Nonprofit Event Catering


As we move out of wedding season, another season will soon be sweeping in: gala season. Fall is the time of year when nonprofits kick back into action and the gala invitations start fluttering into our mailboxes. If you’ve ever been on a fundraising committee, you know the goal is to keep costs down so that as many funds as possible can be given to the charity or organization hosting the event. This doesn’t mean you have to give away your services, though.

Some caterers are nervous about catering for charity events. They hear “charity” or “nonprofit” and see zeros, thinking that the nonprofit has little to no money to spend. This isn’t necessarily the case. Most national charities host large gala events every year and they expect to have to pay for the services of their vendors. The goal of these large events is to attract attendees willing to bid on items donated by other businesses. Your services do not have to be part of that donation, though we do suggest giving a nonprofit discount. Create a menu as you would for any client and present it to them at full cost, and then show your nonprofit discount. Most organizations will recognize your good gesture and greatly appreciate that they didn’t have to ask you to do it.

There are also several benefits to catering nonprofit events. If you do give a discount to the organization, you can ask for some event advertising as a trade. Ask that they include on you any programs, signage, and event emails that go out. Depending on your agreement you could even ask that they create social media postings highlighting your services or include you as a link on the ticket buying webpage. Most nonprofits won’t be surprised by this request and some may even come to the table with advertising worked out as part of the partnership. Catering nonprofit events also means you get to attend what are usually some of the most highly attended events in your area. This is a great chance to have people sample your food without being in a wedding expo or similar environment. Make sure to take business cards, signage (if it isn’t provided by the nonprofit), and introduce yourself to attendees. If you’re a caterer with a marketing, sales, or new business manager, ask the gala for a few tickets to the event as well. This is a great time for your people to work the room meeting potential clients. You never know where business will come from.

With that said, not every gala event or charity dinner is the big sweeping, ballroom event we tend to think of. Some are smaller, more subtle events. These nonprofits need your help just as much, if not more, than the national ones. Just like normal, full paying clients, not every inquiry is the right fit. Be sure to have meetings with those who reach out to you, get a feel for their budget and their expectations like you would anyone else. If you all aren’t the right fit it’s okay to say so.

If you do any nonprofit event catering make sure to keep track of the discount you give, the total event amount, and the 501-C3 information of the nonprofit you work with. If you find that you are getting multiple requests for nonprofit events, it may be to your benefit to create a simple form for them to complete with their budget, event type, and 501-C3 number. This will help you keep track of the events and their info, making tax season a little easier on you and your accountant.

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