The Ramadan Fundraiser Dinner…

It’s that time of year again.  The time of the coveted Ramadan fundraising dinner.  By now, just about every weekend of the first three weeks of Ramadan is booked with one organization or another’s dinner, often multiple in the same day.  I have had the experience of attending countless fundraising dinners for the past few Ramadans and let’s just say they could all use a bit of spicing up…

The basic rundown:

After we all break our fast and pray, we stand in line and look at peoples’ plates to try to guess where the food is from tonight (it’s easy to guess because no Muslim organization would dare order from any location other than the same two places).  We enjoy a bit of our food and then Imam/Sheikh [Insert Big Name Here] gets up to talk speak to us.  That is if the organization has managed to score a big name speaker for the dinner, otherwise we are left with that community member we have heard speak way too many times.  It always starts out super beneficial with many reminders and good stories, but then when it gets to the point where few people are donating, the speech can often drag on and leave you feeling uncomfortable and guilty.

I’m not trying to hate on any organization, but I think all of us can agree that our fundraiser dinners are not as successful as we could be.  I’ll argue that they’re not lacking that one fundamental thing that makes an event unique: creativity.  Creativity is encouraged in Islam, yet often we don’t push ourselves hard enough and use this skill.  You may be thinking here – it’s our duty as Muslims to give sadaqah, organizations shouldn’t have to do all this work to make their events exciting.  Yes, it is our duty to support these organizations, but a little bit of creativity and successful planning never hurt.

I’ll break it down and give some ideas on how our organizations can improve in each area of the event.

1) Venue

We tend to repeat over and over again venues that we are used to.  Why not get a little creative and do some research on different venues – possibly some that are closer to the city than ones that are in the suburbs.  This way, you broaden the geographical reach of your audience.

2) Food

Something new…

There are TONS of restaurants in any city.  Yet at every single event we can’t seem to order anything other than the same restaurants.  Why not try East African food for a change?  Or support an individual caterer that is willing to make the meal with halal meat?

X off the buffet…

The last thing we want to do when we’re hungry and haven’t eaten all day is to stand in line for food.  Worse, the line is simply chaotic with people pushing their way to the front and people taking five pieces of chicken.  At least, if you are going to do a buffet, call people up by table and have volunteers serve the food.

3) Program/fundraising

Specific causes

Why not show people specific things your organization needs money for and have them donate to different causes?  Then, make the effort to keep the donator updated on how the specific project or cause is going throughout the year.

Table price

Many people would be happy to pay an entrance fee if it means shortening the speaking time of the fundraiser.

Interactive

Why not involve your attendees in the fundraising process?  Think of a creative game or competition between tables.  Have a silent auction.  Or even a live auction.

Something for the kids…

There are plenty of venues that have gym spaces in them.  Why not have a couple basketballs for the kids or maybe even some type of Ramadan workshop for teens.

Input/Community building

Why not have a space for attendees to become invested in your organization?  Use this time to take feedback from your community and gather their ideas.  You have your vision as an organization, but what is the community’s vision?  Are you being responsive their needs?

4) Extras

Throw in a little something extra.  Whether it is chocolates on the table or a little gift (maybe with your organization’s logo) to take home.  Have something that your attendees can remember you by.

As a former board member of a community organization, I understand the amount of work that can go into planning events, especially large dinners.  However, even taking one of the above suggestions for your event would be beneficial, or better yet, think of your own way to be creative 🙂

hob we salam,

Jamila

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