How to Organize a Wine Tasting Fundraiser
Wine Tasting Events Make Great Fundraisers
Your non-profit organization has decided to host or is considering hosting a wine tasting fundraiser and you’ve been asked to help plan it. Great – now what? Here we’ve provided some basic guidelines for you to consider as your organization starts organizing and planning your wine tasting event. This information will help keep your planning process on track, and make you look like a pro the day of your charity event.
We cover the following topics:
- Initial Planning and Research
- Assembling Your Event Planning Committee
- Selecting & Negotiating Wine Tasting or Gala Locations
- Online Registration and Promotion for the Charity Wine Event
- Raising Additional Funds for your Charitable Cause
Wine tasting events are very popular social and Valentine’s Day Fundraising events. After all, most people love tasting wines! This makes finding participants for the event pretty easy. If event promotion is done well, you are very likely to attract people outside of your donor base, purely on the popularity and appeal of wine tasting events.
Initial Planning and Research for Wine Tasting Fundraisers
The first step in organizing a charity wine tasting event is establishing fundraising goals. Determine how much money you need to raise and estimate costs as these will certainly influence your planning, Create a fundraising event budget and project plan that spells out your financial goals and outlines roles and responsibilities.
Decide on an initial format for your wine tasting event. Will it be part of a larger charity gala event or is it a stand-alone fundraiser? Will the wine tasting be an educational event, a blind tasting or a judged show? Will you have a theme and specialize in red wines for Valentine’s Day, summer white wines or champagnes? How will participating vineyards or wine shops have an opportunity to promote their products?
Contact your local Chamber of Commerce to find out if other charity events are taking place in your area on your proposed dates. Over saturation of too many fundraisers could lead to low attendance and unattainable financial goals. You’ll want to avoid competing against another charity wine tasting event or large community charity events if at all possible.
Assembling Your Event Planning Committee
Successful fundraising events hinge on the recruitment and action of a strong leadership team. Ideally your team should be comprised of individuals with diverse skills and talents that share a common interest in the organization’s success. It is also highly suggested that you get knowledgeable donors and board members involved on your event planning committee. They may not know about fundraising, but they’ve been to other wine tasting events to know what works and what doesn’t.
Working smart at this stage of the game requires delegation. Consider assigning a person (or team of people) to the following project areas:
- Wine Connoisseur: Your committee will need at least one wine connoisseur to be your wine expert and assist with bringing in others in the wine industry. Ideally, the wine connoisseur is also connected to wine merchants, vineyards, sommeliers, restaurants or wine bars in your area. Wine companies and wineries are constantly looking to promote their wines. The wine connoisseur is responsible for working with these businesses and getting them to sign on for the wine tasting event.
- Corporate Sponsorship and Donations: Corporate sponsors are an integral part of most wine tasting for charity events. This team should have experience in sales and building partnerships to create sponsorship packages that outline benefits and obligations. They will then raise money for your organization by soliciting event sponsorships from local businesses. In-kind donations can also be solicited for wines, printed materials, silent auction items, raffle prizes, wine related gifts and more. The sponsorship coordinator or group will want to work closely with the marketing team to ensure all sponsor obligations are fulfilled (i.e. signage, logo inclusion on printed materials, thank you plaques and more).
- Marketing & Public Relations: It may be beneficial to have someone with a communications background for this role. This person will write press releases and pitch story ideas to media. They will also create print and promotional materials (i.e. flyers, print ads, event posters, etc.) to help spread the word about the wine tasting throughout the community.
- Hospitality & Day of Event Operations: Event managers organize Day of Event logistics including table or tent rentals, cash boxes, wine tasting bar rentals, and placing event signage. They also plan menus and activities, and coordinate entertainment such as live music. It may be a nice gesture to have an on-site photographer to take pictures at the event. Photos definitely add to your post-event recap on your website and newsletter. Great pictures will also help in your general fundraising efforts and for next year’s event recruitment.
- Prize Committee: This team is responsible for finding items for goodie bags or wine gifts that each guest receives such as tasteful promotional items. They also work with the sponsorship coordinator to assist with obtaining donated items for fundraising raffles and silent auctions.
- Volunteer Committee: This vital team organizes staff & volunteers for day of event activities including:
- Judging Panel – Recruit a few volunteers who are knowledgeable of wines to help keep order on the tasting tables and judge contests such as blind tastings or pairings.
- Welcome Committee – Friendly, outgoing individuals to welcome guests, set up registration tables, prize tables, serve appetizers, drink tickets, sell raffle tickets, and more.
