Tips for Running a Spaghetti Dinner Fundraiser

3 years ago

I fed spaghetti to 100 people Saturday night.

Well, me and a cast of thousands (okay, a cast of <10 people).

I spent a couple months working on this event, a spaghetti dinner and silent auction fundraiser for my son’s baseball team. I was in charge of the food, another mom was in charge of the silent auction, and two moms spearheaded the tickets, advertising, facility rental, and whatever else we needed. We toiled for hours in the months leading up to this event and learned a lot along the way. Here are my tips for when it’s your turn to run a fundraiser for one of your kids. And, yes, I’m throwing some sarcasm and humor in for fun!ID-10025792

  1. Plan your spaghetti dinner at least 3 months in advance. Many organizations from which you may be soliciting food or silent auction donations require at least 2 months to consider your request. We missed out on a few opportunities for our team because we asked less than 8 weeks before the event.

2. Prepare for a wide variety of responses to your donation requests. One local restaurant whipped out a gift certificate before I even finished my “Hi, we are hosting a silent auction…” spiel. Some stores make you apply online through corporate and do not decide at the individual store level. Some places need a donation letter and 501(3)(c) number and/or IRS non-profit charter. Some places get so many requests they decide by randomly choosing from all their requests each month. Some people say no.

3. It’s an added bonus to get all soda donated for the event from your local liquor store. This made it extremely handy for me to pick up a box of wine to drink after the event was done.

4. It takes all kinds. What I mean by that is that the 4 of us managing this event found out pretty quickly that some of the parents on the team would work hard to help secure silent auction items and/or pitch in at the event. Meanwhile, some of the parents would do nothing except reap the benefits of everyone else’s hard work. Hey, that’s life, isn’t it?

5. I’d like to give a HUGE shout-out to Olive Garden. Seriously, our local Olive Gardendonated all the breadsticks and salad (including dressings, croutons, and cheese) to our event. It was delicious, amazing, and helped us earn more money because we didn’t have to supply those items ourselves. Seriously – Olive Garden you rock!

6. Find a nice church in your area with a commercial kitchen. For $75, we rented the hall at the local church. (As a comparison, the American Legion wanted $250). The church set up our dining tables, food serving areas, and hot bar. We got to use their commercial kitchen for food prep and clean up and use all their silverware and dishes (so we didn’t have to buy disposable).

7. Keep a positive attitude when people come up for seconds or thirds. Yes, they paid $7. Yes, it’s a fundraiser. But, yes, some people will think it’s a Las Vegas buffet and will want to eat at least $25 worth of spaghetti, meatballs, salad, breadsticks, desserts and drinks.

8. The Silent Auction is your money-maker and don’t forget it. I only spent $28 out of pocket for all the food to feed 100 people. That’s pretty good, right? Everything else was donated or purchased with donated gift cards from Sam’s Club and Walmart. Still, I think we sold about $700 in tickets. We made 3X that much from the Silent Auction items.

9. Speaking of Silent Auctions, you may be asked to bid on a premier, deluxe silent auction item in someone’s place. That someone may win the premier, deluxe item. And that someone may call the next morning to say they don’t want the premier, deluxe item after all. (Thankfully, the second place bidder happily accepted, but really?! I was so surprised by this!)

10. Delegate. I didn’t know how to cook spaghetti noodles or sauce for 100 people. But my Italian mother-in-law and her two sisters did! And it was delicious.

11. Boxed wine is good. The spigot makes it very handy for drinking as you recuperate from the spaghetti dinner and silent auction fundraiser. :)


Have you ever run a fundraiser? What tips would you add?


Image courtesy of Suat Eman/

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