How to Run a BBQ Fundraiser
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Research shows that one of the most popular and profitable fundraisers is the humble sausage sizzle. Whether held outside Bunnings on the weekend, set up at schools at election time or part of a community market or fete, a fundraising BBQ is a guaranteed hit. Here is all you need to know to make your next sausage sizzle a fundraising success.
When should I hold my sausage sizzle fundraiser?
At your local primary school on election day (aka the 'democracy sausage').
At your nearest Bunnings
[you will need to book in advance for this].
Grand final day at your local sporting club.
Community farmers markets.
What should I sell at my fundraising BBQ?
At the very least you should sell sausages wrapped in plain bread or bread rolls with tomato sauce. The bread must be white and the tomato sauce should have a high sugar content. Don't try to be fancy, you're here to feed the masses and raise money not worry about nutritional content.
Next level is cooked onion and a range of drinks (usually soft drinks and water), although many people would still consider this non-negotiable.
If you want to get a bit fancy, try burgers or bacon and eggs rolls.
It's wise to keep your menu as simple as possible, keeping in mind the time of day and your expected customer base. If you're cooking for a bunch of under 10s and their families, perhaps now isn't the time to pull out the spicy chorizo and battered eggplant patties.
What equipment do I need?
Your first concern is a reliable BBQ (or two) and full gas bottles. In many situations, an all-weather tent with floor and three walls is necessary, especially if your local council has rules regarding food preparation. You will also need at least two large tables (one for food prep and one for sales).
You will need ice/eskies for cold storage (sausages, cut onions, drinks) and large clean tubs for the buns or bread.
Utensils required include: long tongs for cooking (at least 2 or 3), a sharp knife (sausages) and bread knife, tools for cleaning the BBQ. You will need oil for cooking and smaller tongs for serving (though gloved hands are probably easier).
Cleaning supplies include Spray n' Wipe and Chux (or baby wipes) for keeping surfaces clean, a bin and bin liners, paper towel.
Service supplies include aprons for all your workers and disposable gloves. Purchase some sturdy aluminium trays for cooked sausages (cover with alfoil to keep warm) plus extra trays for assembled hotdogs. Serve them to customers wrapped in a serviette. The hot dogs, not the customers.
Finally, you will also need to bring your float, cash box and signage. Decide on prices in advance and make at least two large and clear signs. Some groups like to bring flyers or hang posters to tell customers a bit more about your fundraising group and what you're raising money for.
How much should I charge?
My best advice is to look and see what other local groups are doing in your area, but a good rule of thumb is $2.00-$3.00 for the hotdog (you can choose whether to charge extra for the onions), $3.00-$5 for a bacon and egg roll and $1.50-$2.00 for drinks.
Keep your price points simple and organise your float with this in mind. If you're not having anything for sale that ends in .50 then you won't need many 50c coins.
A $200 float would be four $20, four $10, six $5, $20 each of $1 and $2 coins plus $10 worth of 50 cents coins. If everything is $2/$3/$4 then you can get extra gold coins and skip the 50c altogether.
What food do I need?
This will depend on where you are and how many customers you expect. A stall at a farmer's market where there are multiple other offerings will sell much less than a Saturday morning stall outside a busy Bunnings.
For every 200 expected customers you will need:
200 sausages (beef is standard, if you're planning on using pork or chicken, make sure you clearly identify this). It's nice but certainly non-essential to offer vegetarian/halal alternatives.
12-15 loaves of bread or 200 hotdog buns (always get a bag of spares in case of dropped buns or accidents)
10 kilograms of onions (shop around to find them pre-sliced in bulk)
3 litres of tomato sauce (plus optional mustard and BBQ sauce)
150 drinks including bottles of water, soft drink cans [most popular tend to be Coke, Fanta and Lemon] and juice boxes.
A BBQ at a medium-sized fete alongside other food stalls would probably sell between 200-300 hot dogs.
If you're lucky enough to get a stall at some of the larger Bunnings superstores you could expect to sell four times this quantity.
How many volunteers do I need?
