Why do you provide complimentary meals? Wouldn't it be much better if you decided to sell tickets or tables?


Again, your desire is to provide an enjoyable and inspirational evening for your ministry friends. It is also important to provide an atmosphere that will attract anyone interested in giving to your ministry efforts. And, you want to make it as easy as possible for your friends to invite their friends to attend. It’s been proven that the first year of a dinner where tickets are sold, friends may buy tickets to support you. However, the second year, it becomes harder to justify buying a ticket and gets even harder every year after that. That makes it very hard to grow your dinner in subsequent years. If you ask a friend (who may already be struggling to justify his/her purchasing a ticket) to invite their friend to attend, that means they will have to ask their friend to not only attend, but purchase tickets too. On top of purchasing a ticket, you will probably ask for another monetary gift at the end of the event. Studies show that “if” someone gives a gift, it will be far less than what they would have given had they been given their meal at no cost.  


Now think of how easy it is to ask someone to come to a complimentary dinner and even invite friends. All that is needed in that case is to tell them we want to thank them, love them and appreciate their partnership and want to share this same appreciation with their friends. This will draw the people to your dinner and grow it each year.   


This same principle is true even if you ask your friends to buy a table. The average contribution to purchase a table is $250-$500. With that in mind, who are you going to ask to spend that kind of money? Typically, it is your biggest current donor – also someone who probably has the potential to give a contribution of $1,000, $5,000 or $10,000 if properly motivated. But you just under challenged them by asking them to purchase a table. Studies show that these people don’t give another gift at the end of the evening because they already “did their part” by buying a table. Also, when someone buys a table, they often lose their motivation to find solid potential donors since the cost of the meals is paid for.  In fact, some hosts often rationalize that they save the ministry money by not attending – since the meals (table) have already been paid for. That mindset actually hurts all parties.


There is also a little known IRS rule that requires anyone who sells tickets or tables to declare the value of those meals on the next tax return and deduct that amount from any gift given that evening. See Cru Policies and Procedures For Events. With our current complementary model, all gifts are 100% tax deductible.


Why is it recommended that the dinner menu be prime rib (or nice “fancy cut” of beef) rather than a more healthy chicken or fish?


While it is true that many Americans have cut back on their beef intake (some have completely eliminated beef from their diet), beef is still a popular item with Americans and is even seen as a delicacy to many. But putting that aside, many individuals attending “fundraising” dinners today expect to see chicken on the menu (often referred to as a “rubber chicken”). So when someone sees beef on the menu, their eyes light up in surprise. Even though many Americans have reduced or eliminated beef intake, most are not vegetarians by doctor’s orders but by choice. Therefore, when a nice piece of meat is put before them, they see it as very special. Since most homes rarely see beef anymore, this can be a very welcome treat. The reason other ministries choose chicken over beef is not always for dietary considerations but oftentimes for cost considerations. Typically, at face value, chicken is less expensive. But with proper negotiation, a great beef entrée can be offered at the same price or many times, less than a chicken entrée.


Why is it important that we negotiate the menu price before signing the hotel contract?


It’s been said that everything at a hotel is “negotiable” -- and that is especially true with food and beverage.  You should never pay the price listed in a hotel’s menu packet -- it is just like never having to pay the sticker price on a vehicle. The size of the entree is the easiest item to negotiate on the menu. Choosing a lunch portion of beef over a dinner portion is one of the simplest ways to save money and you lose nothing in quality. However, it is critical to understand that it is the goal of the hotel to charge you the most for your event and get you to sign the contract as soon as possible. Once you sign the contract, you have lost all negotiating strength. The only incentive the hotel has to negotiate with you is the signed contract. Don’t sign until you have everything that you want from meal price to parking to A/V or internet.


Should we get sponsors or underwriters for our event?


For as long as I can remember, I have heard of ministries and consultants espousing the benefits of getting “underwriters and sponsors” to help off-set the cost of doing dinners.  I have seen ministries create different levels of sponsorship and include logos, banners and even corporate promotional speeches at dinners – all in the hopes of covering the costs of the dinner before the evening even starts.  And in theory, that sounds great. Click here to continue reading.

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