Sipping your way to successful special event

Published 11:59 am Monday, April 18, 2011

In the last article we discussed the food for your special events. In this article we will continue talking about the food served for your special event.

One of the questions that I get asked a lot about special events is what to do with the volunteers – do we feed them or not?

My response is yes, volunteers work very hard so your special event and nonprofit can be successful at what they do.

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If cost is an issue and you don’t have time during the event to feed the volunteers, due to time constraints, ask the chef or caterer to prepare a special menu, which most will do for free, so volunteers can sit down and eat with the nonprofit’s leadership, before the event.

This is just another way to say thank you to the backbone of your organization.

The next item you and your committee will need to spend time on are the beverages to be served. I know what you are thinking, really – is it that important? Yes, you need to make sure and serve beverages to compliment the food and that will also please your guests.

The first step is to consider whether or not to serve alcohol.

This needs to be a major decision for the organization. Not only is serving alcohol a liability and in North Carolina requires a special one-time permit by the ABC commission, but it may not be suited for some nonprofit organizations (e.g. religious or substance abuse nonprofits).

Not to mention alcohol is another large expense item in the budget. One idea to think about for your event is a cash bar. A cash bar not only helps reduce the cost but also helps cut down on the liability. For example, if you serve wine at the event, the cost for a 200 person event would be around $1,000.

If you then add liquor to the event, you have added another $1,000, not to mention the two bars, set up and staff – that is easily another $300. So if you charge $3 per drink per person, you can see how this would help offset the cost to you. Also, if people have to pay for drinks their intake is reduced versus if it is offered free.

Other beverages to consider include: soft drinks are mandatory at events, even if you serve alcohol you will still have those who will not partake of alcohol so they will need something else to drink. When serving soft drinks don’t forget to include diet and caffeine free varieties. Another beverage must, especially if you are serving dessert, is coffee. Make sure to have decaffeinated coffee as well.

Others to consider: sweet and unsweet tea, lemonade (depending upon the time of year and event), milkshakes, punch and bottled water.

Now that the food and beverages have been chosen consider what to do with the leftovers, there are always leftovers! A good idea is to donate the food to a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, etc.

At the event make sure and let the guests know they are not only helping your organization but another one as well on the event day.

Tipping should also be well thought out. The usually gratuity is 18 percent for a catered event. When tipping the staff or caterers make sure and personally hand the tips to the individuals. Do this with a nice hand written thank you note.

This will get your organization in front of the individuals for future needs. If someone has gone out of his or her way, always make sure and have a little something extra for him/her. This could be as simple as a glass with your organization’s logo on it.

Always remember, everyone loves to be thanked!

The next several articles will focus on how to successfully host a special event.

The Nonprofit Leadership column, written by Melissa Le Roy – a nonprofit consultant – is aimed at providing guidance from Melissa’s perspective as a leader in both the nonprofit and for profit businessworld and does not reflect the views or opinions of any organization she has been affiliated with. For questions or comments related to this series, feel free to contact