How many volunteers you need will depend on a) how long your BBQ will run for and b) how many customers you're expecting. At the very minimum, you will need three people per shift – one to cook, one to assemble and one to handle the orders and money.
For larger stalls, five people is probably all you can reasonably squeeze into a marquee tent, which would be two people on the BBQ, one person handling money and sales and two people assembling hot dogs and handing them to customers.
Make sure you roster extra people on during the lunch or dinner rush.
All volunteers should understand basic food handling standards (check to see if your local council has requirements for formal training) and should wear gloves when handling food, closed shoes (no thongs) and long hair tied back. If you're fundraising for a sports club or charity group, wear uniforms (or caps) if you can.
Depending on how many volunteers you have, shifts can run between 90 minutes and 3 hours and it's a good idea to have a single person (or two co-coordinators) present for the entire time to ensure things run smoothly and make handover between shifts easier.
Where should I get the sausages, bun and drinks from?
The cheaper your costs the greater your profits so you should always use contacts from within your community to see if you can get sausages, buns and drinks donated free or at cost.
Often you can source donations from within the school/club community
[especially from those who don't intend to volunteer on the day] and this is a great way to get drinks, serviettes, alfoil and sauce. To make sure you don't wind up with 2,000 serviettes and 40L of hot sauce, create a pledge sheet and get people to mark their names next to specific items you need.
The next option is to approach your local supermarket to see if they will support your fundraiser by providing cheap or free supplies. Coles offers a local community support program
which can result in $100 worth of gift cards to use in-store. It's worth a conversation with your local store manager.
How much profit can you make from a fundraising BBQ?
How long is a string of sausages? Obviously, if you manage to source all your supplies for free then your profits will be much more. It's very common to make $1,000 at a medium-sized Bunnings sausage sizzle or school fete.
A sausage sizzle on election day is always a winner ( especially if combined with a cake stall
) and likely to make you a couple of thousand dollars profit.
What your hottest tips for a successful sausage sizzle?
Put someone in charge who is organised and unflappable.
Plan as much as you can in advance - including where you are getting your supplies from and whether they need any prep (ie cutting onions or buns, chilling drinks etc).
Have a plan in place for buying more sausages/buns/sauce/drinks if you run out early. You will need one or more volunteers, preferably who live nearby with a car, and who are happy to make a quick trip to the shop. Make sure they have access to an esky and plan in advance how they will pay for and get reimbursed for the food.
Sometimes it's worth paying extra for cut buns and pre-cut onions. If not, make sure you have volunteers on hand the night before or the morning of to do as much prep at home as possible. You do not want to be cutting 20kg of onions as your customers queue in front of you.
Get a volunteer to separate all the sausages the night before.
It is better to have multiple smaller squeeze bottles of tomato sauce and mustard that you can top up, rather than a single large bottle that is awkward to handle and people have to queue to access.
Onions – some people love them, some people hate them so you won't necessarily be serving onions with every hot dog. Still, it's wise to have a standard amount you will be putting on each hot dog so you don't end up running out halfway through your BBQ. 10kg sounds a lot for 200 people but will only end up being 50g of raw onion per hot dog – that's about half a small onion which will shrink down when cooked. Onions are pretty cheap when you buy them in bulk, so it's best to be generous and buy a few more onions.
Adjust the number of drinks you buy based on the weather forecast. If it's going to be a stinker you will sell cold drinks to people who won't stop for a hot dog. On a cooler day, fewer people will want drinks. Make sure drinks are chilled adequately in advance.
Have a list of volunteers easily accessible including their names and mobile numbers. Plan shifts with a 15-minute overlap so each new person has time to learn where everything is, and you're not left with an empty stall if the new shift is a few minutes late.
Take along a box of 'useful in an emergency' items including a fire extinguisher and blanket, sharpie, notepad, tape, BandAids, screwdriver (for wobbly legs on tables etc), sunscreen, bug spray, snaplock bags (for excess cash).
Keep an eye on your drip tray. Starting a fire at your fundraising BBQ isn't the best way to attract attention to your cause.
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