Rachel is a fundraising and marketing consultant for nonprofits whose aspiration since she was 16-years-old is simply this: help others, help others.