Selecting & Negotiating Wine Tasting Locations
A critical step in the planning process of wine tasting events and charity galas is the location selection. Your organization will want to find a desirable, perhaps private location (such as a country club or vineyard). Offering a private wine tasting in a venue such as this will allow you to charge more for your event registration. If you are hosting a gala in conjunction with the wine tasting, you will obviously need have sufficient room for seating. If the event is less formal, it can happen in a tasting room where participants roam around and go to wine tasting tables.
Be sure to include food with your wine tasting. You certainly don’t want people leaving after tasting all of your wines, without eating anything. Wine and cheese are classic, and by adding fruit, crackers and artisan bread, your hors d’oeuvres are pretty well covered. Many charity wine tastings also pair olive oil tastings or wood-fired pizza and even chocolates. Be sure that your venue has a kitchen and can assist with your food preparation needs or will allow you to bring your own hors d’oeuvres perhaps catered from local participating restaurants.
Forging a strong partnership with a winery or vineyard can help you establish a strong foundation for successful wine tasting charity events. Once you’ve identified the location meets your needs, you’ll want to iron out the details with the staff and proprietors. Putting everything into writing and signing an agreement can alleviate confusion on the day of the wine tasting. Here are some things you’ll want to include in your contract:
- Date and time: Be flexible, as vineyards may offer discounts for off-season or mid-week wine tasting events. Still, Friday night or Saturday afternoon events are sure to draw the largest crowd.
- Description of wine tasting services: Are you selling one ticket or tickets per tasting? Are you adding a registration fee? How are you managing meal tickets or appetizer prices?
- Number of guests per table: When is the attendee list due? Are there penalties if the estimated number of guests is reduced?
- Total costs: Costs per guest, costs for food, beverage, services, etc. and due dates for deposit and final payment.
- Cancellation terms and weather policy.
In summary, make sure you are prepared with a list of questions before you start negotiations with a preferred wine tasting or charity gala location or vineyard. You may want to compare costs and services between a few different locations to ensure you are getting a fair deal, and put everything in writing to protect your organization. But most important, make sure you feel comfortable with the terms and the staff at the vineyard or event location, as you want to make sure they’ll treat your guests to a great day of hospitality.
Online Registration & Promotion for Wine Tasting Events
You will certainly want to promote your fundraiser and sell tickets in advance online. DoJiggy is one of the industry leading fundraising websites for managing the full event life cycle of wine tasting fundraising events including functions to:
- Manage secure online registrations for guests
- Assign table assignments for individual registrations (if the wine tasting is paired with a gala event)
- Sell sponsorship packages
- Promote sponsors and participating vineyards or businesses on your website
- Add social media sharing links, for easy sharing and event promotion
- Sell products and accept secure online donations
- Offer detailed financial reporting for your event
Raising Additional Funds for your Charitable Cause
One of the most important considerations in your event planning will be to look at ways to bring in additional revenue. Below are some fundraising ideas to consider:
- Reach out to the community and local businesses for charity gala sponsorships. What a great way to start out on the right financial footing and raise money early in the event planning process. By hosting a charity gala wine tasting that draws in businesses and influential community members, promoting cash and in-kind sponsorship packages should be easy. Sponsorship benefits may be outlined and packages sold securely on your gala website.
- Host a silent auction of fine wines, or any donated items such as art and antique wine glasses. Add a trip for two to a romantic, wine country get-away weekend or one-of-a-kind vacation. DoJiggy offers great No Risk travel packages for wine enthusiasts:
- Sell tickets to a Wine Pull Raffle in which organizers wrap wine bottles in brown paper. Some are expensive and some are more low end wines. Either way, winners go home with a bottle of wine.
- Selling products related to wine tasting, such as fine wines and wine paraphernalia gifts can really boost revenues. If someone tastes their dream red wine, can they buy a bottle to take home?
- Wine tasting contests add excitement to your wine tasting and offer an opportunity to win money and prizes. They also provide an opportunity for your organization to raise more money for your cause by collecting wagers and fees for participating. How about a chef’s competition of hors d’œuvres and wine pairings? And a contest for the best Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and trendy Rose.
Other Resources for Wine Fundraisers and Tasting Events
See our blog on the San Jose Sharks successful wine tasting event. To get more wine tasting party ideas for your organization.
We offer more unique fundraising ideas to help your organization earn more money before, at the wine tasting and after your charity gala event.
DoJiggy provides event planners with a complete set of fundraising resources to help make your charity gala wine tasting a success. Visit our free resources for additional information and sample documents which can easily be modified for your fundraising needs including: checklists, budgets, sample fundraising letters and more.