How to Run a Chili Cook Off Fundraiser

How to Run a Chili Cook Off Fundraiser

Charitable organizations are always looking for new and better ways to find and motivate new supporters and donors. The best way to get people excited is often to host events or competitions that attract a large crowd. This is why chili cook off fundraisers are popular. They give participants a good opportunity to have fun and show their skills, while helping those in need.

Let’s talk about how to run a chili cook off fundraiser.

What is a Chili Cook Off Fundraiser?

A chili cook off fundraiser is a fun competition between participants to see who can cook up the best bowl of chili. Each participant or team prepares a specific recipe to be judged. The dishes are prepared in advance and usually kept anonymous as judges taste them one by one to choose a winner. Winners or top contestants are awarded prizes, and the competition can be quite fierce.

But here’s the fun side of the event. People will purchase tickets to attend the cook off and test the chili. Entertainment should be offered – think bands, DJs, and more. Sell drinks and desserts to go with the chili, along with hosting fundraising raffles to bring in more funds.

What Will I Need to Run a Chili Cook Off Fundraiser?

Chili Cook Off Fundraiser

If you want to organize a successful chili cook off, there are a lot of moving parts. You will need to manage several factors including the location, contest rules, recruiting chili cooks, judges, event promotion, day of event logistics and more.

We suggest creating a strong event committee of dedicated staff and volunteers to get all of these things in place. Here are some specific elements to consider.

Determine the Chili Cook-Off Budget

Be clear about how much money you can afford to spend on the event by drawing up a complete fundraising event budget.

If you have a backyard big enough to accommodate guests and participants, you can hold the event there. Otherwise, you may have to rent a venue, which can be costly. Some venues may be willing to offer a discount if you explain the cause and offer them an event sponsorship. If not, then make sure to look for options that are affordable and easy to reach.

Recruit Sponsors for the Cook-Off

Fundraising Sponsors for  Chili Cook Off Fundraisers

Next, it’s time to find sponsors for your cook off event. Always think about your network of supporters and start there. Since this is going to be a chili cook off fundraiser, it is also a good idea to contact restaurants and chili or Southwestern food producers and use their products as samples. This will save you money and help sponsors reach a wider audience, making it a win-win deal for everyone involved.

However,  it can be a bit tricky to win sponsors. You will have to explain why they should contribute or offer you free products. Be prepared! Create a presentation and make a list of sponsorship benefits so you can convince them to sponsor your event. Be clear about where you want to host the event, how many attendees you expect, and how sponsoring can benefit them. Read more on common benefits to event sponsors.

Enlist Volunteers to Help


Since you are planning a charity event and want to keep as much of the event proceeds as possible, you will need volunteers to help perform event day tasks such as managing participants, coordinating with judges, distributing food, and the like.

Fortunately, there are many people willing to offer a helping hand. This is a fun event and people will want to be involved. You will not be able to pull this off on your own, hence do not hesitate in seeking help from your supporters.

Recruit Chili Cook Off Participants and Attendees

The next step is recruiting and selecting chili cooks. If you want your competition to be fun and exciting, then you should recruit participants that have experience in cooking for large numbers of people. Many times this will be local celebrity chefs or restaurant teams.

You can introduce a small participation fee to cover up some costs. This will not only help accumulate funds but also ensure entries are serious.

Keep an Eye on Everything with a Chili Cook Off Website

Using an event ticketing website will make the event much easier to manage. This will greatly simplify the process of registering event attendees, securely accepting mobile donations and selling additional items, registering volunteers, downloading financial and participant reports, and ensuring tight security.

Chili Cook Off Website

Cook Off Rules and Judges

Chili cook-offs can be quite competitive for fun events! Selecting the right judges can help you promote the event online and add some authenticity to it.

You will need to create and publish the cook off rules before the event. Here is an idea of chili cook off rules that you might customize for your event:

Sample Chili Cook Off Rules

Bowl of Chili at a Fundraiser
  1. Chili is defined as any kind of meat, combination of meats, beans, or vegetables cooked with chili peppers, various other spices, and other ingredients. Each entry must be labeled “Meat or Vegetarian” and there will be competitions in each category.
  2. Only one entry per person, group, or restaurant is allowed.
  3. All ingredients must be pre-cooked prior to the event. Chili is to be brought ready to eat, but will be reheated.
  4. Each contestant must prepare a minimum of 20 liters (or 400 samples) of chili.
  5. Contestants are responsible for supplying their own serving utensils and serving the chili during the event.
  6. A gas stove, table, chairs, and tasting spoons and cups for use in serving the chili will be provided by the organization.

You will need to form a committee to judge the event. The judges should be well-known and respected in your community. Chefs and restaurateurs are the obvious choices, plus perhaps a local celebrity who can bring in some media attention. If you have a connection with an Instagram star or food blogger that would also work.

Add Entertainment & Revenue Boosters

raffle fundraising

You want the event to be fun and attract a large crowd, right? Then you need to choose a host or M.C. that can entertain the guests. Your M.C. will provide live commentary, interview participants, maybe sing, and generally entertain the guests. Music is also key. Recruit local bands or DJs to help rock the event. Include a 50/50 fundraising raffle to bring in the money!

Event Marketing and Promotion

Promote the event widely in your area to ensure you receive the kind of attention you want. You can also use social media to reach your audience. It will cost you a little but online marketing can be effective for this type of special event fundraising.

Rocking the Event Day

fundraising event

This will be easy and fun, as long as you – plan properly, check everything twice, and have a contingency plan in case things go wrong. Never forget that your main aim is to raise money, hence be clear about your expectations and solicit donations throughout the event.

After the cook off, be sure to get together with your committee and evaluate your event within 7 days.


Chili Cook Off Fundraisers are a great way to raise money and awareness for a cause. They are not easy to coordinate, however, so be sure you have a dedicated team that is willing to help get the job done. Follow the steps outlined above and get some help with a fundraising event website from DoJiggy.

Lisa Bennett

About Lisa Bennett

Lisa is the Sales Director at DoJiggy. She joined DoJiggy in 2006 and loves her job. Prior to working with DoJiggy, she worked at several non-profits and managed special event fundraising.

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