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5 reasons why fundraisers are your restaurant’s go-to plan for a looming recession.

A group of restaurant patrons receiving their food

An uncertain economic horizon

Is a recession coming for the United States? Opinions are split, but 63% of Americans polled say it’s “a very serious problem nationally.” While a recession hasn’t officially been called by the National Bureau of Economic Research, rising prices for goods and rapid inflation are squeezing the average American’s wallet. Record-high fuel costs and supply chain issues are affecting workers and businesses, all amidst a (seemingly and hopefully dwindling) pandemic. No matter how you cut it, the numbers don’t lie – these are tough economic times for many Americans. 

Economic uncertainty is setting off alarm bells across the restaurant industry as well, with many brands tightening their belts and some even beginning to lay off employees. As marketing budgets shrink, brands will pivot to seek more affordable marketing tactics. For affordability and many other reasons, restaurant fundraisers should make the top of the list.

Open up your email and draft a message to your boss letting them know you have an marketing idea that:

  1. Is hyper-efficient for a smaller team
  2. Is a cheaper (and powerful) customer acquisition channel
  3. Brings in new and loyal guests without a discount or freebie
  4. Provides positive brand impressions and a better “dine in” experience
  5. Builds genuine community goodwill

…Your all-in-one strategy? Restaurant fundraisers. When using a platform like Force4Good to organize and automate your program, fundraisers will absolutely check off all the objectives above. Sounding too good to be true? We’ll break it down below.


Reason #1: Fundraisers are perfect for smaller marketing teams

When economic uncertainty looms, marketing budgets will often be the first to feel it. Teams will often be asked to “do more with less” and will need to get scrappy. This is the perfect time to set your sights on restaurant fundraisers.

Highly-automated platforms like Force4Good make administering fundraiser programs a breeze for restaurant managers, franchisees, and field marketing teams. For example, Force4Good streamlines complicated processes like: 

  1. Handling requests, scheduling, and rescheduling partners
  2. Gathering and storing tax information (properly) 
  3. Bulk approvals and rejections of organizations that meet your brand guidelines 
  4. Generating and distributing marketing materials from a branded and shareable webpage
  5. Emailing reminders to partners, restaurants, and field marketing
  6. Tabulating and automatically sending sales results
  7. Complex sales and partner reporting

Relying on an all-in-one platform frees up your team to spend more time running their restaurants and less time on the admin-heavy tasks that come with manually managing a fundraiser program. Our data shows that an average fundraiser, without any sort of automation, requires an average of 10-15 interactions from a combination of the aforementioned teams.

A fundraiser administered through Force4Good, however, only requires 3-4 touches in the worst case scenario. Many fundraisers can be automated to the point where the restaurant team only needs to host the event. If you’re looking to add value to your brand without increasing headcount, fundraisers are a perfect way to accomplish this.


Reason #2: They’re cheaper and an excellent customer acquisition channel

If you Google “restaurant fundraisers,” you’ll notice the top brands like Chipotle, Panda Express, and Chick-Fil-A all competing for the top result through paid ads and SEO marketing. Why are these brands competing with each other to give away money through fundraising? They’ve figured out what many brands are completely unaware of: fundraisers are an excellent customer acquisition channel, especially when compared to advertising on social media, like Facebook.

Our data shows that spending $100 on Facebook ads with a discounted offer may net your brand 2 new customers. Spending $100 on an automated fundraiser could net your brand $548 total in sales and 13 new customers, which is what these major brands have learned. 

In fact, Force4Good has found that their average fundraiser results in $600-650 in sales with 20 new customers. Because Force4Good fundraisers have a positive net margin (you don’t lose money on the event) and you pick up new customers, why not do as many as possible?

See our breakdown here:

economics of a Force4Good fundraiser


Reason #3: They bring in new and loyal customers + provide a boost in sales

Fundraisers aren’t just a great way to bring guests through the doors, they also bring in brand-new customers who have never visited your restaurant before. Consumers are habit-driven – for many, it takes a reason to go out of their way and visit a new restaurant, and fundraisers are a perfect reason to do just this. Our data shows that 40% of fundraiser participants are new customers! Fundraisers also leverage magical word-of-mouth marketing, which is by far the best way to acquire new customers as people tend to trust recommendations from friends or colleagues. Referred customers are 16-24% more loyal than regular customers, meaning these new guests are also likely to return.

To bring in new customers, restaurants often turn to discounts or freebies like BOGOs or coupons. While these promotions can be useful, they usually aren’t long-lasting strategies, since customers get accustomed to paying a cheaper price for your food and may depend on the discount to return. While a donation is given to a nonprofit organization following a fundraiser, attendees pay full price for their meals and often spend even more than average as the funds are going towards a cause they care about.

With the average fundraiser bringing in $600, many restaurants use them tactically, scheduling them on slower days of the week when they could use the sales boost. If you’re curious about any of this data we reference, check out our white paper.


Reason #4: Restaurant fundraisers provide positive brand impressions and a better dine-in experience

This isn’t a hunch or feel-good sentimentality – it’s backed by hard data. The Havas Group’s 2021 Meaningful Brands survey found that 64% of consumers prefer to buy from companies “with a reputation for purpose as well as profit” and 77% of respondents “expect brands to show support to people in times of crisis.” This is the latest data in a growing trend that shows consumers, especially of the younger Millennial and Gen Z generations, expect more and prefer brands that stand for something and give back to their communities.

Hosting a group for a fundraiser also provides a positive dine-in experience that should not be overlooked – Nation’s Restaurant News reported recently that “guests tend to rate their restaurant experiences as more positive when dining at the restaurant than when they consume their food or beverages off-premises.” For full-service restaurants, guests rated their average dine-in experience as a 4.0 out of 5, with off-premise dining rated as a 2.8 out of 5. This is a huge difference. Fundraisers can provide your brand with more of these positive visits that build brand impressions and perception.


Reason #5: Fundraisers build genuine community goodwill

Our last reason for focusing on restaurant fundraisers may be the best of all: they allow restaurants to give back and build genuine goodwill by contributing directly to their own communities. Businesses that are active and supportive of their own communities become rooted and integrated within the community – and that support goes two ways. As the tough economy is affecting businesses of all sizes, it’s also affecting nonprofits and other organizations that rely on charitable giving in order to survive. Your restaurant and brand could have a massive impact on your community just by hosting fundraisers.

Doing good and helping others also just feels good, which shouldn’t be overlooked. It not only benefits people in your community, but also spreads to your employees and makes them proud of where they work, which is great for retention and building culture. Who knows, you may end up hosting a fundraiser for a local school your employee’s children attend, or help your niece’s volleyball team fund their trip to the state tournament. 


In conclusion

While the debate continues around the recession (or not), fundraisers are a fantastic opportunity for both your restaurant and community. There’s no shortage of excellent organizations out there that would be thrilled to partner and raise funds with your restaurant. 

Oh, and that email you drafted earlier to your boss? Go ahead and press “send.”

If you’d like to learn more about fundraising or starting your program, send us a note or request a demo with Force4Good.