Thursday, July 9, 2009

Get More Bang for Your Buck: Open Your Home for a Cause

The following is a guest blog written by Jazmin Gargoum.

Recently, I was asked to plan a fundraiser for a group called Forgotten Voices which provides care for children orphaned by AIDS in Africa. The fundraising goal is relatively small, $600 to send 40 students to school for a four month period. For our target audience of young professionals and activists like me, every penny counts. My goal was to develop a plan for an enticing and cost effective fundraiser that would be economical for our guests as well as profitable for the cause.

Many bars in DC offer happy hour fundraising packages with a cover charge and a small portion of the cost of each drink sold donated to the cause. While it's a good marketing technique for the bar and raises some money for the benefit, it isn’t the most efficient use of the contributors' money. If I assume the average guest spends $5 on cover, $10 on food, and buys four drinks at the $4 happy hour rate, roughly $9 would go towards the fundraiser, and $22 to the bar, pre-tax and tip. $30 may be a reasonable amount for a person to spend on a Friday night, but if the goal is fundraising, only one third of that income is going to the cause.

I needed a plan that would have all of the enjoyable features of a fundraiser bar night – music, food, and booze – but would raise more money for our charity while having a smaller effect on our guests’ wallets. What made the most sense to me was a house party fundraiser. A $10 minimum donation grants admission, food and beverages. So if $30 is what would typically be spent at a bar for a fundraiser, even if our guests put in just $5 over the minimum donation, they are spending half of what they would have elsewhere, while increasing their charitable donation by 50 percent.

There will be a tip jar for donations towards food and beverages, but with a tight food budget, and food and drink donations from friends, most of that money will go towards our goal rather than cost reimbursement. The best way to keep costs down on food and drinks is by planning ahead and asking friends to donate cooking services. By doing price comparisons and choosing menu items that stretch a long way, a lot of money can be saved – especially if some ingredients can be purchased in bulk and used in several dishes.

It’s difficult for young professionals to think of spending our income on anything beyond the necessities and time out with our friends. Budgeting for causes that we care about is something that we will do when we have more disposable income. My hope is that this fundraiser will provide something beyond the typical Friday night out – fun, with a little bit of learning, and a cost effective opportunity to give back.

To learn more about Forgotten Voices and the fundraiser, please visit Recipes used for the event and shopping tips are below. Please join us at 934 T St. NW on July 10th at 6:00pm.

Forgotten Voices Fundraiser Menu

For the Forgotten Voices fundraiser, my goal was to keep our food costs to a minimum, while providing a quality spread. I spent under $30 on beef hot dogs and chicken from Costco to throw on the grill, and will be making potato salad and two pots of red beans and rice – one vegetarian and one with ground beef and beef smoked sausage. The ingredients for the red beans, potato salad and a veggie tray were purchased for $25 from the Bestway Supermarket in Mount Pleasant. Bestway is a great place to buy inexpensive, quality produce. That, plus chips, salsa, beer, and our donated deserts, and I’m ready to host.

Red Beans and Rice:


1 ½ pounds red beans

1 ½ pounds ground beef*

1 pound beef smoked sausage*- sliced

1 small can of tomato paste

2 green bell peppers- diced

2 ribs of celery- sliced

4 roma tomatoes- diced

½ bunch of parsley- finely chopped

Jalapenos to taste- finely chopped (optional)

Fresh garlic to taste- finely chopped (I used 4 large cloves)

Spice mix: salt, black pepper, cumin, and cayenne- to taste

*These ingredients are not used in the vegetarian version

Soften the red beans using your preferred method. If there is time I soak the beans overnight. Otherwise, I put the beans in a large pot and fill the pot with water to two inches above the beans, bring the water to a boil for two minutes, and then bring the heat setting to low for one hour before draining the beans.

Sauté all of the vegetables in a large pot on medium heat until they are softened. Add the ground beef, sausage and the spice mix and let the meat brown (just add the spice mix for the vegetarian version). Add the can of tomato paste, 1 ½ cups of water and the red beans. Let the beans cook for about an hour, stirring regularly.

Serve over your rice of choice. I use basmati, but any long grain rice will do. Brown rice would be a tasty, healthy option.

Potato Salad:

5 pounds of red potatoes- cut in ¾ inch cubes

2 cups of shredded carrots

2 celery stalks- thinly sliced

½ bunch of parsley- finely chopped

½ red cabbage- finely chopped

1 small red onion- finely chopped

2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp. lime juice

1 tsp. sugar

Mayonnaise- to taste

Brown mustard- to taste

Salt and black pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes in a large pot filled with water to two inches above the potatoes. Salt them and let them boil until they are soft. Drain the potatoes and let them cool. Once the vegetables have been shredded, diced and chopped, add the lime juice, apple cider vinegar, and sugar. Add this mixture to the cooled potatoes. Add the mayonnaise, brown mustard, salt and pepper and mix the salad thoroughly.

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