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Eat Out and Earn with Restaurant Fundraising

Family enjoying dinner at a restaurant

Fundraising fatigue has become a growing concern for more and more nonprofit organizations. Parents are burning out from how much they are volunteering and how they are repeatedly asked to give to their organization. Instead of adding to the fatigue, encourage your parents to take a load off and come out to eat at one of your favorite restaurants for your next fundraiser.

That’s right, your next fundraiser can be at a restaurant.

Along with being a great way to get out of the house, restaurant fundraising is a low-stress way to make a dent in your overall goal. While it won’t bring in a ton of money, it is a low-work, no-volunteer option, and fun night out for you and your organization’s families.

Why Should I Run a Restaurant Fundraiser?

Restaurant fundraisers are unique in that there isn’t a lot of groundwork to muddle through. All you have to do after choosing a restaurant is apply on their website and provide information like what you are raising money for, your tax identification information, your desired event date, and how many families you anticipate attending.

After applying, a restaurant manager will contact you to set up the specifics and then your fundraising night is underway! In some instances, the restaurant will even create a flyer for you to pass out to your organization advertising the event.  

In terms of how much money you'll raise, restaurants set agreed upon donation percentages to give back to your organization. According to PTO Today:

Some restaurants will donate 5 percent of sales while others will go as high as 25 percent—sometimes depending on the number of customers you bring in. Some will pay just based on the food bill, while others will consider the entire tab.

Planning Your Restaurant Fundraiser

When it comes to planning the night, you’ll want to look at all of the restaurants that offer fundraising opportunities, keeping their donation percentages in mind. These range from faster dining options like Chipotle and Panera Bread to casual sit-down restaurants like Olive Garden, Red Robin, and Buffalo Wild Wings.

Don’t forget about the local favorites too. Check out their websites or give them a call to see if they have any fundraising options. The key thing is to make sure you choose a place that is popular with your group so you can maximize your earnings.

You’ll also have to think about the timing of the event. Is this going to be a stand-alone fundraising night, or are you going to tie it in with another fundraising event? If it is the latter, suggests considering a theme when choosing a restaurant:

For example, if you are running a fall carnival with a rodeo theme, then try a restaurant night at a western-theme restaurant like a steak house a few weeks before or after that event.

If the restaurant night is a separate fundraiser that’s not tied in with a bigger event, consider pairing it up with a scrip fundraiser. If you purchase your scrip through Great Lakes Scrip Center, you will be able to use a scrip gift card at most of the restaurants that offer fundraising nights, which means you will be earning that much more for your organization!

With a scrip fundraiser, you’ll just have to plan ahead of time to make sure your families can order the gift cards they need for the night. Most restaurants who offer fundraising options even have electronic scrip gift cards that your families can purchase online and print or redeem from your phone the day of the event!

Promote Your Restaurant Night

Restaurant nights are a great way to give a little boost to your group without any up-front costs. But having a successful night depends on how many families make it out with flyers in hand, so you have to promote the event!  

Social media can come in handy when you’re spreading the word about the event. Post on your personal Facebook page and your organization’s page and encourage people to share information with those who might not even be a part of your organization.

As most restaurants require flyers, make sure you either share a PDF of the flyer or tell families where they can pick one up before the restaurant night. Most restaurants don’t allow you to pass out flyers right at the door, and you don’t want families to miss out, so send them a reminder email the day of the event with the flyer attached for last-minute printing!   

Dig in and Earn

Once you’ve set everything up and promoted the night, all that’s left to do is enjoy a meal at one of your favorite places with lots of familiar faces!

It would be nice to follow up with the manager who helped you get your fundraiser set up, just to let them know you appreciated the opportunity. You can also post pictures to social media showing others how fun it was, and to hopefully entice more families to come out to the next restaurant night!

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