Loading Page...

Sponsor: Available! 

Does your organization help organizations host fundraising events like chili cook-offs? Consider sponsoring this fundraising idea to connect with more organizations!

How to Host a Chili Cook-Off Fundraiser

A chili competition can be a major undertaking, especially if your organization hasn’t hosted this type of event in the past. To help you out, we’ve compiled these crucial steps to hosting a successful chili cook-off fundraiser: 

1. Set your fundraising goal. 

Setting a goal upfront gives your team and your supporters something to strive for. Your fundraising goal should be marginally higher than previous, similar fundraising events you’ve held. 

2. Find a venue.

Choose a location for your cook-off event. Ensure it’s large enough to accommodate your anticipated number of chili cooks and taste-testing participants. Also, make sure there’s ample parking on site. Excellent locations for this type of event include local parks, community centers, churches, clubhouses, and gyms. 

3. Establish the rules.

Your chili cook-off contestants will require a few guidelines to help them understand the expectations and ensure their entries are viable for judging. Here are a few rules you might establish: 

  • Define what chili is to give participants guidelines for what to make and ensure you don’t have anyone trying to sneak a soup into the competition. Chili is typically defined as a warm stew made of meat, beans, tomatoes, and other vegetables. 
  • Tell participants to label their chili as vegetarian or not vegetarian. Also, ensure they include the list of ingredients so taste-testers can assess potential allergens.
  • Provide specific instructions for how much chili each participant should make, the type of container they should bring it in (such as a Crockpot or other slow-cooker), and whether they’re responsible for bringing utensils, napkins, and toppings like cheese and sour cream. 
  • Describe the judging process, including the voting process and how a winner will be chosen. 

These rules will ensure everyone’s on the same page and there aren’t any surprises on event day. 

4. Promote your event and recruit chili cooks.

Promote your event using your social media pages, email newsletter, direct mail messages, and flyers hung up in popular places like libraries and community centers. Ensure your promotional materials specifically encourage chili chefs to sign up for the competition portion and other supporters to attend as taste-testers. Also, make it clear how supporters’ donations will be used, whether it’s to support your school’s after school program or help fund a new program for your nonprofit. 

5. Recruit event volunteers. 

You’ll need a strong volunteer team to help set up your event, check in competitors, monitor voting, and clean up after the event concludes. Reach out to past event volunteers and other supporters to encourage them to volunteer. Offer volunteer incentives such as a free entry to try the chilis, a free branded t-shirt, or a gift card to a local business. 

Also, offer a quick training session for event volunteers to make sure everyone understands their responsibilities. Make sure volunteers know who they can go to during the event if they have any questions or concerns. 

6. Line up corporate sponsors. 

A chili cook-off can be a great marketing opportunity for local businesses. You’ll be bringing plenty of community members together in one place, and you’ll likely have tons of opportunities to include sponsors’ names and logos on your t-shirts, banners, and other event marketing materials.

Get in touch with past event sponsors and other corporate partners via phone or email to encourage them to support your event. Remind potential sponsors of the benefits of corporate philanthropy, such as a reputation boost and positive PR for their company. 

8. Plan to sell refreshments and merchandise.

You can boost your fundraising efforts even more by selling additional refreshments and branded merchandise during the cook-off. Depending on the time of year, additional refreshments might include:

  • Lemonade
  • Hot chocolate
  • Apple cider
  • Potato chips
  • Cookies
  • Cakes/Cupcakes

Also, creating merchandise for your event allows you to raise more money and commemorate the event in a fun way. To engage supporters in the process, ask them to send in design suggestions and allow them to vote on their favorite. Make sure to feature your corporate sponsors prominently on the back of the shirts. 

9. Select prizes. 

Your chili cook-off winners shouldn’t leave empty handed. Make sure you have valuable prizes for your first, second, and third place winners. Ask your corporate sponsors if they’d be willing to donate or fund the prizes to help cut down on costs. 

10. Thank participants. 

After your event concludes, send all participants and attendees a thank-you email. Recap your fundraising progress by sharing the fundraising total. Also, share photos and videos from the event using your email newsletter and social media pages. All of these activities set the stage for ongoing engagement with event attendees, allowing you to maintain their support for the long-term. 

4 Ideas to Spice Up Your Chili Cook-Off

Make your chili cook-off more engaging by adding a unique spin. Review these ideas for inspiration:

  • Make your event a chili and mac and cheese cook-off to appeal to attendees who might not like chili.
  • Invite special guest judges to judge the competition and choose a winner. These judges can be locally-well known individuals, such as the local fire chief, prominent restaurant owner, or elementary school principal.
  • Host a spicy chili eating competition. Challenge attendees to eat the hottest bowl of chili from the event and give a prize to whoever eats their portion the fastest. 
  • Invite local musicians to entertain attendees with live music.