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3 Steps for Organizing a Picnic Fundraiser

Step 1: Choose a venue.

The first step to holding a picnic fundraiser is deciding where to hold the event. Ideally, you’ll want to find an outdoor area that has room for all of your attendees. The best venues have plenty of flat, dry spaces for sitting.

Consider one of these common picnic locations for your fundraiser:

  • A picnic pavilion
  • A local park
  • A nature center
  • If applicable, your organization’s lawn

Before you make any final decisions about venues, ask the spaces you are considering about their pricing. Some venues offer free or discounted costs for nonprofits. Don’t miss out on an opportunity to save money and increase your return on investment.

Step 2: Make decisions about food.

If you’ve ever been to a picnic you know what the focus is — the food. Deciding how you will handle food is the most important step in picnic planning. Since everything else about the event hinges on this choice, it is important to make an informed decision that realistically considers your nonprofit’s capabilities.

There are two paths you can take when it comes to arranging food at your picnic fundraiser.

Ask attendees to bring their own food.

Have everyone who attends your event bring their own picnic basket. If you value a sense of community, structure this like a potluck picnic in which attendees bring a dish that is shared among your supporters. This way, attendees can still enjoy the meal and your nonprofit isn’t saddled with the responsibility of providing food.

If you decide not to provide food, try adding value to the event in other ways. For example, jazz up the picnic environment to make it feel more like a special occasion. Setting up decorations and tidying up eating areas makes the space more inviting for participants.

Provide food for attendees.

Alternatively, your nonprofit could provide food for your guests. While this option is more expensive and time-consuming, it can be rewarding to provide a meal or snack for your supporters.

If you choose to provide food, make sure you or someone on your team is experienced in preparing food for large groups of people. You will need lots of volunteers — and hours of their time — to shop for ingredients, prepare the food, and transport it to the picnic location. While this option is more involved than organizing a potluck, it can feel more all-inclusive to your supporters.

Step 3: Determine how you will raise money.

There are a few ways to raise money through a picnic fundraiser. The method you choose hinges on your picnic’s food situation.

If you opted to have attendees bring their own picnic, the best option is to have them to purchase the spot where they will eat their picnic. You can number the tables or picnic blankets to make it easy for them to find their designated place on the day of the event. This way supporters feel that they are paying for something concrete.

On the other hand, if your organization decides to provide food you can charge for tickets or food items. If you don’t want to worry about accepting payments throughout the event, simply charge participants an entry fee that covers all food options. However, you could also charge per plate or food item as a way to vary donation sizes.

Picnic Fundraiser Best Practices

Consider weather conditions.

Because picnics are traditionally held outside, it is important to consider weather conditions when choosing a date and location. Avoid scheduling the fundraiser during a time when it is likely to be exceptionally hot, cold, or rainy. Events held on these days may have a low turnout or provide a poor experience for attendees.

While you can avoid planning your picnic in your region’s rainy season, it can be hard to predict inclement weather months in advance. In the event of a natural disaster, unseasonable temperatures, or heavy rain, have a backup plan in place. Whether this means moving the picnic to a later date or shifting it indoors, having a Plan B ready to go is better than scrambling to put something together at the last minute.

Sell tickets ahead of time.

Most picnic venues are open, outdoor areas that don’t have a single point of entry. This makes it difficult to check for or sell tickets at the event entrance. If you are using a large venue with multiple entrances, selling tickets before the event cuts down on confusion for you and your attendees.

Prioritize seating.

While picnics are not meant to be formal events, you should still strive to make your attendees feel taken care of. Making sure there is plenty of space for everyone to sit comfortably is the best way to provide a good participant experience.

If you are selling the picnicking spots to attendees, creating pleasant picnicking spots should be a top priority. You’ll want to make sure the spots you sell to supporters are worthy of their donations. Setting up cute blankets, adding tablecloths to picnic tables, and putting up decorations can make the spaces feel more special.

Ensure food safety.

Providing food for a large group of people can be a challenge, and your organization should be following strict food safety guidelines. Adhering to basic procedures like handwashing, keeping food at appropriate temperatures until served, and avoiding cross-contamination should be central to the team providing food. If you feel out of your depth or nervous about providing food, it might be best to hire a caterer.

Communicate clearly.

Before kicking off the event, make sure everyone knows what will and not be provided. You want attendees to be prepared for the event so they have the best experience possible. Let participants know in advance if they need to bring their own food, drinks, blankets, chairs, or other supplies.

You should also reiterate dates, times, and locations across all event promotions. Avoid posting this information in a place your supporters have to search for like a page on your website that isn’t linked on your socials. Finally, let attendees know about any other fundraisers or events happening at the picnic so they’ll know what to expect.

Other Fundraisers to Pair with a Picnic

While holding a picnic on its own is a great fundraising opportunity, pairing it with another fundraiser can increase the money your raise. Your guests may also stick around longer and enjoy themselves if there are other activities.

These are just a few of the events that pair well with picnic fundraisers:

  • Raffles
  • Cooking contests
  • Field days
  • Easter egg hunts
  • Benefit concerts
  • Outdoor movie nights
  • Talent shows

If you choose to host two fundraisers at once, make sure neither requires huge amounts of preparation and organizing. Choose fundraising options that are relatively low-stress so that you can pull them off successfully. While hosting events is exciting and fun, you don’t want to be overwhelmed with details and expenses.