Fundraising Tea Party

Organizations are always looking for good ways to raise money for their causes. Churches, civic groups, even local fire companies often hold sandwich sales, raffles and all-you-can-eat breakfasts or dinners. Once in a great while, some brave soul in a church or group will come up with the idea to host a tea and charge admission. Yes!!!

Hosting a tea is a great way to make money. The work can be spread around to all the members. Cooking and baking, decorating, hosting a table, creating items for sale, there are jobs for every talent.

The Christmas season is one of the best times for a group to host a tea. Families and friends are always eager to add a new tradition into their lives. What could be nicer than going to tea together on a Sunday afternoon!

Here are some things to consider when hosting a fundraising tea. I write as though only women will be preparing this tea but we all know that husbands, sons and friends play a part too.

Sell tickets in advance. Decide how many tables your social hall or other venue can hold comfortably. Consider how many helpers you’ll have. Then set your limit depending on how many seatings you want to make. Do you want to devote a weekend to the tea with seatings on Saturday and Sunday? Once you decide, you’ll know exactly how many guests to prepare for and this will save wasted food/dollars.

Try to get all the free advertising you can. Let other groups in your area know about the tea; they might help with little notices in their bulletins or newsletters. Local newspapers are always looking for social news so send a little press release announcing your tea. Don’t make it sound like an advertisement but a write up of an elegant social occasion. You might even get a reporter calling you for extra details for a full story.

Since you’ll probably have lots of ladies helping to waitress, assign them to specific tables with one lady as the head hostess. Each group can be in charge of providing their own table covering, dishes and centerpieces. You’ll probably use the silverware that’s available from the venue’s kitchen. You can assign a theme for each table or leave it up to the individual group.

The atmosphere is almost as important as the food. Inexpensive lattice can be nailed to a frame and then decorated with flowers, greens, inexpensive fabric, Christmas ornaments, oh, the list is endless. This helps to set the overall theme while creating more intimate settings around tables and providing a sound block. Decorated Christmas trees can also help to define serving areas and cut down on noise.

If you have donated items that you’re going to sell, use them for decorations around the room. Ladies love details and will be more inclined to buy when they can see how they might use the items in their own settings. If you don’t have little things to sell, you might ask an antique store to loan some things that you can use for decorations. Or beg, borrow or steal from your own members. (Well, perhaps stealing isn’t such a good idea.)

Follow the lead of most tearooms and serve soup as a starter course. Decide on one recipe and pass it out to each table head. She can assign her people to make the soup at home and bring it to the tea ready to serve. If you have lots of electrical outlets, each table can have a crockpot full of soup on their service table so that you can offer seconds. Soup is a good idea because it can be made economically in big batches and it fills the ladies up so you can go smaller/lighter on the expensive things.

Scones can be made ahead and frozen. Pop them in the oven for ten minutes, serve warm and no one will know they weren’t freshly made. Again, you can pass out the recipes and have them baked at home or you can have a group baking day if you have access to a kitchen. If you can get some ladies to donate their homemade jams or jellies for on the scones, that would be extra special.

The savory course can be served on individual plates that have been filled in the kitchen assembly-line style while the guests have their soup and their scones. Cucumber sandwiches are typical and tasty. If you’re making them in the morning, be certain that the cucumbers aren’t going to release water or you’ll have soggy bread. Cream cheese based sandwiches are really fast to make and will hold well. And since this is a fund raiser, maybe add chicken salad to give a nice bang for the buck. If you use a chicken stock based soup, your cooks will already have lots of chicken to use. With all the sandwiches, cover with a lightly dampened paper towel, wrap in plastic and store on trays in the fridge. Your sandwiches will hold from morning until afternoon this way. Some pretty herb sprigs or edible flowers help dress up the plates.

Why is it that individually made desserts always taste best and look most special? Try to have three small desserts instead of one big hunk of something. Lemon curd tarts is always a favorite and not difficult to make. A bar cookie will give you a lot of servings for the effort. A strawberry, plain or chocolate dipped, or frosted grapes really add to the dessert plates.

Please don’t use coffee urns to heat the water for the tea. You can never get the coffee oil completely washed away and you’ll taste it in your tea. It’s most simple to make ahead a tea syrup, boil water on site and add it to the serving teapots.

Your local high school might have some music students who will play for a small fee. This is especially nice as people are arriving and finding their seats. It helps to remind people that company manners are most welcome. Lots of social halls have pianos so perhaps too you could ask a pianist or organist in your group to play before and after the tea. Unless a kid is a real child prodigy, don’t allow children to provide the music.

And thinking of children, I’ve seen small children disrupt public teas. It’s a long time to sit still and some mothers think nothing of letting their kids run loose or cry or scream incessantly. You might want to make the teas for adults only. That gives mom a chance to have a day out. I wouldn’t recommend offering babysitting/nursery service as that won’t prevent kids running around before and after, when mom should be looking over all the lovely things you have for sale.

Do set up tables to sell crafts or other donated items but only the highest quality. Sell a little cookbook of the recipes that you used at the tea. Add some other tea party recipes that your members submit. Nothing fancy on the outside but the recipes should be well typed and double-checked for accuracy. You could take the cookbook to any office supply store to have bound. Charge for the cookbooks based on how elaborate you’ve decided to make them. When people know the money is going to a good cause, they won’t hesitate to spend.

If you’re really going to make an event of this and the guests will be dressed up, you might have someone take photographs and print them out on one of those photo printers. Fit the picture into a cute paper frame, (you can buy them at office supply stores.) Charge a dollar or two and each lady will want to buy one to show her husband how cute she looked.

Make extras of the scones and desserts, fill jars will the lemon curd you used for the tarts, and sell them too. Moms often like to bring little treats home to share with the kids. Almost everyone will take a chance on a door prize. If the door prize(s) has been donated, even better.

Teas are a lot of work and take many volunteers. But if you have a successful first year, you’ll have everyone in town wanting to come next year. Your group’s treasury will be feeling full!