3 Secrets to Increase Your Banquet Response

Posted on: March 6, 2017

Non-profit organizations should host fundraising banquets. We hear that all the time. But what does that look like?

banquet3There are so many questions you need to ask, such as: How do we avoid people who come and don’t give a donation? How do we get the right people in the room? Do we advertise in church bulletins and on the radio? 

Before working with Ministry Sync, I worked as an Event Coordinator for a ministry for over six years. I have attended many, many fundraising banquets and planned six of my own. I wrestled with these questions every year, and in the end, determined that it all really boils down to vision – and being diligent in carrying out that vision.

So what is the vision?

To provide a professional, elegant event that communicates our organization’s mission well, engages new donors, and yields significant donations.

How do we accomplish this? Through Underwriters, a Table Host Style event, and a Strong Ask.


Let’s face it – fundraising dinners are expensive. Especially when done well. The key is not to plan an inexpensive event, but instead to have your event underwritten before it ever takes place. This way all donations given at the event can go straight to ministry and not to event overhead.

You want to pursue businesses and well-to-do individuals to offset the expense of your event. If you pursue these donors well in advance, you can include their logos on all event communication. With AttendEasy, their logos will be shown on all webpages and emails too. This advertising benefit is a great way to thank and appreciate those who have made your event possible!

In my previous role, my team realized that we were barking up the same trees event-to-event, so we chose to transition from individuals to corporate sponsors to underwrite events for the year – businesses whose significant contributions would support all of our fundraising events, and would also give them visible thanks as donors. Our sponsors liked being “asked” less and “thanked” more – and we really liked “asking” less and serving more!

Table Hosts

Successful fundraising dinners often cost $35-$50+ per person, so we don’t want people attending who do not have the capacity to give. I’ve heard you want to target donors who can give a minimum of $300 per couple, and I agree. Keeping this in mind, you’ll want to avoid “opening the doors wide” and be more selective in who is invited to your event, so radio ads and church bulletins are not the preferred ways to fill your banquet hall. It’s better to have 200 of the “right” people in the room than 600 of the “wrong” people.

So how do we get the “right” people? Through Table Hosts! Table Hosts have the great privilege of inviting friends who aren’t familiar with your ministry to sit at their table (or tables!) at the event. When there’s no cost to attend, it’s an easy “yes!” from these potential ministry partners.

Because they have such a great responsibility, you need to be choosy when selecting who to invite as table hosts. Who do you know that is not only passionate about your ministry, but also is connected to affluent members in your community? Identify them, and personally invite them to host a table.

When I say “personally invite,” I mean it. Take the time to call them and cast the vision of what hosting a table means for your event. A letter should never take the place of a relationship-building opportunity – especially when you’re asking your table hosts to invite a table full of people who will collectively give over $1,500 to your ministry. It’s worth your 10 minute time investment.

Still timid about asking people to host a table?

Let me ask you a question: Does your ministry save babies from abortion? Encourage teens to turn to Jesus instead of peer pressure? Give hope to those who have seen great despair? Provide food, shelter and identity to the marginalized in your society? Whatever your mission from God, it is powerful. Inviting others to engage with that mission in order to help effect change in your community and for eternity is an incredible opportunity and an honor!

Table hosts may not be able to commit to serving with you weekly, but this gives them an opportunity to have an equally significant impact to your organization! This is what you want to communicate to your Table Hosts, and what you would like them to communicate to their friends they invite to your event.

Strong Askwoman-megaphone

The “ask” at your event is just as important as who is in your room. Your speaker may draw in some guests, yes, but who knows your organization and your mission better than your own leadership? I strongly urge you to have one of your leaders make the “ask” in this significant part of the event. Let the speaker inspire, and let the leader ask the big question.

Be clear in what you’re asking for. Be honest in what it takes to run your ministry. Put into effect anything that was vision-cast at the event. And above all, be bold in asking your attendees to rise to the challenge. Ask that everyone give a significant gift at your event and commit to ongoing monthly support to help sustain your ministry.

Remember my earlier comment about desiring a minimum of $300 per couple?

$100 donation at your event + $25 monthly commitment = $400 gift from a new ministry partner!

Fill a room with these donors, and your 300 person event just brought in $60,000! A room full of couples who give $300 and commit to $40 each month will result in a $117,000 event – that is totally doable!


Crystal Velte
Crystal Velte