Dining for Dollars–and a Whole Lot More



Pancake breakfasts and spaghetti dinners have been popular Scouting fundraisers for generations. If you have a captive audience or are able to establish a tradition, your troop can make a lot of money with just a few hours’ effort.

But another form of food-based fundraising can offer similar results with less risk–and a number of side benefits. Restaurants across the country, both chains and independent outlets, are happy to host fundraising nights where a portion of the proceeds benefit a nonprofit group.

Here’s how such programs usually work: The group distributes flyers to its supporters. Those supporters dine at the restaurant on a designated night (typically a low-volume time like Thursday night). The restaurant returns a percentage of sales to the group. At Panera Bread, for example, groups can earn the following percentages based on the number of flyers diners turn in:

  • 1-19 flyers = 0%
  • 20-30 flyers = 10%
  • 31-49 flyers = 15%
  • 50+ flyers = 20%

Some restaurants offer additional benefits. For example, your troop might be able to set up a display or put tip jars by the registers. That’s what The Saxton Group, which owns a number of McAlister’s Deli locations, allows. (The company also donates 10% of all sales during fundraisers, not just sales generated by diners bearing flyers.)

Unless your troop is getting a cut of the take at a high-end steakhouse or Michelin-rated bistro, a restaurant fundraiser may not generate a ton of cash. However, it can offer other benefits:

  • It can be a great “friend raiser,” allowing you to tell the Scouting story to people beyond your troop.
  • It can bring troop families together. Parents that usually only see each other at courts of honor or when they’re dropping their kids off can get to know each other over a meal–and you can use the opportunity for a little low-key networking and adult recruiting.
  • It can connect you to your chartered organization. By promoting the fundraiser in the organization’s newsletter, you can reach members who may not be aware that your unit even exists. And if they come to the restaurant, you can have deeper conversations than are possible when people are simply buying popcorn or other products from you.
  • It can serve as a launching pad for other activities. For example, you could hold your troop committee meeting in the restaurant’s party room after dinner.

Has your troop done effective restaurant fundraisers? Post your story in the comments section.




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