Make an impact with these six simple steps.

By Betty Gold
October 16, 2019

Every holiday—particularly Thanksgiving—is about joining together with loved ones to celebrate something special, eat and drink something delicious, and reflect on all that we have to be grateful for. Unfortunately, not everyone can be so lucky. Today, in neighborhoods across the United States, there are 40 million people who don't know where they will find their next meal.

That's why we're rallying our readers to turn their next dinner party into a give-back event in honor of World Food Day. It can be as informal as an impromptu pizza party or as extravagant as a multi-course seated dinner—whatever entertaining style suits you, there are endless easy ways to make your holiday hosting a charitable endeavor. Here are six no-fuss steps to planning a successful charity dinner. 

Set a Goal

Before you get into the nitty gritty of your guest list, invites, and menu options, take a minute to define exactly what you're trying to achieve. How much are you hoping to raise and where would you like the donations to go? Allow these key questions to guide your party-planning strategy. Making yourself a mission statement may also be beneficial: a clear answer to 'The Why' and 'The How' helps you stay on track, organized, and gives you a clear plan of action. 

Don't Go Overboard on Budget

The logic is simple: the less you spend on fancy invitations, top-shelf liquor, and passed appetizers, the more you can put towards charity. Not blowing your budget will help curtail your stress, too.

Design elegant, affordable e-invites with a site like Paperless Post: they're incredibly easy to send and RSVP to. Skip the fussy custom cocktails—stock up on red and white wine and serve one festive house cocktail instead. And if you really want to keep your eyes on the prize (aka the fundraising), you can make your meal a potluck. It takes a lot work and money to host, and you'll rest easy knowing every guest has at least one dish on the table they love. 

Establish a Theme

People are excited to support a cause, yes, but they also want to have a great time. Make it clear that your fête is a fundraising event, but come up with a fun, festive theme that'll entice invitees to attend, promote, and shell out. Take note: "Raising Money" is not a theme; "Oscars Charity Night" is. Parties are all about creating lasting memories, and people are more willing to spend money on experiences they know they're going to be talking about for years to come. 

Decide How to Accept Donations Ahead of Time (and Be Flexible)

You should choose one easy way to gather the money that guests donate, but keep in mind that the most successful fundraising allows multiple donation methods. We recommend starting with an online event ticketing platform such as Eventbrite—they're able to accept both digital and mobile payments before, during, and after your event and help you track them. If some guests can't deal with the digital donation route and would rather give a check or cash, we smile, accept, and say thank you.

Don't forget to provide a donation option for those who can’t attend your dinner in person, too. Make it easy for them to give with a service like Text to Donate, and link to your digital donation platform in your invitations.

Extend Invitations Beyond Your Existing Network 

The key to the most successful dinner parties always boils down to one thing: the company. The food, drinks, theme, and more are important, but at the end of the day, it's bonding with others that makes breaking bread together so special (and memorable). When people come together to give back, we share so much more than a meal. We encourage you to invite your neighbors, colleagues, acquaintances—whether you know them well or not—to join in the festivities. You'll extend your donor network, foster a sense of community, and cultivate a shared interest in giving back. 

Follow Up—and Say Thank You

This may come as a surprise, but the most important part of a successful fundraising endeavor often occurs after the event. Instead of jumping into the cleanup or taking down decorations, send out emails, make phone calls, and consider social media one of your greatest allies. Posting pictures, using a hashtag, and sharing content online—and encouraging guests to do the same—keeps the momentum going and widens the fundraising potential beyond those who attended. And remember what we said about memories? 

In addition, personally reaching out to every donor (or potential donor) to thank them for their support is imperative. No need to go over the top, but make sure to call, text, or email every attendee to extend your gratitude for making the night a success. If someone went above and beyond, a handwritten thank you note is a nice touch.

Real Simple will be hosting our own give-back dinner alongside the FEED Foundation and Nextdoor this evening. Follow along—and share your own charitable efforts—with the hashtag #FEEDsupperchallenge.

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