Barbecue Fundraising

How to raise support or funds for your church with a bbq

barbecue griller
The sun is shining, people are in short sleeves and shorts, the fireflies have begun their star-like glow in the evening fields -- spring is shading into summer, and it's time for your church's annual barbecue fundraiser! With the weather as nice as it is, people will be happy to get together on a weekend to eat some good food for a great cause.

Think of everyone rolling up their sleeves and digging in to corn on the cob, mashed potatoes, homemade cornbread, pulled pork, quartered chicken, hamburgers, and ribs slathered with a rich, spicy barbeque sauce, all for a few dollars a plate.

But how do you plan a BBQ fundraiser? Not to worry -- below, we'll outline all the basics, as well as some useful ideas for increasing attendance and making sure your event is a rousing success.

Plan Well In Advance
It's helpful to allow yourself plenty of time when planning your event -- we recommend at least six months for a barbecue at which you expect one hundred guests. How many people will you need as volunteers for setup, cooking, serving, and cleanup? Are members of your congregation willing to each bring a covered dish or a dessert, in addition to the main barbecued fare you'll be providing?

Does one of your flock own a lovely riverside piece of property that might be perfect for an event like this that they'd be willing to allow the church to use for a Saturday afternoon? Are you blessed with guitar players, fiddlers, and singers who might be able to provide afternoon entertainment? Make sure that there's a clear chain of communication between you and your volunteers. It will help to have a master list of what everyone is bringing or contributing, as well.

Think about your budget, and how much you'll be able to spend while still turning a decent profit. Beyond your laity, contact local grocery stores, department stores, and party planners who might be willing to donate all sorts of delicious food, beverages, plates, napkins, silverware, tables, chairs, cooking equipment, and just about everything else you'll need to make sure everyone has a fantastic time. Depending upon the intended location of your barbecue, it's also a good idea to arrange for a party tent to be set up, so that people have some place to get out of the sun.

When you ask for help from local businesses, make sure they're familiar with your cause and the tax-deductible nature of their donations. Also, on the day of your get-together, be sure to publicly thank them for their support of your cause. Arranging for charitable contributions will help keep your costs low, increasing the profitability of your fundraising. All of this planning can take a good bit of time, so be sure to begin at least four months in advance.

Is there another high-traffic event going on in your town about the same time you'd like to hold your barbecue? If so, consider coordinating your fundraiser with that gathering -- it's often possible to pick up foot traffic from nearby events, and that means more money for your cause! It's also a great idea to plan a rain date for your barbecue, just in case the weather decides not to cooperate.

One of the best ways to ensure a great turnout for your event is to advertise! Be certain to include all the relevant information people will need to make it to your gathering:
  • Who is welcome to the event?
  • What is the purpose or cause?
  • Where will it be held?
  • When does it take place?
  • How much is your church hoping to raise?

For a barbecue, you might also want to include a partial menu -- make it sound as tasty as it's going to be! If you've lined up live entertainment, definitely include that information as well. When printing fliers, be sure to include a map showing where your event will be held. This simple adverting addition has been statistically shown to increase traffic by up to 30%! Put these fliers up at local businesses and meeting places, such as town squares or dance halls, and spread the word to other churches in the community with which you've formed partnerships and friendships. Get the word out, and people will come -- everyone loves a good summer barbecue!

Other Successful Ideas
Beyond the food itself, it's good to have some activities going on throughout the course of the afternoon to entertain your guests. Horseshoe pits and a volleyball game will go a long way, but there are lots of other fun (and less strenuous) options, as well.

Bingo is a popular and easy choice, and can also be a secondary source of revenue for your fundraising efforts. As mentioned above, live entertainment is also a wonderful way to make sure that everyone's talking about your barbecue for weeks to come, already looking forward to next year's event.

Written by: Bob Robertson