A Model for a Successful School Fundraiser

TasteBag1Sold out. Again.

Always.

The Center Elementary School PTO of Chelmsford, MA boasts one of the most successful and anticipated events of the year with its Taste of Chelmsford fundraiser. Every year as we head into spring, locals are treated to a night out of socializing, music, prizes, and most importantly, a night of sampling appetizers, main dishes, and desserts of the areas many fine restaurants and caterers.

Not only is this tasting competition a “calender circling” event for many adults, it’s one of the town’s most successful school fundraisers all year and benefits Center School’s enrichment programs.

CakeAn adults-only night of friends, community, and sampling great food and drink that raises funds to grow the minds of our children for a mere $25? It’s crystal clear why the event is sold out every year and why this should be a model for any school searching for ideas on how to raise money for their own programs. Raising money for these programs is the most important part of the night, but the added benefits of supporting your local establishments and fostering local pride can’t be overlooked. Your sense of community is stronger when you leave this event than when you enter, and the restaurants and vendors who participate bring their “A” game knowing how big of a shot in the arm this exposure can be for business.

The Taste of Chelmsford, going on its 15th year, is a freight train that has no intentions of stopping. This year “Taste” has 1) sold more tickets than ever at 400, 2) sold out in the quickest amount of time in 3 days, and 3) has the most restaurants/food vendors at 26.

The main format of the event is simple: everyone who attends gets three tickets — Best Appetizer, Best Entrée, Best Dessert. Each ticket counts as 1 vote towards their respective category. While enjoying the company of friends and community, people casually make their way around the venue and sample food from the participants who each have their own table at which to display their wares. Some places feature their signature offering and nothing else, while others bring multiple dishes across multiple voting categories. Then, when your mind is made up (typically after returning for seconds and thirds of your favorites), you make your way over to the People’s Choice Voting Table and cast your tickets into the bags of your dishes of choice.

Vote1The votes are then tallied and winners are picked. I kid you not when I say that the competition for the People’s Choice awards is taken very seriously and establishments come to win. Friendly competition is something we all love and it sets the tone for the entire night knowing that these restaurants and vendors are here to win, bring their best and want to impress you with their signature offerings.

During the night you can also round out your experience by bidding on silent auction items or casting purchased raffle tickets for a variety raffle prizes.

The school enrichment programs that this event funds extend from theatrical performances about character building to scientists wowing students with dinosaur bones and robots. The money raised also pays for visits from the likes of an international violinist, area artists, and a local author/illustrator who through sharing their love of the arts with students hope to spark a creative side just lying dormant and waiting for a trigger.

Simply put, the Taste of Chelmsford is a coming together of businesses and residents for the benefit of our most important commodity – our children.

*****

Some great tips for running a successful event like this from the Event Chair:

  • Have fun!
  • Always keep the core of the event the same and build/makes changes from there.
  • Help the restaurants/vendors win in the sense of PR for their businesses and getting people to go to their establishments/buy their catering.

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